Finland Is Hellbent on Positioning Itself as a Frontline NATO State Against Russia

Yves here. Perhaps readers can correct me, but my impression is that the long Finland-Russia border was not only (heretofore) not defended, but not even much demarcated, because people on either side went back and forth a lot, for commercial and other reasons. I would have to think the impact of the harm done to businesses on border towns would be more consequential to Finland than Russia…but it still may not amount to enough to make a difference. And perhaps Finland expects the fillup to be all the bulked-up border/surveillance activity. But that spending won’t necessarily help many Finland border businesses that depended on daytime visitors from Russia.

By Andrew Korybko, a Moscow-based American political analyst who specializes in the global systemic transition to multipolarity in the New Cold War. He has a PhD from MGIMO, which is under the umbrella of the Russian Foreign Ministry. Originally published at his website

The latest dynamics suggest that NATO is conspiring to place more pressure on Russia along the bloc’s new Finnish member’s frontier, which is intended to provoke reciprocal military moves that can then be decontextualized as so-called “unprovoked aggression” for justifying a self-sustaining cycle of escalation.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko said on Monday that his country will respond in accordance with its national interests if Finland closes the entirety of their joint border like the Finnish Interior Minister threatened to do last week. In the intervening days, the EU said that it’s ready to send forces to that frontier, Finland gassed a group of border crossers, and it also deployed soldiers there too. Taken together, Finland is clearly hellbent on positioning itself as a frontline NATO state against Russia.

It was assessed in summer 2022 that “NATO’s Northern Expansion Isn’t A Major Defeat For Russia” like the Mainstream Media misportrayed it as being and then earlier this spring that “Finland’s Membership In NATO Is More Symbolically Important Than Militarily”. Those conclusions reflected the state of military-strategic affairs at the time, but seeing as how the latter are changing as a result of Finland hyping up an alleged migrant crisis with Russia, so too should those assessments change accordingly.

The latest dynamics suggest that NATO is conspiring to place more pressure on Russia along the bloc’s new Finnish member’s frontier, which is intended to provoke reciprocal military moves that can then be decontextualized as so-called “unprovoked aggression” for justifying a self-sustaining cycle of escalation. It’s unclear how far and fast everything can move, but this seems to be the intent, which importantly comes amidst the bloc rethinking its proxy war on Russia through Ukraine.

This summer’s counteroffensive failed, Russia won the “race of logistics”/“war of attrition” with NATO, and that bloc’s former Supreme Commander recently argued for a Korean-like armistice, all of which is happening against the backdrop of the West reportedly pressuring Kiev to recommence peace talks. In the event that this proxy war freezes, then there’s a certain logic inherent in replacing some of this lost pressure upon Russia via the opening of other fronts like the Finnish one.

Granted, the “mutually assured destruction” (MAD) between NATO and Russia places very real limits on how much pressure can be exerted along this newfound front, but still opening it might be deemed by the bloc’s decisionmakers to be better than keeping it closed in that scenario. In other words, “where one door closes, another opens”, or to be more direct, the end of NATO’s proxy war on Russia via Ukraine could lead to the opening of a less high-stakes but still destabilizing front in Finland.

This outcome would also serve the supplementary purpose of being exploited by the Mainstream Media as the “publicly plausible” pretext for accelerating the Arctic’s militarization. This “final frontier” of the New Cold War is poised to soon be a theater of competition between the US-led West’s Golden Billion and the Sino-Russo Entente due to the Northern Sea Route’s growing role in facilitating East-West trade. Considering this, hyping up the Finnish front like NATO is already doing “kills two birds with one stone”.

The case can thus be made that NATO has concluded that its hegemonic zero-sum interests are best advanced by opening up a “controlled” Finnish front against Russia, which could compensate for the partial closing of the Ukrainian one and push the bloc’s Arctic interests at the same time. For these reasons, Russian-Finnish tensions are expected to further worsen, and all moves that Russia makes in defense of its legitimate interests will be spun as “unprovoked aggression” to speed up these processes.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. JohnA

    Friends in St Petersburg regularly used to go shopping in Finland. Then the Finns stopped accepting Russian bank cards for payment and made it difficult to get Euros, even confiscating any euros russian travellers had at the border. Now the border is closed. Finnish retailers must have lost a lot of business. Crazy.

