Border Fences Are Effective. Just Ask the Prime Minister of Finland
For years, Americans have been routinely told by pro-mass-immigration talking heads that border walls or fences don’t work. Of course, if that were actually true, a growing number of nations would not have border walls/fences or be planning to erect them. In 2018, USA Today stated that “there are at least 77 walls or fences around the world — many erected after … Sept. 11, 2001.” Now, Finland is planning to join the club after its Social Democratic prime minister, Sanna Marin, voiced her support for a fence along parts of the country’s border with Russia.
In late September, the Finnish Border Guard called for a fence to secure the frontier and keep out illegal immigration. The agency estimates that the fence should be built along the most strategic sectors of Finland’s long border with Russia, and that it should last for approximately 50 years and cost “a few hundred million euros.” Prime Minister Marin agreed, stating that “[i]f the border authority estimates that it needs this kind of a fence to control the border also in [the] future, I think we should take that proposal seriously.”
Finland’s desire to build a border fence is driven by recent national security concerns. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, Finland and Sweden – nations long famous for their policies of geopolitical neutrality – applied to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). More recently, after Russia’s president Vladimir Putin declared a partial mobilization, large numbers of military-age Russian men began fleeing the country, prompting serious concerns about political destabilization among Russia’s neighbors, including Finland.
The Finns are concerned that Moscow may attempt to flood their country with illegal migrants (from Russia and elsewhere), or exploit “large numbers of asylum seekers as a kind of hybrid threat,” according to senior researcher at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs Charly Salonius-Pasternak. That is, after all, what Russian-allied Belarus attempted to accomplish last year by weaponizing illegal migrants against Poland and the Baltic states, although the operation failed due to a strong posture by the targeted Central European nations. Barbed wire border fencing was an important element of that response.
The Finns have no illusions regarding the Kremlin threat, including cynical games with migration, because of their long history of Russian invasions and conquests. Many remember Soviet nationality policy in the Baltic republics where, for decades, Moscow attempted to settle ethnic Russians and other non-native nationalities. The goal was to weaken resistance to communist rule by changing the local demographics. Following the Soviet empire’s implosion, the significant Russian minorities remained a (pro-Moscow) thorn in the side of the newly-independent Baltic nations. Thus, the sudden arrival of large numbers of Russians – and possibly other migrants as well – could easily destabilize Finland, with its population of only 5.5 million.
The American left, which so often views Northern European countries as a governance model we should emulate, would be well advised to learn from the Finns about the necessity of having secure borders and the effectiveness of border fences.