ALONG THE FINNISH-RUSSIA BORDER — On a current afternoon, an assault from Russian army bases just a few miles from right here appeared a distant prospect.
That’s not solely as a result of, as NATO’s latest member, Finland now enjoys the assured safety of 30 nations, together with the US — a growth that President Biden will have a good time throughout a go to to Helsinki this week.
It’s additionally as a result of a lot of the Russians as soon as stationed within the space went to combat in Ukraine, and plenty of if not most of them, Finnish officers say, are useless. It could be years earlier than Russia poses a traditional army risk from throughout the verdant forest of pine, spruce and birch.
However there have been some Russians to be seen on a sunny June day on the Vaalimaa border crossing, about halfway between Helsinki and St. Petersburg. A trickle got here and went, many in costly automobiles: an Audi Q7, a black BMW with two glossy bikes mounted on a rack. These Russians had been possible twin passport holders, presumably headed to different European international locations that they’ll attain solely by land due to flight restrictions following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine final 12 months.
For anybody making an attempt to cross the border illicitly, border guard foot patrols roam the woods. However their trail-sniffing canine encounter few Russians making an attempt to sneak into Finland. Maybe the most important concern on this afternoon was a black bear seen prowling the world.
The peaceable scene belied the worry amongst many Finns that regardless of Russia’s weakened state, this transit level, and their nation, may in the future grow to be a Russian goal. That nervousness prompted Finland to hunt membership within the North Atlantic Treaty Group final 12 months, a course of accomplished in April when Finland grew to become its thirty first member in what Mr. Biden calls a strategic blow for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.
That transfer infused an extended, placid relationship between Moscow and Helsinki with sharp new tensions.