Sweden and Finland’s NATO affiliation has ramifications for Putin

BThe Undestag and Bundesrat approve the merger of Sweden and Finland NATO Ratified last week, Canada and Estonia have already ratified. Nevertheless, the two Nordic countries still have a long way to go before ratification is complete in all 30 member states.

The Turkish president has no doubt that the governments in Stockholm and Helsinki must first meet his various demands related to the Kurdish issue. Also, he still wants F-16 fighter jets from the US. The Biden administration supports it, but there is opposition in Congress. So the matter is not over yet.

However, Erdogan’s objection is not fundamental in nature. He wants to use the situation to gain advantages for Turkey in areas that have nothing to do with NATO’s northern expansion. Therefore, all actors from Washington to Moscow realistically expect that sooner or later Sweden and Finland will be part of the alliance. This will have significant consequences for the strategic situation in Northern Europe – both in favor of and against the West. of Russia.

Significant strategic consequences in favor of the West

It starts with the fact that the two new allies will strengthen NATO militarily. In past rounds of enlargement, smaller states mainly in Central-Eastern and South-Eastern Europe joined, most recently Montenegro and Northern Macedonia. This was a geopolitical gain for NATO as it removed these countries from Russian influence. But as a rule, they sought more protection than they could provide themselves.

Image: FAZ

On the other hand, Sweden and Finland have modern and well-equipped armed forces. Both countries are subject to conscription and have powerful arms industries. As a result of their longstanding neutrality, they never lost sight of national security like Germany or other Western nations. For example, the Finnish cannon is one of the largest Europe. Donbas shows how important these weapons are.

From a strategic point of view, with the merger of the two countries, NATO will above all gain a defense capability in an area that its military planners have seen for years as a potential arena for conflict with Russia. The Baltic states, which were once part of the Soviet Union, are considered difficult to defend because they have no hinterland and are connected to the rest of the alliance only by a narrow strip of land between Poland and Lithuania (the so-called Suvalky Gap).

The Baltic Sea becomes a NATO sea

While Finland and Sweden are in NATO, fewer air and sea supply lines are created than from Poland or Germany. The alliance would also become the once dominant naval force in the region. Except for Russia, all countries bordering it belong to the alliance, and the Baltic Sea will effectively become a NATO sea. An important role is played by the Swedish island of Gotland, from which it is possible to control the sea areas especially beyond the Baltic Sea.

Former NATO general Heinrich Brause called it an “unsinkable aircraft carrier” that could be used alongside the Swedish, Finnish and German navies against Russia’s Baltic fleet in Kaliningrad.

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersen on July 3 in Gotland

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersen on July 3 in Gotland

Image: Imago

Finland’s annexation extends NATO’s land border with Russia by 1,340 kilometers. This should increase deterrence because it significantly expands Russia’s potential front line in the event of an attack on allied territory. The red line drawn by the Putin coalition soon stretches across Europe, from the Northern Cape to the Black Sea. Additionally, in the event of war, NATO gains additional opportunities in the North.

Russian military installations on the Kola Peninsula are connected to the rest of Russia by a long land link that can be intercepted from Finland. The Russian Northern Fleet is stationed on a peninsula in the Barents Sea with headquarters in Severomorsk. Among other things, the majority of the country’s strategic nuclear submarines are based here.

More weight in the Arctic

The membership of Sweden and Finland will also increase NATO’s weight in the Arctic. Both states are members of the Arctic Council, where eight neighboring states, including Russia, exchange ideas. The importance of the region is gradually increasing with climate change. Northern routes are already well navigable, providing short sea routes from Asia to Europe and the Americas. Melting polar ice will improve access to Arctic raw materials.

Putin recently said he has no problem with the two countries joining NATO. Nevertheless, he has promised military countermeasures if the coalition deploys troops or infrastructure there.

As a possible reaction, Moscow has already indicated the deployment of nuclear weapons in Kaliningrad, which according to Western estimates have long been stationed there. NATO has said it has no intention of sending troops to either country. “They have great national powers and they can defend themselves,” Deputy Secretary-General Mircea Geoana said.

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