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Finland’s Historic Shift

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Finland’s Historic Shift

With its inclusion in NATO, is the nation shedding its long-held trait of neutrality?

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Finland formally joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in early April, its flag unfurling outside the military bloc’s Brussels headquarters. This marked a historic policy shift spurred by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The move immediately drew a threat from Moscow of “counter-measures.”

NATO is an intergovernmental military alliance formed in 1949, with the primary aim of providing collective defense against potential security threats to its member states. With the addition of Finland, NATO now has 31 member countries, including the United States, Canada and most countries in Western Europe.

The organization’s purpose as stated on its website is “to safeguard the freedom and security of all its members by political and military means. Collective defense is at the heart of the Alliance and creates a spirit of solidarity and cohesion among its members. NATO strives to secure a lasting peace in Europe, based on common values of individual liberty, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.”

The alliance operates various political and military bodies, including a Military Committee, a Civilian Committee and its headquarters in Belgium.

Finland’s accession roughly doubles the length of the border that NATO shares with Russia and bolsters its eastern flank as the war in Ukraine grinds on with no resolution in sight.

Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto completed the accession process by handing over an official document to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken at NATO’s headquarters. Finland’s flag—a blue cross on a white background—was hoisted alongside those of the alliance’s 30 other members as a military band played in bright sunshine.

“For almost 75 years, this great alliance has shielded our nations and continues to do so today,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg declared at the ceremony. “But war has returned to Europe and Finland has decided to join NATO and be part of the world’s most successful alliance.”

Mr. Stoltenberg earlier noted that Russian President Vladimir Putin had cited opposition to NATO’s eastward enlargement as one justification for invading Ukraine.

“He is getting exactly the opposite...Finland today, and soon also Sweden will become a full-fledged member of the alliance,” Mr. Stoltenberg said in Brussels.

Finnish President Saul Niinisto said Finland’s most significant contribution to NATO’s common deterrence and defense would be to defend its own territory. There is still significant work to be done to coordinate this with NATO, he said.

“It is a great day for Finland and I want to say that it is an important day for NATO,” Mr. Niinisto said at a joint news conference with Stoltenberg.

Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the move raised the prospect of the conflict in Ukraine escalating further. The Kremlin stated it would strengthen its military capacity in its western and northwestern regions in response to Finland joining NATO.

The Ukrainian government also hailed Finland’s move. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s chief of staff Andriy Yermak wrote on instant messaging service Telegram that Finland “made the right choice. NATO is also a key goal for Ukraine.”

End to Military Non-alignment

Joining NATO marks the end of an era of military non-alignment for Finland that began after the country repelled an invasion attempt by the Soviet Union during World War II and has more recently opted to try to maintain friendly relations with neighboring Russia.

But the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 prompted Finns to seek security under NATO’s collective defense pact, which states that an attack on one member is an attack on all.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the NATO expansion was an “encroachment on our security and on Russia’s national interests.” Moscow would watch closely for any NATO military deployments in Finland, he said.

Since the end of the Cold War three decades ago, Moscow has watched successive waves of NATO enlargement to the formerly communist east of Europe with consternation, and the issue was a bone of contention even before the invasion of Ukraine.

NATO has repeatedly stressed that it is solely a defensive alliance and does not threaten Russia. Moscow says the funneling of heavy weaponry to Ukraine by NATO countries since the war began proves the West is bent on destroying Russia.

Finland’s accession brings NATO significant military capabilities developed over the years as it is one of the few European countries to have retained a conscription army through decades of peace, wary of Russia next door. In addition, Finland’s ground, naval and air forces are all trained and equipped with one primary aim—to repel any Russian attack.

Soon after the accession, Helsinki residents welcomed Finland’s entry into NATO, saying they felt more secure.

“I feel it’s a good thing that Finland is joining NATO. We have been here next to Russia for ages,” said Outi Lantimaki, 59, a designer at a shipyard. “My father was in the war with the Russians so this is like a personal thing to me.”

Yet people in the Russian city of St. Petersburg, only 93 miles from the Finnish border, said Finland could be making problems for itself by joining NATO.

“I don’t think this is a very pleasant thing because we had good, neighborly relations with Finland for quite a long time. It joining NATO isn’t based on anything. But I hope reason will prevail and that there’ll be no bad, military conflicts after this,” said one resident who gave his name only as Alexi.

Many wonder if Finland still intends to preserve the neutrality it is known for after this dramatic move. The step of joining NATO appears to be a big shift. Yet joining a defensive alliance does not necessarily mean Finland has abandoned its longtime trait.

Balancing Act

Finland has long been known as a country molded by its geographical location. With Russia to the east, and Sweden and the rest of Europe to the west, Finland has always had to perform a diplomatic balancing act throughout its past.

During the Middle Ages, Finland was a battleground between its two closest neighbors, Russia and Sweden. From the 12th century until 1809, it was largely under Swedish rule, which today continues to influence its culture, government and laws. During this time, Finland was considered only a group of provinces, with little sense of a national entity.

