On 18th-May 2022, Finland, and Sweden both submitted their application for joining NATO. Finland’s seven-decade commitment to no alliance will break when NATO awards it membership. US President Joe Biden showed his full support on 19th May to Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Finland President Sauli Niinisto, expressing America’s full, total and complete backing for their membership. The Russian President called this a serious problem; Turkey, Italy, and Germany expressed their reservations.
Russia’s 2008 invasion of Georgia and the 2014 annexation of Crimea, prior to the attack on Ukraine has created a sense of insecurity in both Nordic states. Finland and Sweden have the conventional capability of Ukraine, but without nuclear weapons they have only the option of joining NATO in order to deter Russia. They also contribute to alliance operations and air policing, while their domestic populace is also in favor of membership due to Ukraine conflict.
Turkey claims that both countries are supporting the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which are troublemakers in the Kurdistan region and terrorists according to Turkish officials. The United States and Turkey have declared it a terrorist group. A few questions arise 1) how much Turkey can pressurize US and NATO? 2) Is Turkey looking for a grand bargain such as lifting the ban on the weapon purchase from the US, a new kit for the F-16 fighter jet, a new weapon deal, and a financial package?
Turkey can strengthen its case for membership of the European Union. President Erdogan of Turkey has demanded of Swedish Prime Minister Anderson that no financial, political, or arms support be provided to the terrorist group PKK. Now the test for Finland and Sweden is that both will give up support to PKK for their grand security interest.
Russia cannot now play any more energy cards as Europe is seeking new sources for energy; the more prolonged this war, the more it will serve the interest of the Middle East. 10% of Finland’s electricity comes from Russia. The Russian owned company InterRAO threatens Finland, but this will not serve as any major hindrance.
Russia may exercise the six decades old practice of deploying nuclear weapons near US borders in Cuba or on the borders of NATO member states.
As Ukraine is not a treaty ally of the US and NATO, it cannot allow NATO troops on its soil. Now if there is any incursion on the borders of Finland and Sweden, they will respond. Finland shares a long border of 830 miles from where Russia had shifted its troops toward Ukraine. When Finland becomes a member of NATO, Russia will deploy more forces on the Finnish border, which will increase its military spending, and, thereby, its economic vulnerability as well. How will Russia pursue its relationship with Finland as it has good relationships due to nonalignment? Will they continue with the same pace because Russia needs a market for its energy? It remains to be assessed whether Putin can build political pressure on Sweden and Finland, whether it will use the military as was done in Ukraine or whether Putin will just let them go.
If Finland and Sweden have a successful policy of neutrality, then why do they feel the need to join a military alliance that will ensure their security? Only two reasons compel Sweden and Finland to pursue NATO membership 1) the hostile behavior of Russia in the region, and 2) the threat of using nuclear weapons and other unconventional weapons.
The purpose of invading Ukraine was to give a lesson against joining NATO, but this invasion resulted in another 830 miles of NATO forces on the Russian border; moreover, countries which were neutral for seven decades are now seeking membership of NATO to secure themselves against the brutal use of force by Putin. The West has been successful in defaming Russia after the invasion of Ukraine. Finland and Sweden might think it is the right time for the application of NATO membership.
NATO will get access to the Baltic Sea, which will become more militarized. Finland, Russia, and Estonia will face a similar situation to the South China Sea where more than two states claim the waters. The dependence of NATO on the Suwalki Gap will decrease. NATO will check the activities in the Kola Peninsula where Russia has a deployed ballistic missile, and naval activities in the Baltic Sea and Arctic region as well.
The Arctic region is a success story of cooperation between Russia and NATO but now this will open a new front of conflict with the membership of Finland and Sweden. Russia has more than 50 percent of the Arctic Ocean coastline. Sweden and Finland are also members of the Arctic Council along with Russia, Canada, and the United States. After Sweden and Finland get NATO membership, the member state of NATO will increase in Arctic Council. The Arctic Region will become more militarized and the chances of any conflict will also increase between Russia and NATO.
This will not only add land or sea borders against Russia, but it will add military strength. Both aspirant states will exchange the experience from the NATO strategies and military operations. The disadvantages for Sweden and Finland are that their military spending will increase; the threat of war will also increase from Russia, and they will first be victims of a war between NATO and Russia.