Finland closes Russia border points to check migrants - GulfToday

Finland closes Russia border points to check migrants


Cars wait at the Nuijamaa border checkpoint between Russia and Finland. File/ Reuters

Finland has decided to close four of the nine border points on the Russian front as there was a sudden increase in migrants from Iraq, Yemen, Syria and Somalia coming from the Russian side. Finland views this movement from the Russian side as a deliberate policy of the Russian government and it is seen as Moscow’s retaliation to Finland joining NATO after the outbreak of the war in Ukraine.

Finland and Sweden are the two countries that sought membership in the Western military alliance, aimed generally at Russia. Russia has denied the allegation. Dmitri Peskov, spokesman of Russian President Vladimir Putin, said that it is regrettable that Finland is destroying the diplomatic relations with Russia.

Finland has over a long period maintained a scrupulous neutrality towards Russia through the Soviet period when communism was the ruling ideology in Moscow. Helsinki sat up to the entry of 300 immigrants from Iraq, Yemen, Syria and Yemen and another 100 coming in on Friday alone. Finnish authorities have said that the immigrants seeking entry can leave their applications at two of the border points.

The Finnish response appears to be quite sharp and it reflects that as a new member of NATO, Finland wants to be on the alert of any movement from Russia into Finland. And it reflects the NATO stance towards Russia, which is that of being on the alert towards, suspicious of, and even hostile to, Russia. Of course, NATO is not at war with Russia. And the military alliance has been careful not to give membership to Ukraine which is at war with Russia.

But it seems NATO wants to make clear its stance towards Russia through responses of the kind that Finland has made. It is a sort of cold war, right now between Finland and Russia, but it extends to the rest of NATO. It would be interesting to see whether NATO would show the same hostility towards Russia’s ally China. It is unlikely that NATO would want to send out a message of war to China or any other Russian ally because as yet Russia and NATO are not at war.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on X, formerly Twitter: “I fully support measures taken by Finland. And I thank the Finnish Border Guards for protecting our European borders.” Interestingly, Finland’s ombudsman for non-discrimination said that Finland is bound by international treaties not to reject asylum-seekers. In many ways, EU has been more aggressive against Russia than NATO.

European countries, despite EU and NATO, have adopted a different kind of stance towards Russia. Some like Hungary feel that economic sanctions against Russia have not worked. France and Germany do not want to burn all the bridges with Russia.

But Norway, which also shares an Arctic border with Russia, said it would follow Finland’s example if it perceives migration from the Russian side. In more ways than one, Europe is struggling to make sense of how to do deal with Russia. Europe cannot ignore Russia nor could it acquiesce to Russia’s bid to control Ukraine.

It would seem that there have to be negotiations between European countries and Russia, and they have to reach a compromise on how to deal with the status of Ukraine. Ukraine is all set to become a member of the EU, and that will change the complexion of the Russia-Ukraine war.

The rest of EU cannot maintain friendly relations with Russia when there is a war between Russia and Ukraine, which is a member of EU. There is as yet no end in sight to the Russia-Ukraine war, but it cannot be allowed to linger too long. It is not just Russia, but Europe too that will have pay the price. Finland closing the border points is an example of the widespread tension between Russia and Europe.

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