In recent weeks, there has been much chatter about Finland seeking admission to NATO. The Finnish Prime Minister has been overt in her desire to join the military alliance. Previously, Finland set its face like flint against joining any military alliance. But Finland appears to have performed a volte-face. Why? That has changed because of the most important factor in politics. What is that? Harold Macmillan would say, 'events, dear boy, events'.
In 1939 Finland fought the Winter War against the USSR. The Soviets eventually prevailed. This led to the cession of some Finnish land near St Petersburg to the Soviet Union.
In 1941 Germany commenced Operation Barbarossa. The Finns threw in their lot with the Third Reich in a bid to recover their lost land. Marshall Carl Gustav Emil Mannerheim's forces helped to besiege Leningrad. Finnish democrats were deeply uncomfortable with the enormous scale of atrocities that their brothers in arms were perpetrating against Soviet civilians. Mannerheim nevertheless met Adolf Hitler. Mannerheim had a command of the German language and conversed cordially with Der Führer. Indeed, the only recording of Hitler speaking when not on display mode was a chat with Mannerheim. They spoke a deux and were recorded by the Finnish Secret Service.
By 1944 it was patent that the Third Reich was being driven back on all fronts. It seemed meet for Finland to sue for peace. The Finns put out peace feelers to the Soviets and other allies. German intelligence did not manage to nip this in the bud. Helsinki was able to strike a deal with Moscow. Finland was let off with lenient terms. Its frontiers returned to those of 1940. It vowed never to form any military alliance. Further, its military was to be limited to a number agreed with the USSR. The Finns were then able to pull out of the war. The Soviets needed every man they could get to fight against Germany. They were pleased to be able to ignore Finland.
Suomi has dwelt in peace for 78 years. It has accomplished exceptional prosperity despite its dearth of natural resources.
Finland has compulsory military service for its boys. By treaty, its military cannot be large. But it can be superb. It has state-of-the-art equipment. Finland has sought to compensate for its military's puny size by ensuring its armaments are outstanding.
In the Cold War, the Finns managed the meet of 'bowing to the east without mooning the west.' Finland joined the European Union in 1995. The EU has a defence identity. It has its Eurocorps and Rapid Reaction Force: these are armies by another designation.
The Ukraine War has led Finland to reassess its position drastically. It has a 400-mile-long border with Russia. Finland cannot possibly defend such a border. The Finns enjoyed most cordial relations with their Russian neighbours for decades. But that has all changed. Russian irredentist rhetoric has worried the Finns. Finland was part and parcel of the Russian Empire for a century. If Moscow believes this is casus interventionis then it might invade Finland too.
Public opinion in Finland now favours joining NATO. It is surprising they have not done so already.
Russia has warned Finland not to seek to accede to NATO. But what is Russia going to do? It has its hands full of Ukraine. Russia could cut off energy sales to Finland. That would hurt Finland. It would also damage Russia's already battered economy.
The aim is for Russia to prevent Finland joining NATO. If Finland joins, then it is too late. Russia could try cyberattacks first or even a military attack before Finland joins NATO.
Moscow could strive to persuade NATO countries not to let Finland in. Even one NATO country could veto Finland. Some NATO countries have a fairly mixed relationship with Russia. Greece or Hungary could conceivably be convinced to refuse to let Finland in. Bulgaria might have performed that role, but Russia cutting off gas sales to Bulgaria has scuppered any hope of Sofia's cooperation on this issue.
If Russia attacked Finland once Finland has joined NATO, then the Finns would invoke article 5 of the NATO Charter. It would be casus foederis. That would mean a third world war.
Who could Russia rely on to come in on its side? Belarus. That is about it. Other CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organisation) countries would probably say that Russia started this war, so they are not obliged to help. Armenia needs its troops to protect itself against Azerbaijan. Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan have small armies and lack modern weapons. They are very far from the battlefront. Kazakhstan is the only CSTO country that could make a difference.
China would probably sit this one out. Given its might, China is surprisingly pacific. The People's Republic of China would wait to see Russia beaten and then retake the land that China lost to Russia north of the Amur River back in the 19th century.
There is a slim chance that North Korea might fight for its Russian ally. North Korea would not want to see one of its few friends defeated. If the West is busy fighting Russia, then Pyongyang might see this as a once in a lifetime opportunity to conquer South Korea. But more likely the North Koreans would sabre-rattle yet stay at peace.
Russia's so-called allies around the globe could do little to aid Russia and probably would do nothing. Venezuela, Nicaragua, Eritrea and so forth probably would not fight for Russia.
It is probable that Finland will join NATO within two months. That will have proven the Russo-Ukrainian War has backfired for Russia. It has brought NATO closer. Russia will have to guard hundreds more kilometres of border. The whole concept of Putin's war against Ukraine was based on misperceptions.
The author is a political analyst based in the UK. You can watch him on YouTube, 'George from Ireland'