In Foreign Policy, Michael Hirsh explains how the accession of Finland to NATO, possibly along with Sweden, would be Vladimir Putin’s “nightmare scenario,” as described by James Dobbins, a former senior U.S. diplomat now at the Rand Corporation. Hirsh writes:
It could take up to a year for Finland and Sweden to achieve formal accession to NATO, since the move requires all 30 alliance members to approve it. But a decision to apply by both countries, which traditionally seek to coordinate defense moves, could abruptly alter the overall strategic situation. Nearly two months into Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Western strategists are increasingly skeptical that he can be stopped. Following the Russian retreat from Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, Putin began signaling he was about to launch a new—and likely very aggressive—offensive in the eastern Ukrainian region of the Donbas this week. Putin also declared peace talks to be at a “dead end.” Meanwhile senior officials from Washington to Berlin remain bogged down in debates over whether they can afford the political risk of tougher sanctions and more offensive arms transfers to Ukraine.
Now, the very Western alliance of democracies that Putin has turned into his rhetorical enemy will likely be expanding both its territory and muscle. With Turkey buttressing NATO’s south and the Baltic states taking up the middle of the eastern lines of the alliance, Finland and Sweden’s NATO presence in the north would signal precisely the sort of grand alliance Putin and other nationalists have been fearing. “Their membership would fundamentally change the Northern European security landscape for sure,” said Sean Monaghan of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
For Russia—which, for most of the past century, has pressured Finland into taking a nonthreatening posture—no outcome could be more devastating, except perhaps the very defeat in Ukraine Putin is now trying to avoid, experts said. Helsinki sits less than 200 miles from Putin’s hometown of St. Petersburg, and Finland’s NATO membership would deliver “poetic justice” to him if this whole conflict “allegedly was about preventing Ukraine from joining NATO and shutting NATO’s open-door policy,” Monaghan said.
“It pushes him further into a corner,” said James Dobbins, a former senior U.S. diplomat now at the Rand Corporation. “If he wins in Ukraine but loses Finland, he comes out of this without having gained much. If he loses both, which is more likely, then he’s compounded his problem and the sort of nightmare scenario of an overriding NATO right on Russia’s border.” Finland’s 830-mile border with Russia would double NATO’s border against Moscow, amounting to the longest potential front between the European Union and Russia. “It’s a new problem not just in a military sense but in a cultural and economic sense,” Dobbins said.
If you’re willing to fight for Main Street America, click here to sign up for the Richardcyoung.com free weekly email.