  2. ciroc

    LOL. It seems that the Finns went out of their way to join NATO in order to increase the security threat to their country.

  3. digi_owl

    I suspect much of that border is not much more than a line of land cleared of forest.

    And ugh, opening up and arctic front will likely put as much strain on Norway as Finland. After all, Murmansk, the port of the Russian arctic fleet, and “just down the road” from the Norwegian border. The area still sport the odd aircraft carcass from WW2 no less.

    It is downright nuts how Norway managed to maintain a relatively calm border all the way through the cold war, Cuban Missile Crisis included, but now seem to be selling out to the DC neocons.

    And if one check the news from up there, the tone and attitude regarding Russia is far more relaxed than in Oslo.

    I can’t shake the feel that this whole thing is Finland and Sweden paying USA back for raising a stink about Huawei, and thus saving Ericsson and Nokia from losing the mobile infra market.

  4. DJG, Reality Czar

    None of this makes sense, particularly in light of WWII and its aftermath. For a good report from an unexpected standpoint, I recommend Kaputt by Curzio Malaparte.

    Malaparte spends much of his reportage in Ukraine, Romania, and Poland, where he reports horror after massacre after horror. He seems to have had a soft spot for the Finns, though, and spent significant time reporting from Finland. The war was complicated and grim. The Finns got away by the skin of their teeth, losing Vyborg, access to Lake Ladoga, and access to the Arctic Sea.

    It makes one wonder who / why someone is setting Finland up for a repeat. The Finns themselves?

    Yesterday’s Links treated us to Estonian prime minister Kaja Kallas touting herself as secretary of NATO. (“Ideally a woman,” because there aren’t enough Lady Warmongers out there in the world and Kallas wants to pad her résumé with a coup or two.) Yet Estonia is now a fantasyland of neoliberal fads and the not-so-recently dispossessed. One must not forget that on independence, Estonia denied citizenship to anyone who arrived after WWII and descendants, that is, mainly Russians, and up to a third of the residents.

    Likewise, the Latvian candidate, Karins: Arguably, Latvia messed up its relation to its Russian minority even more.

    The new head of NATO is supposed to be chosen from one of these pickled-herring republics?

    I note that Lithuania, which is somehow better at playing the long game, did not deny citizenship to its small Russian minority. In the USSR, though, the Lithuanian leadership had some expertise in not letting Russians settle there.

    I am also reminded by the map of the town my grandfather was born in, in what was then the Russian Empire, at the border with East Prussia of the German Empire. Vištytis had 4,000 people, a synagogue, a Catholic majority–but a Lutheran church, too. But that was 1893. Now the town has 600 people. The synagogue is long since gone. You can imagine why.

    Vištytis is a reminder that someone is giving the Finns some terrible advice.

    But do give Kaputt a look. Not for the faint of heart, though.

    1. digi_owl

      Thanks for the reminder. Estonia is also the place where one can become an e-resident, and supposedly picked up a fair bit of work early on by Nordic tech companies offshoring there (Skype was mostly written by Estonian programmers, IIRC).

      For some reason it seems like European neolib tech bros got in bed with US neocons hankering for revenge after Putin muzzled the latter’s pet oligarchs. Maybe it comes back to TDS being as strong in Europe as it is in USA? So taking Putin down is seen as correcting the wrong that was Trump? The whole thing is just detached from sanity it seems, and i’m living in the middle of it all. Almost as if everyone involved think they are living in some California on the Riviera, not a few degrees away from the polar circle!

  5. bwilli123

    From the website (google translation)

    …”Reducing the intake of migrants and abolishing refugee quotas is the main point of the far-right True Finns party, which is now part of the ruling coalition. At the same time, quotas for migrants in Finland are among the lowest in the EU. But is the current government of the country closing the border only because it is guided by the agenda of the ultra-right, disdaining its notorious liberal values?

