A Strategic Closure of Border Points
Finland has announced a decisive move to close four of its eight border crossings with Russia in a bid to stem the flow of undocumented asylum seekers. This decision comes amid accusations from Finland that Russia is tacitly allowing migrants from Africa and the Middle East to cross into Finnish territory as a form of destabilization tactic.
The Impacted Border Crossings
The border points slated for closure are in the southeastern regions: Vaalimaa, Nuijamaa, Imatra, and Niirala. These checkpoints are among the busiest, with an average of 3,000 individuals crossing daily. Following the closure, asylum seekers arriving from Russia will be directed to two northern border stations to submit their applications.
Escalating Tensions and Defense Concerns
The backdrop of these closures is a period of escalating tension between Finland and Russia, particularly concerning Finland’s defense cooperation with the United States. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Finland pivoted from its long-standing policy of military neutrality to join NATO in April, a move that prompted Russia to threaten unspecified “countermeasures.” The Finnish Border Guard has reported an increase in undocumented arrivals since then, which Finnish officials interpret as a Russian strategy to pressure Finland through irregular migration.
Political and Diplomatic Repercussions
Interior Minister Mari Rantanen alluded to potential Russian displeasure with Finnish activities, while Kremlin officials have countered by expressing regret over the deterioration of what was once a cordial relationship. The blame for the souring ties has been placed on Finland by the Kremlin, which sees the border closure as a deliberate distancing act by Helsinki.
The Bigger Picture: Border Security
Finland’s current border security, primarily light wooden fences designed to contain livestock, is now deemed insufficient in the face of new pressures. Consequently, Finland has commenced building a 200km (124-mile) fence along a section of the border with Russia, anticipated to be completed by 2026. This development marks a significant shift in Finland’s approach to border security and migration policy.
In conclusion, the decision to close key border crossings reflects a complex interplay of migration control, security policy, and international diplomacy. As Finland reinforces its borders physically and policy-wise, it navigates the delicate balance between sovereignty and humanitarian responsibility amidst a fraught geopolitical landscape.