Would Russia go to war with Finland if it will joint NATO?

To answer this question we have to consider a few things.

  1. What is the current situation regarding the war in Ukraine?
  2. What are the dangers of Finland joining NATO, compared to the Ukraine joining NATO. Is it more or less dangerous to Russian security?
  3. Are there other means to make Finland to change its mind before, or maybe even after, it joints NATO?

What is the current situation regarding the war in Ukraine?

Obviously we don’t know yet — only time will show how the situation will developed until such time Finland is required to make its final commitment, and NATO will vote to accept (or to not accept) it inside the alliance. Yet I will make a prediction, not because I have sufficient knowledge or understanding of the military, political and other aspects of the situation as it is today, but because it is fun to make predictions, just to see there you were wrong. If so…

In the next two or so months when Finland is expected to join NATO, the fortified Ukrainian forces in Donbass will collapse. This would free Russia and its allies to proceed to conquering the Nikolayev, Zaporozh’e, Kharkov and Odessa regions. Next stage after that, assuming Ukraine is still in the fighting mood, the turn of Donetsk will come. This will develop well into the Summer and probably early autumn. So Russia will be busy, its forces are in need of rotation, rest, depot level technical maintenance, etc. The new western weapons flowing into Ukraine will also require to develop new tactics and countermeasures, to introduce new systems into the forces, as well as train them accordingly. This is not a good time to open another front.

There is a theoretical option to start limited mobilization of the more capable reserve forces, as well as an option (which is talked about by Scott Ritter, for example) of a full mobilization effort. The latter I personally consider unrealistic, since Putin has shown himself to be a very cautious man, who don’t escalate unless it is deemed absolutely necessary. The necessity part will be examined further down, but the economic results of total mobilization will be devastating for the Russian economy. Declaring war and enacting total mobilization would require the country’s economy to switch from peace time to war time economy. This will take considerable time, probably years, but the switch back can take a decade or more. So big “no” on this option.

The limited mobilization is quite possible, thought as I tried to explain in my first article, it will have much greater negative effect on Russian state (politically, economically, etc.), relative to its limited positive military effect. Although a limited mobilization by the means of the Army signing contracts with volunteer reservists can negate most of the negatives. Of course, in this case it isn’t a “mobilization”, but rather “new employment opportunities” in the Armed Forces of Russian Federation.

Another option is the increased use of the Private Military Companies, namely the Wagner Group, which can provide capable and even combat hardened mercenaries, willing to share the burden of the war. But the scope of their usage would be limited to support roles, and their numbers won’t be as significant as in case of even limited mobilization. Probably order of magnitude less. Their combat stability won’t be as good as of regular forces as well, considering they are volunteers and are motivated by profits (in addition to any patriotic sentiments they might have).

In conclusion, when the time will come for Finland to actually join NATO, Russian Army will probably still be busy in Ukraine, and realistically unable to open the second front in Finland. If, on the other hand, the Ukrainian organized resistance will collapse or the government will be overturned by more reasonable people, Finland will have the fate of Ukraine as a vivid example to consider and maybe reconsider its position towards Russia.

What are the dangers of Finland joining NATO, compared to the Ukraine joining NATO. Is it more or less dangerous to Russian security?

Ukraine’s case is unique in that Ukraine was earmarked to be sacrificed on the altar of the “weakening of Russia”. As Georgia before, it was promised membership in NATO and the EU, and was armed and trained by the West. But lacking the strong ideology needed to fight the Russians until the last Georgian, as well as fortified line to slow down the Russian offensive, Georgia capitulated after five days of war.

It is striking to me to see the apparent similarities with the China turning to the West. It had to provoke the Soviet Union into local conflict, a limited shooting war, in order to demonstrate to the US its resolve to join the West by abandoning its natural ally. It was left alone to provoke the SU and survive, and only then it would be welcomed and embraced as a source of cheap labor and the new market for Western products. Ukraine was offered the same exact path: fight with Russia and only then you might join the NATO and the EU. Before that it was given words of support and promises of entering the Western world sometime in the future, but no firm commitment until then.

More to the point. President Putin listed four reasons for the “Special military operation” (in no particular order):

  1. Ukraine entering NATO is preface for the NATO-Russia war, given the Ukrainian objectives of returning Crimea and the Donbass region under its control. Any conflict with Ukraine, the NATO member, brings this hypothetic war much closer to reality. That may be the reason the West wanted the Ukraine to demonstrate its ability to fight Russia without NATO troops taking part in the conflict, before allowing it to enter the alliance. Acceptance of Ukraine into NATO would also open doors for wider installments of NATO military infrastructure and offensive weapons, aimed at Russia.
  2. Continuing shelling of the ethnically Russian Ukrainians in the Donbass, including peaceful population of all ages and genders.
  3. The stated Ukrainian goal of obtaining the weapons of mass destruction, namely nuclear capabilities (in addition to the American lead bio-research laboratories, operating for years on its territory). This constitutes real existential threat to Russian Federation, without the usual safeguards of the “Mutual assured distraction” (as we have seen, Ukraine leadership is willing to sacrifice its own population, if motivated by the Western powers).
  4. The Ukraine, by the Russian account, decided to fight the Russians over the Donbass. After the Russian recognition of the break-away republics, and after a day of confusion and uncertainty among the Ukrainian forces, the political and military leadership issued an attack orders, and the massive shelling of Donbass has started.

