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US embassy welcomes Finland to NATO with meme on Finnish snipers, a lethal force legendary for punishing invading Soviets

Jake Epstein   

US embassy welcomes Finland to NATO with meme on Finnish snipers, a lethal force legendary for punishing invading Soviets
  • Finland officially became the 31st member of the NATO military alliance on Tuesday.
  • To mark the occasion, a US embassy posted a meme to Twitter about Finnish snipers.

Finland officially became the 31st member to join NATO on Tuesday, wrapping up a lengthy process that was first sparked by Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

As officials gathered at the military alliance's headquarters in Brussels to mark the occasion, one US embassy decided to celebrate in a different way — with a meme about Finland's combat prowess.

The US embassy in Prague posted to Twitter on Tuesday morning saying "Welcome" in Finnish with an emoji of the country's blue-and-white flag. Underneath the short message is a meme that's formatted to look like a CAPTCHA, which is a simple type of online program that determines whether a user is a real person or a machine.

The meme reads "select all images with Finnish snipers" and includes 12 small picture boxes which together make up an image of a snow-covered forest. All the boxes of the CAPTCHA are selected, which appears to be the embassy's way of touting the elite camouflage skills of Finnish snipers, a lethal force famous for its winter combat capabilities, and highlighting that they could be anywhere, if not everywhere.

Finnish snipers are legendary for inflicting heavy casualties on the invading Soviet army during a short war over 80 years ago, wreaking havoc on the opposing force.

On November 30, 1939, just weeks after the start of World War II, the Soviet Red Army attacked Finland after the Soviet Union failed to convince the Finns to give up strategic border territory and let its troops to be stationed in country. What followed was a 105-day-long conflict known as the Winter War — a cold affair that saw Soviet forces suffer substantial losses.

When a peace treaty was eventually signed in March 1940, Finland gave up roughly 10 percent of its land to the Soviets, but those gains came at a cost. The Finns — outnumbered in personnel, tanks, and aircraft — had inflicted massive casualties on the Red Army, killing up to 140,000 soldiers and destroying thousands of pieces of military hardware.

Given their limited number of troops and equipment, Finnish forces often couldn't go head to head against Soviet forces in pitched battles, so they turned to their snipers. They also relied on other innovative tactics such as using incendiary Molotov cocktails to eliminate Russian tanks and using skis and reindeer to move troops and weapons.

Finland's snipers knew the terrain well, knew how to disappear on the battlefield, and knew how to effectively use these to their advantage.

One Finnish sniper in particular is credited with killing over 500 Soviet Red Army soldiers during the Winter War. Simo Häyhä, who was also known as "The White Death," used his Mosin-Nagant M91 to shoot his way into fame in the eyes of his fellow soldiers. His combat career ended when he was shot in the head, but he survived and lived to the age of 96, dying in 2002.

Fast-forward eight decades, and Finland is bringing a significant firepower boost not just snipers but a very capable air force and one of the largest artillery forces in Europe to NATO as it officially joins the military alliance and ends decades of military neutrality. The move, which was months in the making and delayed several times, marks a significant shift in Europe's security dynamic and is one of the most important geopolitical consequences of Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

"Finland is stronger and safer within the Alliance, and the Alliance is stronger and safer with Finland as its Ally," US Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrote in a statement after Tuesday's ceremony.

"The era of military non-alignment in our history has come to an end," Finland's President Sauli Niinistö said in his own statement, adding that "a new era begins."

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