Non-aligned Finland and Sweden are expected to reveal their stances on NATO membership this week, potentially dealing a major blow to Russia as its military struggles to make significant gains in Ukraine.
If the leaders of Finland and Sweden, as well as the Social Democrats who rule both countries, reject Moscow’s warnings and vote in favour of membership, NATO might soon have two new members on its borders.
A NATO expansion would encircle Russia in the Baltic Sea and the Arctic, posing a severe threat to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Putin attributed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24 to NATO’s prior expansion in Eastern Europe, as well as the likelihood of Ukraine joining the alliance, among other reasons. He was unable to celebrate any major breakthroughs in Ukraine on Victory Day, the celebration in which Russia honours Nazi Germany’s surrender in World War II.
For the two Nordic nations, joining NATO would be a historic development: Sweden has avoided military alliances for more than 200 years, while Finland chose neutrality following its defeat by the Soviet Union in World War II.
In Stockholm and Helsinki, NATO membership was never seriously contemplated until Russian soldiers struck Ukraine more than ten weeks ago.
It’s one of the most significant ways in which Putin’s invasion looks to have backfired, along with tough Ukrainian resistance and broad Western sanctions.