    Most likely, migrants are just a smoke screen. And we are talking about something completely different.
    It is more likely that the border crisis and hysteria with refugees is part of a global plan to transform the recently friendly-neutral Finland of the Russian Federation into a springboard for NATO aggression.
    Transforming the country into not just a member state, but into the vanguard of the North Atlantic Alliance. After all, it is the northern flank of NATO, plus Poland, that is being formed as if into a striking fist of the bloc, raised over Russia: Kaliningrad, St. Petersburg and Murmansk.

    And before starting a big war in the Baltic and Arctic regions, militarists in the West, with the help of large and small provocations, need to heat up the situation here to the limit. And using psychological warfare methods to create among the population of the territories under their control an idea of ​​the inevitability and legitimacy of a large-scale military conflict. ”

    1. Feral Finster

      Of course the migrants are a pretext. NATO will take any means at its disposal to poke the bear, and doesn’t give a damn whether the facts on the ground support its case or not.

      So what does Russia propose to do about it?

      1. Kouros

        Give the Finns a long rope to hang themselves. The worst they can do is trying to block naval access from St. Petersburg. But that would go against the convention of the sea. And Russia can start doing freedom of navigation patrols as well…

        Yes, the population on the border will be deprived (maybe), but is not that big a deal. It will be like living on the shore of a sea.

        Will the Finns try to cross over with all kinds of special military? Who knows. Russia is really turning East , so that will be that.

  6. Paul J-H

    Due to work obligations I do not follow the news very much, but there is indeed much tension, because – as it is told in Finland – Russia actively brings refugees to the border to create strain. I do not quite understand why this is a problem (Finland should take Syrian refugees), but apparently the Finnish government is closing the border crossing stations. In my view, this produces a propaganda win for Russia, because refugees might get stuck on the Russian side in winter conditions, and “the Europe of human rights” will fail them.

    Regarding the border, I have not been near (I live in West-Finland) but it is a LONG stretch of cleared forest which is patrolled heavily on both sides. It is not defended in a military sense that much, but then again, with those forests and swamps you don’t really have to either.

    The original sanctions against Russia did hit the East of Finland hard – a lot of it is geared to Russian tourists. In several bigger towns there are road signs in Russian too (not so much in Swedish). The Allegro train from Helsinki to St. Petersburg also stopped working I think. Even though Finland is in the EU, Russia has always been a major export market and import source (chemicals, trees, metals, mineral oils.) The Finnish economic crisis in the 1990s was partially caused by the collapse of the Soviet Union for the same reason.

    If this topic endures I can start to provide summaries of Finnish news to Yves, if useful.

    1. Polar Socialist

      Ever since Peter the Great started building his new capital on a “Finnish swamp” (as Dostoevsky put it) where my Izhorian ancestors dwelt, Eastern Finland’s economy has reflected ease of access to Saint Petersburg’s markets.

      When there was no border or very little border from 1721 to 1918, Saint Petersburg could consume all the surplus (and even more, to the concern of many officials) available in Eastern Finland. Food, wood, stones, even pebble; anything the peasants could transport, they were able to sell.

      The effect of Saint Petersburg was felt all the way to Helsinki and Tampere, were upper classes were complaining about rising wages due to servants moving to the big city after better salaries. But the most horrid thing was that peasants in the Eastern Finland had both money and options, which made them too independent (of the upper classes) for the good of the society.

      Of course, when the border was more or less closed between 1918 to 1991, the Eastern Finland turned into a dying backwoods with mostly old people and closed farms. The looting of Russia in the 90’s didn’t much change the situation, but on this century there has been many projects aiming to make “the border disappear again” – especially by the Eastern Finland communities. That revival pretty much stopped dead in February last year crushed by the EU sanctions a few days before Russia commenced the SMO.

