Russia is furious that Finland is joining NATO but can’t do much about it

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RIGA, Latvia — Russia’s invasion of Ukraine spurred Finland to set aside long-standing concerns about provoking Russia and seek NATO membership, a major strategic setback for Russia.

The invasion also means there’s little Russia can do about it.

The Russian military is ensnared in heavy fighting in Ukraine, its ranks depleted by steep losses of men and equipment. Russia withdrew troops from the border with Finland to send them to Ukraine, leaving Moscow with a significantly reduced capacity to threaten Finland militarily.

Russia supplies Finland with small quantities of gas and oil, but Finland was already preparing to sever those supplies in keeping with European Union decisions to reduce dependency on Russian energy. One possible early response came Saturday with an announcement by the Russian state-owned company RAO Nordic that it has halted electricity exports to Finland, although it was unclear whether the move was intended as a punishment. Russia blamed Western sanctions for the move, saying they had made it difficult for Russia to receive payments for the supplies.

Finland shrugged off the action. Finnish officials said they had already been scaling back imports of Russian electricity to guard against possible attacks on the country’s infrastructure, and Russian electricity accounted for only 10 percent of its consumption.

Russia may try to launch cyberattacks against Finnish infrastructure or wage hybrid warfare in an attempt to sway Finnish public opinion, but Finland has highly developed systems capable of countering any such efforts, said retired Maj. Gen. Pekka Toveri, a former chief of Finnish military intelligence.

“They actually don’t have much they can use to threaten us,” Toveri said. “They don’t have political, military or economic power.”

Finland’s decision, expected to be formally announced Sunday, upends the balance of power along the northern borders of the NATO alliance. In the coming days, Sweden is expected to follow Finland’s lead and also seek NATO membership. But it is Finland’s accession that will have the biggest impact on Russia, serving to double the size of Russia’s land border with NATO and entirely encircle its three ports on the Baltic Sea.

For decades, Finland had refrained from joining NATO for fear of provoking its larger, nuclear-armed neighbor. And Russian President Vladimir Putin had kept those fears alive with vague threats of war and menacing acts of harassment in Finnish airspace and waters.

The invasion of Ukraine overturned that calculation, prompting Finns to conclude they would be safer under NATO’s protective umbrella than left to deal with Russia alone. Before the war, only 20 percent of Finns supported joining NATO. By May, that figure had reached 76 percent.

Finns have also concluded that the Russian military’s unexpectedly dismal performance and setbacks on the battlefield in Ukraine suggest it no longer poses the threat it once did, Toveri said.

“Russia is so weak now they couldn’t risk another humiliating defeat,” he said. If Russia were to attempt to send troops into Finland “in a couple of days they would be wiped…

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