Finland regions

Why the “natoization” of Sweden and Finland is bad news for Putin

LThe strong and weak reverberations of the Russian-Ukrainian war continue to permeate the reorientation of the global security architecture, notably that of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO.

Interestingly, while Russian President Vladimir Putin sought the “Finlandization of Ukraine”, five months later he achieved the exact opposite, i.e. the “Natoization of Europe”. “. For decades, two Nordic countries, Sweden and Finland, chose to maintain military neutrality to accommodate their fearsome neighbor while other central and eastern European states sought security guarantees against Russia by joining the EU. NATO.

This interesting metamorphosis into the forward posture of the two militarily advanced but hitherto neutral Nordic states is full of realities waiting to be uncovered. It also leads to serious security concerns, now that Russia is expected to ‘rebalance the situation’ with an ever-growing possibility of a nuclear world war as attention turns to the Kola Peninsula, where Moscow harbors its launched ballistic missiles. by submarines. With the increase in military deployments, the chances of miscalculation have also dangerously increased.

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Change geography

Until now, Norway was the only country that had NATO’s 197 km border with Russia north of the Kola Peninsula. But this geography has been fundamentally changed to NATO’s advantage, adding 1,335 km to its eastern flank. Now the entire length of Finland’s border with Russia, dense with forests, lakes and swamps, is NATO’s new frontier. The NATO-Russia conflict, with its potential for nuclear escalation, could be a recipe for global devastation.

While the border with Finland poses land challenges to Russia, the strategically important Swedish island of Gotland, located in the center of the Baltic Sea, poses maritime challenges. With NATO’s likely naval deployments in this region, Russia’s Baltic Sea headquarters in Kaliningrad and such an important city as St. Petersburg become vulnerable. In fact, Russia’s maritime lines of communication leading west will now be part of NATO waters. Finland’s and Sweden’s membership in NATO would not only strengthen the defense of the Baltic region, but also that of the Arctic and reduce the risks of adventurism or Russian attack in the air domains, land and sea in an integrated manner.

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NATO “transformative” summit in Madrid

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg didn’t mince words in Madrid when he described NATO’s military redeployment – the alliance has expanded its high-readiness forces from 40,000 troops to over 300,000 in response to the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine. What does this mean for Russia and for transforming the stability of a European (dis)order?

This threat would force Russia to add countermeasures against potential growing NATO threats and Moscow is likely to scatter its resources while trying to achieve air dominance. But it could also provide Putin with a new reason to redirect Russian resources towards military readiness as part of a broader strategic calculus recalibrated by Putin. It would be naïve to imagine that Putin did not consider the possibility of the two Nordic states joining the bloc. Perhaps NATO’s northern expansion would provide Putin with a valid opportunity to realign his forces across different regions and increase Russia’s defense posture, reaffirming his original claim that NATO expansion is an existential threat to the survival of Russia.

There could also be a marked increase in gray area operations such as cyberattacks from Russia and perpetual instability below thresholds.

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Joining Sweden and Finland brings a lot to the table

The accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO did not happen overnight. Despite official neutrality, the two Nordic countries have been close NATO partners for decades and have worked on joint missions.

But not all NATO members are equal. In fact, most members spend less than 2% of GDP commitments while relying on the bloc for their security guarantees. For example, although Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are enthusiastic and determined members of NATO, they are also difficult to defend, as they are wedged between Russia, its ally Belarus, and the military enclave Russian on the Baltic Sea, Kaliningrad. The defense of the Baltic States has been repeatedly identified as NATO’s main military challenge.

NATO membership for Sweden and Finland would transform the security landscape of the Baltic countries by opening up a two-pronged military challenge for Russia. Although Sweden has not yet reached the 2% threshold, both countries have significantly increased their defense spending over the past decade and, by this benchmark, would become reliable contributors to the bloc’s security.

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Complement NATO’s shortcomings in the region

NATO does not have enough vehicle-mounted air defense systems and its air defences, especially in the east, are quite weak. NATO has long attempted to address this capability gap. Sweden’s purchase of surface-to-air cruise missiles and Finland’s $9.4 billion purchase of 64 state-of-the-art US F-35 fighter jets would significantly improve the air defense and attack capabilities of NATO. With 1,500 artillery and rocket systems, Finland has one of the strongest artillery forces in Europe, crucial for modern warfare.

NATO’s northern expansion has more in prospect

In the time to come, these two countries could fundamentally transform NATO’s role as security provider in Europe and allow the United States to leave European security to militarily powerful European actors while retaining its nuclear umbrella. Therefore, it will provide the US with a window to focus on China, its rival in the Indo-Pacific, and coordinate its strategies with allies like India. The United States is not alone in seeking greater freedom to maneuver; even the UK, France and other Indo-Pacific enthusiasts are eagerly awaiting a more pronounced role in the region as their resources may free up, especially after Germany increases military spending. as part of a major policy change. Ambitious plans risk running out of steam due to resource scarcity in a post-pandemic, war-weary world unless resources are wisely reallocated.

While this is good news for India, which fundamentally mistrusts a China-led Asian order, it also opens up a plethora of foreign policy intersections that New Delhi will have to approach with caution. Beyond taking sides in Europe’s war, India’s strategic calculation has attempted to prioritize the balance between the great powers and its own national interest. With US-led or US-Europe initiatives playing a more pronounced role in the Indo-Pacific, fault lines in distant Europe are likely to be mirrored in India’s maritime backyard. sooner rather than later.

The author is associate researcher, Europe and Eurasia Center, at the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defense Studies and Analysis. Views are personal.

(Editing by Zoya Bhatti)