  7. Polar Socialist

    I’m not saying many Finns are not high on their own supply (of propaganda), but this here border thing is more about Finland learning that actions do have consequences than any particular long term planning by nefarious actors.

    Back when the refugees from Syria and Iraq “flooded” the Europe, Finland and Russia signed an agreement of “border collaboration”, main tenet of which was for Russia to prevent any refugees or “economic migrants” crossing the border, and Finns could go and think they were still good people and willing to help those in need.

    Now, this summer EU Commission came up with the extremely stupid idea of allowing Russians to EU, but not with their cars, cash or pretty much anything else. After some delays, the new Finnish interior minister decided to implement this in the most strict way. And after Russia figured out that Finland really was this petty and stupid, they without much ado terminated the “good neighbor” border agreement.

    Many Finnish pundits said it was just posturing by Russia but then the refugees started to cross the border and the current most Right-Wing-Anti-Migrant government since 1918 lost it’s marbles completely. All this would require is for the Finns to relax the entry regulations for Russian citizens to resolve the situation, but currently it’s night impossible for them behave rationally or to accept any responsibility for these minor tit-for-tat things.

    1. digi_owl

      Ugh, yeah. This was back when Russia was allowing, if not outright helping, refugees to pass through Russia on their way to the Finnish and Norwegian borders.

      I don’t recall the details, but something about it involved bicycles because the border crossing not allowing foot traffic or some such. End result was a roaring market in old bicycles on the Russian side, and a pile of discarded ones on the Norwegian side.

      Oh, and Russia do have a knack for these things. Back when the negotiations about a portion of the arctic seas that was bordered by Norwegian and Russian territorial waters, and thus regularly exploited by Russian trawlers looking to fish beyond agreed quotas, Russia all of a sudden stopped Norwegian salmon exports on some technicality.

      Play stupid games, win stupid prices.

    2. alfia

      When crossing Kaliningrad Lithuania border last summer I noted that Russian border force officials were considerably thorough in checking people entering AND leaving RF: numerous officers were operating in large well lit building with deployment of sniffer dogs whilst Lithuanian border force consisted or two officers who could not speak very good English operating out of a dark shed. Lithuanian border officials stamped my passport in the wrong place -I think they could not see properly in the dark. I presume it might have been similar picture on the Russian Finnish border until Russia decided to let Finns rely on Finnish only border force and stopped thorough border checks on people leaving RF.

  8. The Rev Kev

    Lots of unhappy people in Finland about so many of the borders being closed. There were protests in a place called Lappeenranta in Finland because the border closures are making it near impossible for those people to see their relatives in Russia over Christmas. A pretext for closing those borders is the arrival through Russia of immigrants from the middle east. But Finland is already a member of the EU so would not the EU be pushing Finland to accept the very same immigrants from within the EU to do their part for the EU? Look at how well it worked for Sweden.

    But I can see Finland finding itself in the hurt locker in the years to come. Seriously, what are they going to gain for all this hostility? Their budget will soon have more and more devoted to their military budget and that can only come at the expense of the social budget being reduced. This is already what the US is demanding of Germany. Will they soon be placing orders like the Poles are doing for huge quantities of military gear up to and including the F35? The place use to be a stable region and maybe even a bit of a backwater as far as international tensions were concerned. Now it looks like the Finnish leadership has decided that their country should be on the front lines in a potential stand-off with Russia. Heckuva job that.

    1. digi_owl

      The situation in Sweden is more about the complete failure of the neolib economic policy over decades coming to a head.

    2. Pym of Nantucket

      I can only assume the same old strategy of buying off leaders to sell out their people has somehow been implemented in a smoke filled room yadda yadda. Will we have the Finnish leader of the day paraded around national capitals as the next Churchill? That would signal them being prepped for the wood chipper like Ukraine or other temporarily useful proxies. Truly sad and frustrating.

    3. Feral Finster

      “But I can see Finland finding itself in the hurt locker in the years to come. Seriously, what are they going to gain for all this hostility? Their budget will soon have more and more devoted to their military budget and that can only come at the expense of the social budget being reduced. This is already what the US is demanding of Germany.”

