Finland and Sweden appear to be close to joining NATO, which leaders and experts see as the best way to confront Russia while increasing its rhetoric on nuclear weapons.
The conflict in Ukraine has forced the two Nordic countries to reconsider their absence from the alliance formed after World War II, ensuring members to protect each other if attacked.
“Mr. Putin is proving that NATO is relevant and necessary,” said Sean Monaghan, a visitor to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin. “If NATO does not exist, you must find it.”
“Not only Finland in particular, but also Sweden are very firm on these issues and have a clear eye on Russia, which is why I think they will eventually join NATO because they have seen Russia’s revisionist threat emerge. The best way for them to defend themselves against the threat is to join NATO.
As politicians and opinion polls in both countries have changed the course of the prospect – in favor of joining NATO after decades of withdrawal – Moscow has renewed its threat to use nuclear weapons.
Dmitry Medvedev, vice president of Russia’s Security Council and former president of Russia, wrote in a telegram on Thursday that “Baltic non-nuclear status can not be talked about” if Finland and Sweden join NATO. We need to restore balance. ”
He said that if Finland and Sweden became part of the alliance, Moscow would “actively strengthen the group of ground forces and air defense and establish significant naval forces in the waters of the Gulf of Finland.”
This is a particular threat to Finland, which shares an 800-mile border with Russia.
Finnish Foreign Minister Tytti Tuppurainen said on Friday that his country was “highly likely” to join NATO, calling Russia’s “brutal” war in Ukraine a wake-up call for all of us.
That interest could put more pressure on Sweden, which will remain the only Nordic country outside the alliance and break its long-standing neutrality practice by joining.
“These countries were not on the verge of joining NATO three months ago and now they are a reflection of the Russian aggression. Its aggression against Ukraine has frightened many countries. The ambassador also served as special envoy to Ukraine.
“Finnish nationalization was created to describe the Soviet Union’s insistence that Finland should not pursue its own interests under Finland’s protection. Now they are going to do it anyway. So in that sense, it’s definitely a response to the Russian aggression, and it’s good that Russia is realizing this, “he added.
NATO expanders hope the two countries will formally state their will before NATO’s meeting in Madrid in June, where members can sign an access protocol that will be approved separately by each country’s legislature.
Experts say they are likely to welcome the alliance.
“They have advanced, modern armies and are seen as security providers against security consumers,” Monaghan said.
But beyond practical security impacts, the move sends a significant message.
“It’s in the context of President Biden’s statement that this is a contest between authoritarianism and democracy. .
Once new recruits are invited by NATO members, all 30 member states will have to go through their own process of ratifying the agreement, which can take years, but can take months, with experts expecting the right motivation. .
Volker said he hoped Sweden would finalize its own internal decision before the June summit.
“NATO summit leaders … want this decision to be taken once and for all and then they want to close any gray zone between becoming a member of NATO, not yet a member of NATO, and eventually becoming a member of NATO – they want to close that gap as soon as possible,” he said. .
But there are some potential sticking points.
Leo Michael, the former director of NATO policy in the defense sector, said Hungary would slow international recognition, while the frequent remarks of former President Trump, a NATO critic, would make it difficult to reach a consensus in the United States. The Senate needs two-thirds of the vote to get approval there.
“Given Victor Orban’s closeness with Putin in Hungary, I can only imagine that Hungary would be slow to approve,” said Michael, now a member of the Atlantic Council.
“Looking at the way Trump has treated NATO, I’m a little nervous that they will get all the Republican votes they need. Maybe they will eventually … [but] I do not think it will be easy, ”he said.
“If he sees this as something else to attack the administration, there may be some who will ask it and do not want to go down the crossroads with him,” he added.
It is unclear how Russia will respond to the NATO expansion, although experts say ground action is unlikely.
“If you look at Russia’s current dilemma, it goes without saying that they are very occupied in Ukraine from the point of view of conventional forces, so it will be difficult to divert significant forces to the north,” Germanovich said.
But Russia will seek to punish members of the coalition through false information campaigns and other means of action in cyber-attacks and its nuclear threats.
“Given the potential frustration of President Putin and the Russian leadership, none of us can take lightly the threat posed by tactical nuclear weapons or low-yield nuclear weapons, given the setbacks they have so far faced militarily.” CIA Director William Burns said in a speech Thursday.
“Although we have seen some rhetoric on the part of the Kremlin about going to higher nuclear alert levels, we have yet to find practical evidence of deployments or military positions that reinforce that concern.” Burns said. “But we look at it very closely. This is one of our most important responsibilities at the CIA.”
Joining NATO would show that Finland and Sweden are taking Russia seriously, despite any pressure from Putin.
“Mr Putin was not happy with Finland’s and Sweden’s joining NATO.
“Furthermore, if NATO proves the open door policy that Putin wanted to cover up, there will be some kind of poetic justice,” he added.