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Finland’s entry into NATO sparks anger from Kremlin, vows "countermeasures" in historic shift

Finland has become the 31st member of NATO, marking a historic shift in Europe's security landscape. The move comes in the wake of Moscow's invasion of Ukraine last year, which prompted Finland and Sweden to abandon their military non-alignment and seek NATO membership.

Finnish Defence Minister Antti Kaikkonen hailed the move as "a win-win situation," while NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called it "truly historic." The move will see Finland fall under the collective defence pledge of Article Five, which states that an attack on one member shall be considered an attack against them all.

For Finland, this marks a significant change in strategy. The country stayed out of NATO throughout the Cold War, despite being invaded by the Soviet Union in 1939. Its membership now brings a potent military into the alliance, with a wartime strength of 280,000 and one of Europe's largest artillery arsenals. Its strategic location also strengthens NATO's defences on a border running from the vulnerable Baltic states to the increasingly competitive Arctic.

However, the move has not gone down well in Moscow. The Kremlin issued an angry warning of "countermeasures," decrying the move as an "assault" on Russia's security and national interests. The move is seen as removing the room for miscalculation in Moscow about NATO's readiness to protect Finland, making Finland safer.

Despite the success for Finland, the hope had been that Sweden would join NATO at the same time. However, Budapest and Ankara remain the holdouts after belatedly agreeing to wave through Helsinki's bid. Sweden has upset Hungary's leader Viktor Orban, one of Putin's closest allies in Europe, by expressing alarm over the rule of law in Hungary. It has also angered Turkey by refusing to extradite dozens of suspects that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan links to a failed 2016 coup attempt and a decades-long Kurdish independence struggle.

NATO diplomats hope Erdogan will become more amenable if he weathers elections next month and that Sweden will join before a NATO summit in Vilnius this July. The US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has already stated that "Sweden is ready to join the NATO Alliance."

Ukraine is also pushing for eventual NATO membership, but Western diplomats say that remains a still distant prospect. NATO members insist they are focused on providing Ukraine with the weaponry and support it needs to win the war with Russia.

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