      So what? The leaders of Finland and Germany don’t care what their populace thinks or wants, any more than the colonial governor general gives a rat’s [familyblog] what the natives want.

  9. JTMcPhee

    USNATO I believe intends to place first-strike nuclear missiles in Finland. Within minutes of major Russian cities and military. USNATO war planners having wet dreams about finally being able to dictate terms to Russia. Russian military has shown less than full spectrum dominance in Ukraine, vulnerability to asymmetric USUKRNATO tactics. Got to hope Russ leadership has answers that do not rely on Perimeter dead hand thermonuclear obliteration. Neocons have no disconnect switch and will press on regardless.

    Here’s hoping also that Russ do not fall for another Minsk fraud by the West, in order to “save their Slav brethren” (who they are are killing by the tens of thousands and who seem reliably have been conditioned to so hate theRussians that they are acting out the West’s “to the last Ukrainian” strategy.

    Russian leadership seems very competent in a lot of areas, but there’s a lot of fifth columnists who for money or affinity act against their country.

    1. Feral Finster

      Of course, that is the US/NATO plan. Yes, during NATO accession talks the Finnish public was promised otherwise. Guess what! They were lying, and yes, the Finnish government knew that this was a figleaf.

      What does anyone propose to do about it?

  10. ThirtyOne

    Maybe NATO setting the middle east and north africa on fire wasn’t such a good idea.

    The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) writes in an update that Moscow is employing known hybrid warfare tactics.

    “Russia’s apparent hybrid warfare tactic on the Russian-Finnish border is similar to Russia’s and Belarus’ creation of a migrant crisis on the Polish border in 2021 and is likely similarly aimed at destabilizing NATO,” ISW writes.

    The ISW says the situation on the Finnish border now resembles the 2021 migrant crisis on the Polish border, a move created by Russia and Belarus.

    1. JohnA

      The Institute for the Study of War, is the Kagan family’s baby (incl Mrs Kagan aka Victoria Nuland). I would not bet a rotten lingonberry on the intelligence of any analysis coming from there.

  11. Aurelien

    The problem with this line of argument is that it’s essentially stuck in the Cold War, when “escalation” had meaning, and when NATO had sizeable conventional forces. Even then, the Northern Front was regarded as particularly vulnerable in the event of a war. Sweden had secret defence agreement with NATO, but largely for the use of its airfields: its Army would have been limited to territorial defence. The general assumption was that Norway and Sweden would go under in a few days, because the Russians absolutely had to ensure the security of Murmansk, where most of their SSBNs were. Finland was not regarded as a serious actor.

    Roll on forty years, and Murmansk is still as important, but NATO, and for that matter Sweden, has a capability that is a shadow of its former self. There is no point in NATO trying to “escalate” over Finland, because it has nothing to escalate with. The Russians have already shown that they are willing to resort to military measures if pushed, and NATO cannot reciprocate. If the Russians want to be beastly, they can simply tell the Finns that unless X or Y is done, they will drop a missile on an important building in Helsinki at a time of the day when it is empty. There is absolutely noting NATO can do in reply, or to prevent it, and I find it alarming that there are still people who don’t realise this.

  12. Polar Socialist

    FYI the deputy attorney general of Finland has stated that the law proposal to close the borders will not go forward. Finland is one of those countries where constitutionality of a law is verified before it goes to parliament.

    And this one violates the Finnish constitution, European Human Rights Convention and European Court of Justice’s decisions to the extent that it would be illegal to process it further.

  13. Maxwell Johnston

    I am genuinely baffled as to why the country that gave us the word “Finlandization” and maintained good relations with USSR/RU for decades, even during the darkest years of the Cold War, suddenly changed its mind in the early 2020s for no apparent reason. It’s completely irrational.

