Russia Allegedly Exploits Migration to Pressure NATO

Finland announced on Tuesday that would temporarily close its only remaining open border checkpoint with Russia to stop the flow of asylum seekers it claims Moscow has orchestrated in retaliation for Finland joining NATO, the New York Times reported.

Finnish authorities for weeks have been raising the alarm about the increased number of migrants arriving at the border, claiming that the Kremlin is using the migrants to sow discord in the country.

Already, Finland closed seven of its eight border crossings along its frontier with Russia, leaving only the checkpoint in Raja-Jooseppi in northern Lapland open.

However, on Tuesday, Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo announced that the checkpoint would close for two weeks starting on December 1 so the government can review the situation which he described as a threat to Finland’s national security.

During the two-week closure, asylum applications will only be allowed at seaports and airports.

Orpo said in a press conference that the goal of the temporary closure is to get the “exceptional situation” on the country’s eastern border “normalized.”

Interior Minister Mari Rantanen told reporters that the message to migrants seeking asylum is, do not come. “The border is closed,” Rantanen added.

There was no immediate response to Finland’s move from the Kremlin, which highlights how sharply relations have deteriorated between the neighboring countries since Russia invaded Ukraine.

Following the Second World War, Finland bowed to threats from the Soviet Union and adopted neutrality, remaining outside of NATO for over 70 years. But after Russia invaded Ukraine, fears of Russian aggression against Finland prompted the country, along with neighboring Sweden, to quickly move to join the Alliance, an action Moscow described as “clearly hostile.”

The Finns have accused Russia of helping and encouraging migrants from the Middle East and Africa to reach the border. In November, around 900 migrants arrived at the border.