Russia supplies a small amount of gas and oil to Finland, but Finland is already preparing to cut off supplies to the European Union in order to reduce its dependence on Russian energy. A possible initial reaction came on Saturday with an announcement by Russian state-owned company RAO Nordic that it had stopped exporting electricity to Finland, although it was not clear whether the move was intended as a punishment. Russia has blamed Western sanctions for the move, saying it had made it difficult for Russia to pay for supplies.
Finland has stopped the action. Finnish officials say they have already cut Russian electricity imports to protect the country from possible attacks on its infrastructure and are responsible for only 10 percent of Russia’s electricity costs.
Russia could launch a cyber attack on Finnish infrastructure or launch a hybrid war in an attempt to influence Finnish public opinion, but Finland has a highly developed system capable of countering any such effort, says retired Major General Pekka Toveri, a former head of the Finnish military.
“They can’t really use anything to threaten us,” Towery said. “They have no political, military or economic power.”
Finland’s decision, expected to be officially announced on Sunday, maintains the balance of power along the NATO alliance’s northern border. In the coming days, Sweden is expected to follow Finland’s lead and seek NATO membership. But it is Finland’s accession that will have the greatest impact on Russia, which will double the size of Russia’s land border with NATO and completely encircle its three ports in the Baltic Sea.
For decades, Finland has refrained from joining NATO for fear of provoking its larger, nuclear-armed neighbor. And Russian President Vladimir Putin kept that fear alive with the vague threat of war and the horrific act of harassment in Finnish skies and waters.
Ukraine’s invasion reversed that calculation, forcing the Finns to conclude that they would be safer under NATO’s defensive umbrella than confronting Russia alone. Before the war, only 20 percent of the Finns supported joining NATO. By May, that number had reached 76 percent.
Finns also concludes that the unexpectedly disappointing performance of the Russian military on the battlefield in Ukraine and the catastrophe indicate that it will no longer pose the same threat as before, Toweri said.
“Russia is so weak now that they cannot risk another humiliating defeat,” he said. If Russia tries to send troops to Finland, “in a few days they will be wiped out. The risk of humiliating defeat is high, and I don’t think they can afford it. “
“This is a really ironic moment for the Kremlin,” said Lauren Speranza, director of transatlantic defense and security at the Center for European Policy Analysis. Stopping NATO growth was one of Putin’s stated goals for invading Ukraine, which NATO wanted. Finland and Sweden were not – until the invasion of Ukraine, he noted.
From Neutral to NATO: How Finland, Sweden Moved About Russian Invasion.
“Putin has not only failed miserably in terms of his military objectives in Ukraine, he has also enlarged NATO, which is exactly the opposite of what he wanted,” Speranza said. “It simply came to our notice then.
Meanwhile, Moscow appears to be reducing its threat of retaliation. In a telephone call Saturday, Putin told Finnish President Sauli Ninistিস্ত that Finland’s decision to join NATO was “wrong” and could have a “negative impact” on Russian-Finnish relations – but he did not make specific threats, according to a readout from the Kremlin.
Ninisto, who initiated the call, explicitly told Putin that it was his “massive attack” on Ukraine that prompted Finland to seek protection provided by the NATO Security Alliance, according to a statement from his office.
“The conversation was direct and straightforward and was conducted without tension. It was considered important to avoid tension,” the statement said.
In the weeks leading up to Finland’s announcement, Russian officials warned of deadly repercussions, including the deployment of nuclear weapons nearby and the deployment of military reinforcements along the Finnish border.
They have since been cautious, saying Russia’s response will depend on how far NATO moves to establish a presence on Russia’s border.
Russia’s foreign intelligence service has denied the allegations in a statement issued Friday stating “Similar, baseless allegations concerning Russia’s intelligence have been made more than once.
He added that it was “too early to talk about the deployment of nuclear weapons in the Baltic region” and added that “Moscow will not be driven by emotion” in determining its response.
Russia will conduct a “thorough analysis” of any new configuration of forces on its border before deciding on its response, echoing Peskov’s remarks that the level of Russia’s retaliation will depend on how well NATO military infrastructure is established on Russia’s border.
No decision has been reached on what kind of presence NATO will establish in Finland and Sweden once their accession is formalized, which could be months away. Sweden’s hosting of members of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, has created a new problem in the form of objections to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s membership.
How the annexation of Finland and Sweden will change NATO
But it is possible that Finland’s membership will not require a significant NATO military presence, analysts say. Finland has a strong and well-equipped army that conducts regular training exercises with NATO countries. Its military is already integrated into the NATO military system.
Dmitry Suslov, of the Higher School of Economics at Moscow’s National Research University, said Russia’s strategic interests were so threatened that Moscow would be forced to take action against Finland.
At the very least, he said, Russia should strengthen its military presence on the Finnish border because Finland would no longer be considered a “friendly” country. It would have to increase its naval presence in the Baltic Sea which would turn out to be, he said, “a NATO lake.”
If the United States or Britain establishes bases in Finland, Russia will have “no choice but to deploy strategic nuclear weapons aimed at those bases,” Suslov warned.
Finland is ready for further action, says former Finnish general Toweri, if Putin can feel the need to save face. But the Finns have been accustomed for decades to living with potential hostile forces on their borders and do not feel unnecessarily threatened, he said. “We are accustomed to the fact that the Russians are there. Most Finns aren’t too worried about that. “