Russia promises to respond to the official steps taken by Sweden and Finland to join NATO. However, Moscow does not intend to do this immediately, but after assessing the threats that have arisen as a result of almost doubling its borders with the alliance
When Finland and Sweden join NATO
Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson announced at a press conference on Monday, May 16, that the Swedish government had overwhelmingly decided to join NATO. Stockholm will submit the corresponding application together with Helsinki— Finland officially confirmed its intention to become a member of the North Atlantic Alliance on Sunday, May 15.
“We are now living in a dangerous time. Russia will not like the entry of Sweden and Finland into NATO. Both Sweden and Finland must be prepared for difficult months, we say this not to create anxiety, but to draw attention. No one can rule out that trials are coming, even if they are not serious, — said Andersson.
Politico estimates that for the two countries, the process of joining NATO from application to approval could take only a few weeks, given the upcoming summit of the alliance, which will be held in late June in Madrid. As the publication explains, unlike the Baltic countries, which took years to begin to comply with NATO requirements and overcome the prejudice of a number of members of the alliance, the alliance has long had a consensus on Finland and Sweden. The fact is that both countries have a reputation as democracies in which the rule of law is respected, and the level of their military and military-technical training will help strengthen the bloc of 30 countries. Finland and Sweden's long-term cooperation with the alliance also means that they will not have to make great efforts to achieve the compatibility of their weapons forces with NATO forces.
For Finland and Sweden, joining NATO will mean that the fifth article of the Collective Defense Treaty will come into force in their respect. It states that if one state— a member of NATO is the victim of an armed attack, all other members of the alliance will take action as they deem necessary to help the country under attack.
For Russia, this means that the length of its border with NATO will more than double, mainly due to Finland— the length of the border with it is 1300 km.
RBC Pro Pro Without these IT services, businesses will have a particularly difficult time. Instructions Pro The risk of an eternal bear market is real. In which stocks to sit out the fall?On Monday evening, May 16, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he would not agree to Finland and Sweden joining NATO. “We can't say yes” the accession to NATO of those who imposed sanctions against Turkey,— quoted Erdogan Anadolu. The Turkish leader stressed that the arrival of delegations from Finland and Sweden to discuss their membership would not change Ankara's position. A week earlier, he stated that Ankara does not consider the possibility of the two countries joining NATO as a positive, arguing that they serve as a “guest house for terrorist organizations”, referring to the Kurdistan Workers' Party banned in Turkey.
How Moscow's rhetoric has changed
In mid-April, Deputy Chairman of the Security Council Dmitry Medvedev wrote in his Telegram channel that in the event of NATO expansion at the expense of Sweden and Finland, “there would no longer be any talk of a nuclear-free status of the Baltic States,” and predicted a serious increase in the grouping of ground forces and air defense Russia, the deployment of significant naval forces in the waters of the Gulf of Finland. He also claimed that “Russia will have more officially registered opponents.”
On May 12, presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Finland's entry into NATO “unconditionally” is a threat to Russia. “The next expansion of NATO does not make our continent more stable and secure”, — he added. On the same day, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that Finland's accession to NATO “would cause serious damage to bilateral Russian-Finnish relations, maintaining stability and security in the Northern European region.” “Russia will be forced to take retaliatory steps, both of a military-technical and other nature, in order to stop the threats to its national security arising in this regard,” — stated in the statement.
However, on May 14, Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko said that “it is too early to say” on the deployment of nuclear weapons by Russia in the Baltic region in the event that Sweden and Finland join NATO. On the same day, a telephone conversation took place between Russian and Finnish Presidents Vladimir Putin and Sauli Niinistö. According to a report on the Kremlin website, Putin told Niinistö that Finland's decision to join NATO was wrong. The office of the Finnish president, in turn, indicated that Niinistö told Putin that Helsinki changed its position on joining the alliance after Russia launched a special military operation in Ukraine.