    There was a lot of trade between Finland and post-Soviet RU, and a lot of tourism too (mostly RU visiting Finland). Twice in the early 2000s, we traveled with our young offspring from Moscow to northern Finland (Rovaniemi) to spend the New Year’s holiday at a spa resort. It was a chartered direct flight both times (clunky but reliable old Tu-154) packed with RU families. I recall a bus trip to Santa Claus town, and another bus trip to cross the Arctic Circle. Mostly I remember sleeping a lot in glorious quiet, as the days were incredibly short. None of the Russians spoke Finnish, and none of the Finns spoke Russian, but everyone got along just fine. Good memories. And now it’s all finito.

    That said, the RU-Finnish border is completely unsuitable to any kind of warfare (read about the 1939-40 Winter War if you have any doubts), and anyway the Finnish military is a bit of a joke. As for NATO deploying offensive missiles in Finland, this could have been done already in fiercely anti-RU Estonia (but hasn’t), so I don’t quite see any advantage to putting them into Finland. Unless the Finns are keen on doing this, which again puzzles me.

    1. Polar Socialist

      Finnish military is a bit of a joke

      As somebody who did his time in Finnish military in the 80’s, may I ask why? Not aiming for any pissing contest or anything, just interested.

      It was the time of the Soviets in Afghanistan and I still recall the somewhat involuntary respect we had for what we called “Moscow conscripts”, while the NATO armies we though were just for parades or standing guard and of no practical use whatsoever in the forest.

      1. Maxwell Johnston

        It’s “a bit of a joke” in the sense that Finland’s only possible enemy (Russia) is unlikely to be intimidated by an active duty army of 20,000+ patrolling a forested border stretching over 1000 km. And much of Finland’s future defense budget will be spent (wasted?) on buying and maintaining its shiny new fleet of F-35s. In any case, I doubt that Russia has any plans to invade Finland, or vice versa.

        The Finnish army’s performance in 1939-40 was astonishing. I don’t think the Russians have completely forgotten that history, either.

  14. David in Friday Harbor

    Very important discussion here, with wonderful references to Malaparte and The Barents Observer. That a few hundred Muslim refugees riding bicycles from Russia through the frigid snow across the borders of Finland and Norway is causing a panic is telling.

    I believe that the reference to the “Golden Billion” is key to understanding the NATO expansion that also drives the chaos in North Africa and West Asia. We of the “Golden Billion” fear the loss of our privilege, as appears to be the theme of Malaparte’s Kaputt and The Skin if I read the summaries correctly (I have not read the books). The fear of losing our privilege in the face of the population explosion and climate change is driving a rightward turn away from humanism toward hoarding, exclusion, and hard borders.

    However, we of the “Golden Billion” still have a colonial dependence on the “jungle” for the raw materials with which we maintain our walled “garden.” This is already bringing on the same sort of totalitarian corruption and moral collapse that were the hallmarks of the last days of Anglo-European colonialism, but I suspect that our American götterdämmerung will be more drawn-out.

    We will eventually pay for the suffering we are currently inflicting on other parts of the world, of this I am certain.

  15. ISL

    “NATO is conspiring to place more pressure on Russia along the bloc’s new Finnish member’s frontier”

    I fail to understand what this “pressure” is? Has everyone in NATO slept through the Ukraine war? If NATO had the forces (or guts/insanity) to cross the border with its (non-existent) army, Russia can decimate them from thousands of miles away. And retake all of Finland in a few months (after every male Finnish soldier is as dead as male Ukrainian soldiers )- or days if Russia gives Finland the Gaza treatment .

    Would the US fight Russia to the last Fin? Hell yeah.

  16. sausage factory

    It is nothing short of incredible that these people are staring at the dismemberment of Ukraine everyday but still put themselves out front and say “me next please” No sympathy, they will all get what they wish for and it will not be any prettier or less painful than Ukraine or Georgia. They will fight and die in droves so the US does not have to. Whatever whack a doodle bullshit the US is pumping them up with these people are believing it. Whatever it is I can guarantee it is a lie, 100%. Article 5, nukes, whatever it is the US will cut and run the moment the shooting starts.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *