ALASKA — In response to concerns that Moscow may decide to send a significant number of migrants to the border, Finland’s Parliament approved revised border security legislation on Thursday. This legislation permits the closure of crossing points with Russia.
Just two days prior, the 30 members of NATO officially approved the accession of Finland and Sweden to the alliance, a development that has infuriated Russia. The NATO summit held in Madrid at the end of June approved the two Nordic countries’ membership requests.
The center-left government of Finland, led by Prime Minister Sanna Marin, will now have greater authority to impose restrictions on border crossings in exceptional circumstances, particularly along its 1,340 km (830 mi) long border with Russia, which is the longest of any EU member states.
The modifications would also enable Finland, a country of 5.5 million people, to erect walls and fences along its border with Russia as necessary. Sauli Niinisto, the president of Finland, will sign the amendments into law on Friday.
The government’s concern that Russia would try to sway Finland by coordinating the movement of large numbers of asylum seekers to the border—something that reportedly occurred at northern Finnish border crossing points in 2015 and 2016 as Russian authorities reportedly herded thousands of asylum seekers there—led to the legislative reform.
Since Finland has joined NATO as an observer member but is not yet a full member enjoying the alliance’s security guarantees due to legislative approvals in all 30 member states, the risk of such hybrid threats from Moscow is thought to be particularly high.
Over the past few years, Russia has made it clear time and time again that it opposes Helsinki and Stockholm joining NATO. But after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, both Finland and Sweden made the decision to apply for membership in the alliance.
In a statement, Finnish Justice Minister Anna-Maja Henriksson noted that “the security situation in Finland and Europe has changed fundamentally in recent months, and especially the risk of a different kind of hybrid influence has increased.”
I’m pleased that the preparedness act has been quickly amended to include a new exception that specifically addresses hybrid threats, the speaker said.