Not until the war of 1809 (which Sweden lost to Russia) did Finland become an autonomous Grand Duchy, under the control of the Russian emperor, as Grand Duke, whom the Governor General represented. Under this new governmental structure, the senate, filled with Finnish leaders, was the highest governing body and presented domestic issues directly to the emperor, leaving out other Russian authorities. These new freedoms of self-rule enabled much of the past Swedish influence to hold ground: Swedish (along with Finnish) remains the official language and the Lutheran Church retains its position, even to this day.

Nationalism gained momentum as the Grand Duchy remained part of the Russian empire while enjoying extensive privileges, virtually making Finland a state within a state. Privileges included its own legislative assembly, and the power to elect local officials and maintain an army, currency, postage stamps—and even its own official border.

This was a sore point for Russian nationalists, who pushed for the Russification of Finland. This led to the first era of oppression (1899-1905), continued by a second era of oppression (1909-1917).

Finland had a brief respite during the Russian Revolution of 1905, and a new legislative body replaced the former assemblies the following year—a pivotal point in Finnish history. This changed it from a four-estate diet to a unicameral parliament with universal suffrage. Finnish women were the first in Europe to gain the right to vote.

The new parliament approved its own declaration of independence on December 6, 1917. A brief civil war followed as a breach between liberal and conservative parties became irreconcilable. Finland became a republic in the summer of 1919, and quickly developed during the 1920s, healing the wounds of the civil war.

Public sentiment moved Finland away from communism, which took root in Russia. The Nordic nation initially pursued a foreign policy based on cooperation through the League of Nations. Yet the League’s inability to ensure world peace became evident in the 1930s and Finland retreated to focus on Scandinavian-based policies.

Finland played a delicate balancing act between communist Russia and Nazi Germany during World War II. First, Russia attacked Finland in 1939—the “Winter War,” in which Finnish troops used the weather to their advantage and employed guerilla-war tactics to inflict massive casualties. Hostilities led to the signing of a peace treaty in the spring of 1940, with Finland losing part of its southeastern region to the Soviets. Shortly after Adolf Hitler’s Operation Barbarossa invasion against the Soviets, Finland entered the war allied with Russia. With great prowess, the Finns used their nation’s resources and geographical position to remain one of the few major European countries not occupied during the war.

After the Cold War began, Finland was once again caught between two great world powers: the East (the Soviet Union and its satellite nations) and the West (the United States and Western Europe). Finland maintained a neutral stance, which helped its international position grow stronger. It focused on diplomacy by joining the United Nations and Nordic Council in 1955.

Yet, is this neutrality borne from necessity, or something much deeper?

Biblical Origin

Few know that the Finnish people are actually descended from one of the biblical tribes of ancient Israel. Key insights on the nation’s character can be found in the pages of God’s Word. In fact, the nation was specifically foretold to be perpetually caught in the middle.

Genesis 49 states, “Issachar is a strong ass [donkey] couching down between two burdens” (vs. 14). There has never been a point in history in which Finland has not been wedged between two “burdens” (nations or powers).

Supporting this, Issachar’s coat of arms was a donkey or ass carrying a heavy load, as observed in the book Symbols of Our Celto-Saxon Heritage by W.H. Bennett.

Various sources acknowledge that the tribe of Issachar is primarily found in Finland. Yair Davidy, a contemporary historian who researched the migration of the tribes of Israel, wrote in his book The Tribes that “Finland has been identified in this work as belonging mainly to the Tribes of Gad, Simeon and especially Issachar. For many years, Finland was ruled by Sweden…and many Swedes remained in Finland…Both the Sword (Simeon) and the Lion (Gad) are prominent on the Finnish coat of arms.”

As the war between Russia and Ukraine rages on, Finland will face tough choices. Only time will tell to what degree it will keep its neutrality. Yet realizing that this trait is ingrained in the Finnish people as revealed in Scripture provides an enormous advantage in knowing what to expect from them going forward.

The Bible reveals the ancient origins of not just Finland but many other modern nations. If you want true insight into what to expect from these nations, God’s Word provides what modern commentators and researchers cannot.

Which other nations are modern descendants of the tribes of Israel? The tribe of Manasseh is in the United States. The tribe of Ephraim is mainly the English-speaking, Anglo-Saxon countries of the British Commonwealth. This includes Canada, New Zealand, parts of South Africa and Australia. The modern-day Jews are descendants of the tribe of Judah and are also scattered among many nations. A large portion of them live in the modern nation called Israel.

Upon examining information from prophecy, as well as biblical and secular history, the locations of the remaining tribes can be known: Reuben—France; Simeon and Levi—scattered among the other Israelite nations; Zebulun—the Netherlands; Benjamin—Norway and Iceland; Dan—Ireland and a portion of Denmark that mixed within the other Israelite nations; Naphtali—Sweden; Gad—Switzerland; Asher—Belgium and Luxembourg. Of course, many gentile nations—meaning those of non-Israelitish backgrounds—have mingled in these same countries, particularly in major metropolitan areas.

This is a lot to take in. But you do not need to take our word for it! For the full Bible proof of the identities of these tribes, read our free book America and Britain in Prophecy. 

This article contains information from The Associated Press.

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