Now we will try to apply the same points to Finland:

  1. NATO bases and forward deployed weapons and systems will endanger the Russian Federation, especially the Saint-Petersburg city in particular and North-Western Russia in general and its naval bases, as well as the critically important for the Russian nuclear deterrence, bases of the Northern Fleet and its SSBNs. On the other hand, Baltic states are already members of the NATO alliance, and they also allow for forward deployed weapons and sensors, critical for the safety of the Saint-Petersburg and Western Russia (but not the North Fleet). Also, the probability of Finland wanting to wage war against Russia, currently seems much lower than that of Ukraine. So I’ll give a half check mark — “yes/no”.
  2. Finland isn’t engaged in killing ethnic Russians at the moment, nor is it planning on doing it in the near future. So the result here is “no”.
  3. Finland hasn’t declared any aspirations towards developing nuclear weapons, though it will probably possess the capability to store and deploy US tactical nuclear weapons. It doesn’t have any Pentagon managed bio-research labs. So the result is “yes/no”.
  4. Finland doesn’t intend to wage a war against Russia, so “no”.

Judging by this comparison, the similarity to the Ukraine’s situation is very roughly about 25% (two “no” and two “yes/no”, so three “no” and one “yes” in total). Now we need to consider other possible reasons for the Russians to be particularly nervous about Finland joining NATO:

  1. The long-standing treaty of neutrality.
  2. … Nothing else comes to mind.

If so, the matter of the long-standing treaty of Finland’s neutrality, signed and repeatedly ratified after the end of the WWII. How much does it matters to Russia? Considering Fins are not in any position to threaten Russia by themselves, nor with the rest of Scandinavian militaries, their neutrality is a nice-to-have feature, but nothing really important. At least until the possible deployment of weapons and sensors, and/or foreign military bases will take place. At which time, Russia could strike or invade Finland probably as well as it could do it this summer. The possibility of the combined NATO operation against Russia at this point would have the same probability as before Finland actually joints the alliance. The deciding factor will be the state of Russia and the state of the West, not the bureaucracy minutia of the articles 5 or 4 of the treaty’s charter.

If so, the answer to the question of whether the Finland joining the NATO would have the same effect on the Russian security, my opinion is “no”, it won’t. So the hypothetical Russian invasion into Finland becomes the question of choice, not of necessity. Putin prefers caution and diplomacy over aggression and brute force, whenever possible.

Are there other means to make Finland to change its mind before, or maybe even after, it joints NATO?

Yes, there are. Ukraine was willing to practically destroy its own economy for the chance of getting the Western support in its war against Russia it so much desired. It was also ready to infuse itself with the radical ideology, which can be summarized as “anti-Russian”. It was also able to brainwash the population to the point it was ready to fight Russian Army on the battlefield and in its own cities. The price would have been the national pride and the access to the European standard of living.

Does this applies to Finland as well? Obviously not. Standard of living in Finland is already at the highest in the world. The lost territories have been lost for so long, that no one should really want to fight and die for them. Finish military is small to the point of insignificance, compared not only to Russian, but also to the Ukrainian military capabilities. Their ideological self-identification isn’t based on being “anti-Russia”, as far as I’m aware. So they have much to loose, and nothing at all to gain.

Regarding the economic pressure points, the situation with Finland is quite similar to the situation with Ukraine. They are heavily integrated into the Russian commodities market. Ukraine was infused with American and European money, as well as credits, to oil the elites and keep the economy afloat. Finland is relatively wealthy country, so it have no need for handouts, and as a result, their government should be much harder to influence by bribes and corruption schemes.

The bottom line is Finland would be much more tuned to its economy, and as a result, to the public opinion. And being more democratic than Ukraine, it would affect the policies of Finish government much more than it is possible in Ukraine. So application of economic sanctions on Finland by Russia, namely closing the natural gas, oil, timber and any other commodity, critical to Finish industry and society, should be enough by itself to avert it away from joining NATO.

There is a possibility of the EU trying to provide significant economic aid to Finland, but it seems unrealistically, especially considering the dire economic situation of EU itself, in the face of the sanctions war against Russia. Much more likely the possibility of EU countries giving more and more attention to their own economical and political survival, while abandoning the framework of EU.


I believe Russia have no dire need to prevent Finland joining NATO by invasion. Economic pressure on Finland should make it reconsider the membership before of even after it will join the alliance. Any military attack, especially an invasion, will consolidate the West, and most probably start the full scale NATO-Russia conventional war. This is much worse outcome than Finland in NATO, from the Russian perspective. So, realistically speaking, Russia will not invade Finland if it joints NATO.

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