The Turkish parliament on Thursday unanimously ratified Finland’s NATO membership, clearing the final hurdle to Helsinki joining the Western military alliance.
Finland’s ascension into NATO significantly expands the alliance’s territory on Russia’s border, as the Finnish-Russian border is over 800 miles long. The Russian military has plans to expand its presence in the region in response to NATO expanding into Finland.
Tensions in the region are bound to rise as a major motive for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to launch the war was NATO’s post-Cold War expansion and its cooperation with Kyiv following the 2014 US-backed coup that ousted former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.
Finland joining NATO could mean US troops will be deployed to the country as the US has beefed up its presence in the area NATO calls its “eastern flank” since around the time Russia invaded Ukraine. A US spy plane recently flew over Finland near the Russian border for the first time in recent history, and such flights could now become common.
Turkey’s approval came after almost one year of negotiations between Ankara and Helsinki. Sweden has been left in the cold as Finland previously vowed to only join the alliance with its nordic partner. But Finnish officials abandoned the position once Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey could approve Finland without Sweden.
The Turkish vote came a few days after Hungary’s parliament approved Finland’s NATO bid. Hungary also chose not to vote on Sweden’s ratification, citing Stockholm’s criticism of the government of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.