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PostFinland and Sweden in NATO (Consoly Leon Arias, Spain / Canary, 05/16/22 3:47 am)
The formalization of Finland's application for entry into NATO yesterday dealt a new blow of reality to the twisted argument of the Kremlin to justify the invasion of Ukraine.
If Putin wanted to stop the expansion of the Atlantic Alliance towards his borders, it can be said that with his aggressive campaign in Ukraine, he will not achieve it. The fear that his genocidal imperialism instills has had the main effect of throwing Russia's neighbors into the arms of the military alliance.
Finland and Sweden, two countries characterized by their neutrality between the Western and Russian blocs, have seen their public opinion turn massively towards a position of sympathy towards NATO membership. This shows that it is the massacre perpetrated by Putin, and not the US initiative to expand the Alliance, which explains the adherence of these two new members to the umbrella of Atlantic security. Thus, the military reinforcement of the European Union, and the expansion of NATO's zone of influence, have become true self-fulfilling prophecies for Putin.
Yesterday, the Finnish government formally approved its request to join NATO. The courageous decision of Finland, thus getting rid of a forced neutrality imposed by Russia at the beginning of the Cold War, has also precipitated Sweden's change of position. Encouraged by the Finnish initiative, the Swedish government announced yesterday that the country is abandoning the position of voluntary non-alignment that it has held for two centuries. The two Nordic countries have noted that the absence of NATO in Ukraine is what has allowed it to be invaded. For this reason, they are now seeking refuge under the common defense clause of the Atlantic Treaty, thus expanding the benefits of guaranteed mutual protection that they already enjoyed as members of the European Union.
The Kremlin's retaliation for the NATO border shift eastward was swift. First was the cutoff of gas supplies to Europe that Russia imposed as a countermeasure to EU sanctions. The Russian response also included threats of a military nature, with which Putin repeats, now with Finland, the threats that he addressed to Ukraine when it tried to join the Atlantic Alliance. However, Russia's economic and military weakness, inflicted by the Kremlin's miscalculations in the Ukraine war, make this intimidation not even credible. The almost full dedication of Russian troops on the Ukrainian front, and Finland's low dependence on Russian gas for energy, mean that Moscow is not in a position to threaten its neighbor.
Finally, it seems clear that the incorporation of Finland and Sweden into the joint defense will result in the strengthening of the military potential of the entire Alliance. However, the restructuring of the European defense system with the Nordic expansion of NATO also creates some uncertainties for the future. It is not enough to get carried away by the enthusiasm of having new partners that will bring with them the recent strengthening of their armed forces. The NATO membership of Finland and Sweden must be accompanied by a profound debate on how to accommodate them in the new European security architecture, and how to defend them against the foreseeable Russian hostilities.
One must also ask whether the entry of new European partners will mean greater coordination between NATO and the EU, or if, on the contrary, the strengthening of the former will come at the cost of weakening the latter. Another question. Will the expansion of the Alliance to the east be a destabilizing element capable of giving Russia new pretexts to attack? Or, on the contrary, will it increase the deterrent power of the West, making Putin more "cautious" in the future with his expansionist urges?
What seems clear, in any case, is that the shot has backfired on the Kremlin. Moscow intended to force a reconfiguration of the security order in Europe. It has succeeded, but precisely in the opposite direction to what it intended.
JE comments: Putin may be on the ropes, but he did fulfill his prophecy. Finland and Sweden's incorporation into NATO now depends on a different regional despot, Turkey's Erdogan, who is protesting the Nordic nations' support of "terrorism," especially the Kurdistan Workers' Party. One can presume there are Moscow-Ankara backroom dealings going on right now.
A logistics question: can one NATO member block the expansion of the alliance? Erdogan's biggest bargaining chip is the potential opening of the Bosphorus to Russian warships.
Finland and Sweden in NATO: Causes, Implications
(Cameron Sawyer, USA
05/17/22 8:34 AM)
Consoly León Arias wrote, with respect to the likely accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO, that "the shot has backfired on the Kremlin."
That is certainly true. In fact, this is something of an understatement. The aggressive war in Ukraine is a disaster for Russia of almost unimaginable proportions--destroying Russia's security situation together with the overall security architecture of Europe, profoundly isolating Russia, threatening internally instability, and the risk of a broader war. If anything, this aggressive war of Putin's is an even bigger disaster for Russia than our own aggressive wars in the Middle East were for us.