At the same time, Putin, speaking at the CSTO summit on Monday, said that the entry of Finland and Sweden into NATO does not pose a military threat to Russia. “As for expansion, including through new members of the alliance— Finland, Sweden: Russia, I would like to inform you, dear colleagues, has no problems with these states, and therefore, in this sense, expansion at the expense of these countries does not pose an immediate threat to Russia, but the expansion of military infrastructure into this territory will certainly provoke our response reaction. And what it will be, we will look, based on the threats that will be created for us, — he explained.
Can Moscow respond to the decision of Helsinki and Stockholm
The Washington Post indicates that the change in Russian rhetoric may be due to the fact that Moscow does not currently have the resources to respond to the actions of Helsinki and Stockholm. “Russia withdrew troops from the border with Finland to redirect them to Ukraine, as a result of which Moscow's ability to threaten Finland militarily was significantly reduced,” — publication approves. It also notes that Russia supplies Finland with a small amount of gas and oil, electricity (no more than 10% of needs), which allows Helsinki to pursue an independent foreign policy.
The Washington Post does not exclude the possibility of cyber attacks and the start of a hybrid war by Russia to change public opinion in Finland, but notes that Helsinki has enough resources to counter such actions. The newspaper also quotes a military expert, retired Finnish Major General Pekka Toveri, as saying that Russia “has no political, military or economic power”; over Finland.
The Politico publication even called it “bragging”; Russia's threats to deploy nuclear weapons in the Baltic Sea region, indicating that they are already deployed in Kaliningrad (Moscow has never officially confirmed the deployment of such weapons), and that Russia has already deployed a nuclear deterrence force on the Kola Peninsula.
Program Director of the Valdai Club Ivan Timofeev, in a conversation with RBC, did not agree with the thesis about the change in Moscow's rhetoric and the lack of resources for retaliatory measures in connection with the upcoming entry of Finland and Sweden into NATO. “I would not say that Moscow's rhetoric has become more peaceful. The accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO is perceived in Moscow as a threat to national security. True, Moscow cannot stop the drift of these countries into NATO. It is inevitable against the backdrop of events in Ukraine. Another thing is that it is unlikely that any serious military escalation in the Baltic region will follow now in connection with the entry of these countries into NATO, on the one hand, and the concentration of forces in Ukraine, on the other. But in the long term, of course, this creates big problems for Russian security. I think that in Moscow they understand this very well,»,— said Timofeev.
How NATO expansion will affect the European security system
Stefan Wolf, professor of international security at the University of Birmingham, in an article for The Conversation, points out that Putin's attempt to fundamentally restructure the European security order and relations with the United States and NATO through the launch of a special military operation in Ukraine has backfired and, in particular, led to the expansion alliance. In his opinion, the refusal of Helsinki and Stockholm from the policy of non-alignment indicates that “neutrality as a status in international law and foreign policy position is no longer seen as a viable way for small countries to be outside the zone of great power rivalry.”
At the same time, changes in the European security structure will not be limited to NATO expansion, Wolf predicts. As an example, he cites the decision of Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova to apply for EU membership. Wolf believes that such decisions may take years to implement, but they will lead to a more serious split between East and West. In such circumstances, small states will have to choose sides. So, the expert recalls, Switzerland has already moved away from its neutrality in the issue of imposing sanctions and has synchronized its anti-Russian restrictions with similar EU measures. Iceland is following the same path
The deepening of the split in Europe and the rejection of neutrality as an effective approach to national security will also have an impact on the outcome of Russia's military operation in Ukraine. In particular, a neutral status for Ukraine, the possibility of which Moscow and Kyiv previously discussed during negotiations, will become an unviable idea against the background of Helsinki and Stockholm's refusal to do so in conditions when they were not attacked. “If neutrality is not discussed, then the space for negotiations between Russia and Ukraine is further reduced, and the likelihood that both sides will seek victory on the battlefield increases,” — Wolf sums it up.
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