In a concerning development, Russia has been implicated in orchestrating a significant migrant crisis along the borders of Finland, the latest addition to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). This tactic appears to be part of a broader strategy by Moscow to undermine NATO's stability, mainly targeting Finland due to its recent membership.
Finland's Entry into NATO Escalates Tensions
The relationship between Russia and Finland has grown increasingly tense following Finland's bid to join NATO. This decision was motivated by the escalating situation in Ukraine and fears of potential aggression from Russia.
In April 2023, Finland officially became the 31st member of NATO, which provoked a strong reaction from Moscow.
Accusations Against Russia for Migrant Influx
Finland has accused Russia of intentionally facilitating the movement of asylum seekers, who primarily originate from Africa and the Middle East, to its borders without appropriate documentation.
Since November, approximately 700 asylum seekers have entered Finland, marking a substantial increase from previous months and raising national security concerns.
Finnish Government's Response
The Finnish government closed several border crossings with Russia to counter this issue.
Prime Minister Petteri Orpo, in a statement backed by BBC News, emphasized that the influx of migrants was orchestrated, with Russian border guards actively aiding their transport to the Finnish border.
Tightening Border Control
Initially, Finland closed four of its nine border crossings with Russia, which spans 832 miles (1,340 kilometers).
However, the situation necessitated further action, leading to the closure of additional crossings on November 22nd. The Finnish government's statement, cited by the New York Times, accused Russia of exploiting migrants for its objectives.
Centralized Asylum Processing
To control and streamline the process, Finland declared that asylum applications would be processed exclusively at the Raja-Jooseppi border crossing from November 24th. Prime Minister Orpo, in a Reuters report, firmly demanded that Russia halt these activities, labeling them a "hybrid attack" and a matter of national security.
Russia's Denial and Response
Maria Zakharova, spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry, denied these allegations, branding them as "misinformation" on her Telegram channel. Meanwhile, Russia heightened its security measures in the Murmansk region as a counter-response to Finland's border closures.
The Broader Implications
A Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs ambassador, Mikko Kinnunen, expressed concerns to Newsweek about Russia's intentions to disrupt and confuse Finland. The Institute for the Study of War in Washington concurred, suggesting that Russia's tactics are aimed at destabilizing NATO.
Recalling Past Tactics
Kinnunen highlighted similarities between the current situation and Russia's actions against Finland in 2015 and 2016. However, he emphasized that the intentions behind these actions are now unequivocally understood as a malicious influence operation by Russia.
In summary, Finland's recent induction into NATO has escalated tensions with Russia, leading to a complex situation at the border involving a surge in migrant crossings. The Finnish government's response, aimed at safeguarding national security, has been met with denial and countermeasures from Russia, underlining the intricate geopolitical dynamics at play in this region.