However, Consoly is wrong to think that these moves are a welcome desire to get rid of "neutrality forced by Russia"--that Finland, or even less Sweden, have been burning with desire to join the US-led camp. On the contrary, neutrality has worked out extremely well for both countries, has been very popular over the decades, and is being given up now only very reluctantly.
Neither Nordic country has supported NATO or US-led aggressive wars, and there was a big article in Finland's leading newspaper, Helsingin Sanomat, noting that the protests in Finland against the US war on Iraq were vastly larger and more passionate, than Finnish protests against the Russian aggression against Ukraine. See: "The invasion of Iraq was opposed by 15,000 Finns during the demonstration; around 50 opponents of the War in Ukraine were found on Tehtaankatu: What is the difference?"
Contrary to what Consoly writes, the Russians, for their part, have been treating the Nordic countries very cautiously in the midst of this storm. Consoly writes about threats addressed to Finland; that is old news. The Russians have now adopted a conciliatory posture towards Sweden and, especially, Finland. Russia values the relationship especially with Finland, which has worked out as well for them as it has for the Finns. Russia has taken the symbolic steps of cutting off Finland from Russian electrical power, which represents less than 10% of the Finnish electrical market and is thus no big deal (especially since Finland will bring a massive new nuclear power plant on line soon), and expelled a couple of Finnish diplomats. At the same time, however, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said that NATO membership of Finland and Sweden doesn't make much difference to Russia, since both countries have long been partially integrated into NATO structures anyway. Even Putin took the trouble to speak up publicly on the matter--saying that Russia has no conflicts or problems with either Finland or Sweden, so the expansion of NATO into these countries "is not a direct threat to Russia." Putin drew the line only at "expansion of military infrastructure to these countries"--that is, bases or nuclear weapons. He went on to say "Problems are created for no reason whatsoever. We reacted appropriately."
Clearly, Putin does not want bad relations with Finland and Sweden and is willing to go far to offer an olive branch.
Consoly writes about the other implications of "incorporating Finland and Sweden into the joint defense." This is the right question. Finland and Sweden have been moved to join NATO because the old security architecture of Europe has been trashed. The old security architecture of Europe depended on the bipolar balance of power during the Cold War, followed by reasonably good relations with Russia after the end of the Cold War, making military threats inside Europe unlikely. That is now out the window. The "new security architecture of Europe" requires a high level of militarism aimed at reducing the significant risk of a big war with an implacable enemy. Sweden's and Finland enviable place of neutrality and good relations everywhere, including the ability to keep the US at arm's length, has been abolished. They are now forced to take sides in a much worse and much more dangerous world than what we had before 24 February. This is to be regretted. The only winner here is US Global Hegemony. Europe is a big loser, but the world altogether, including the US, even if much of our foreign policy establishment doesn't understand it, is also a big loser, as everyone's security is now worse and peace is so much more fragile.
Consoly asks us to think about whether incorporating Finland and Sweden into NATO will increase European security. It's a good question, an important question, at a moment when most of our geopolitical decisions are being made on the basis of being "carried away by enthusiasm." My own opinion is that it doesn't make much difference. We are already virtually at war with Russia--Biden has said that "it's our war" and has announced publicly that our goal is "weakening Russia," not helping Ukraine. I think it's pretty much inconceivable that Russia will attack either Sweden or Finland, with or without NATO (as Putin said--they have no problems with either country, and expansionism is not part of Russian foreign policy, contrary to what Consoly assumes). Europe is anyway on the verge of war. The Neocon project of dividing the world into US-aligned clients, on the one side, and enemies, on the other side, has achieved a great victory in Europe. The elimination of neutral parties in Europe is just a small, inevitable result of this fact.
JE comments: Cameron, I've carefully read every word you've ever sent WAISward, and I don't think you've ever predicted a (wider) European war. You're no alarmist, so your prediction today is particularly alarming. Do you believe Putin will try anything, including a nuke or two, before giving up in Ukraine?
I'm still hopeful the war will not expand. Two weeks in front-line Poland and Romania, where the people do not seem overly worried, helped to boost my optimism.
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