Closing the Circle
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If Finland joins NATO, the Western Alliance will have opened a potential 800-mile-long front in a war against Russia. What’s more, as the Washington Post illustrated, this new front would come very close to Russia’s nuclear submarine and Arctic navy bases on the Kola Peninsula.
If Sweden joins NATO, a country with a formidable military and arms industry will join the Western Alliance and will control the strategic island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea, a fortifiable redoubt that could stop Russian ships from entering the Atlantic Ocean from Eastern Europe, Sky News added.
Some observers, like those at the nonpartisan, independent United States Institute for Peace, view NATO expansion as proof that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s plan to fracture the Western Alliance has backfired.
But observers like CNN’s Stephen Collinson wondered aloud if leaders and citizens of Finland, Sweden and NATO members had really thought through the implications of dramatically altering the battlefield of a potential war between the West and Russia. If Putin invaded Ukraine because NATO was encroaching on Russia’s sphere of influence in Eastern Europe, how might Putin react to a massive NATO presence in the north?
Russia will likely need to move more troops to the Baltic region, according to US General Christopher Cavoli’s recent comments to the US Senate Armed Services Committee. Cavoli has been nominated to become the next commander of US and NATO forces in Europe, Stars & Stripes reported.
Robin Wright similarly wrote in the New Yorker about how some observers are concerned about the long-term implications of enlargement. The move is likely to further expand the divide between East and West, she suggested.
In conflict are two versions of history and reality that date back to the various treaties and agreements struck between American, European and Russian leaders at the end of the Cold War, National Public Radio noted. Johns Hopkins University Historian Mary Elise Sarotte told the outlet that Putin’s version of history cherry-picks facts in order to paint a picture of NATO that is inaccurate but supports his narrative on the war.
NATO enlargement is also a bureaucratic process that requires the unanimous support of all members, from the US to Luxembourg. Already, the Associated Press reported, Turkey is throwing up roadblocks, saying that Swedish and Finnish officials have supported the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a separatist group that Turkey views as a terrorist group, and have restricted arms exports to Turkey.
Still, many in Europe and also in Finland and Sweden say it’s a natural inclusion. These voices will prevail as long as Russia remains a credible threat.