Putin may soon face one of his worst strategic nightmares

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Despite more than two months of trying to bleed and bomb Ukraine into submission to prevent its strategic operation to the west, Vladimir Putin may soon face one of his worst strategic nightmares: the NATO alliance he despises is growing and stronger. And not a minute too early.

Last week, Sweden’s and Finland’s opposition leaders met with Biden officials in Washington to seek US support for their desire to join NATO. Petteri Orpo, leader of Finland’s center-right National Coalition Party, and Ulf Kristersson, leader of the opposition in parliament, who heads Sweden’s Moderate Party, met with senior officials in the Biden administration and congressmen to press for support. to an enlarged NATO. Although both have long been in favor of NATO membership, strong public support in Denmark for the Nordic states’ long-standing policy of military independence made it unlikely. But public and political sentiment changed dramatically on February 24 when Putin invaded Ukraine.

FIL - Russian President Vladimir Putin.

FIL – Russian President Vladimir Putin.
(Yuri Kochetkov / Pool)

Orpo told Foreign Policy magazine that it is now “clear” that the Finnish parliament will decide to apply to join NATO next month. Kristersson said that after a debate, Sweden, which fears being left out of the alliance if Finland joins, would probably do the same. Last Wednesday, NATO membership was approved by Aftonbladet, the newspaper of Sweden’s largest Social Democratic party, which claimed that Putin’s brutal invasion of Ukraine had changed Sweden’s security situation.

FINLAND COMES CLOSER TO NATO ACCESSION IN RESPONSE TO RUSSIA’S INVASION OF UKRAINE

If both Nordic countries join NATO, the length of the border that separates Russia from the alliance will immediately double. While a stronger, enlarged NATO will not regret Ukraine’s enormous suffering – the country’s thousands of deaths and millions of refugees and displaced persons, the ruthless destruction of its villages and towns – is forcing Putin to accept the expansion of the alliance he has been. determined to divide and weaken is the beginning of the payback for his war crimes and ruthless aggression.

In an interview, Kai Sauer, Finland’s Deputy Secretary of State for Foreign and Security Policy, said it was likely that his country would apply for NATO membership in the coming weeks, in part due to the shift in public opinion. “A large majority of the population is now in favor of NATO membership – close to 70 percent,” he said. Plus, the strongest political parties that were once against NATO membership are now in favor of it.

Sauer said Putin had made the same wrong assumption about Ukraine as Stalin did in 1939 when he invaded neighboring Finland. “Stalin expected some resistance, but the invasion managed to unite the country against him.”

From November 1939 to March 1940, Finland shocked and inspired the world as its much smaller army held Stalin’s invading force of nearly half a million men and 1,500 tanks in check. Although the Red Army finally overwhelmed the Finns, Russia lost more than 150,000 men in the “Winter War”. “This could be the story that repeats itself,” Sauer said.

SWEDEN PLANNS NATO APPLICATION, FINLAND SIGNALS TO JOIN SECURITY ASSESSMENT: REPORT

The Nordic states more than qualify for NATO membership. Both have highly professional military with advanced capabilities for water, land and air, according to a recent assessment by the Washington-based think tank, CSIS.

FILE - September 19, 2019: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and President of the Republic of Finland Sauli Niinistö (L to R) walk down the red carpet.

FILE – September 19, 2019: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and President of the Republic of Finland Sauli Niinistö (L to R) walk down the red carpet.
(Hennadii Minchenko / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

Although Finland’s military is relatively small – around 12,000 – the figure does not include its strong border guard or the fact that its forces are supported by around 280,000 current conscripts and reservists. Moreover, Sauer noted, Finland now spends almost 2 percent of its GDP on defense, the NATO goal, but which few of the alliance’s 30 members actually meet. Finland would also add to the alliance “one of the largest artillery in Europe” and its formidable technological expertise. Two out of three of the world’s leading telecommunications companies are Finnish or Swedish. Finland also buys 64 F-35s.

Alexander Vershbow, a former ambassador to Russia and former Deputy Secretary-General of NATO, said that both nations, as early members of the Partnership for Peace, attend NATO summits and high-level meetings. Their military forces are strongly integrated into NATO capabilities. “They’re at the table,” he said. Their accession to NATO would strengthen the Alliance’s capabilities. But it would also mean that NATO “would take on the additional defense requirement of having to defend their long borders.” Politically, he added, their admission would “greatly irritate Putin.”

Vershbow anticipates two challenges, and yes, both are daunting.

The first is how best to provide temporary security guarantees so that Russia does not attack them between their candidacy and the actual members, a process that usually takes well over a year.

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Secondly, one or more of the NATO members may object. Germany, for example, could fear antagonizing Russia and reducing the prospects for peace talks and a negotiated solution to the conflict. Or Viktor Orban, Hungary’s recently re-elected prime minister, can “drag his feet” under Russian pressure.

Such a potential crisis was averted on Sunday in France’s presidential election, when President Emmanuel Macron defeated his right-wing challenger Marine Le Pen, who had promised to take France out of NATO’s allied command and consistently defended Putin’s and Moscow’s policies.

Vershbow said Finland and Sweden would probably act soon so that they could be invited to open accession negotiations at the NATO summit in June. “But we must not begin a hasty accession that goes aground,” he said. “It would be an opportunity rather than a crisis for Putin.”

Moscow has warned both countries that Russia will deploy nuclear weapons in the Baltic region if Finland and Sweden give up freedom of alliance. But Russia already has nuclear installations in its Kaliningrad region, less than 500 miles from Helsinki and Stockholm. And military analysts say neither Sweden nor Finland, which has an 800-kilometer border with Russia, has much to fear.

Pete Dordal, Jr., president of GardaWorld Federal Services, which provides security globally, said that in his personal view, the Nordic states’ strategic shift was a “minor annoyance” to Putin, who is totally focused on his “all or nothing” strategy. in Ukraine.

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“It is quite clear that Russia is just fighting to support the invasion of Ukraine, which is not going very impressively,” said General David Petraeus, the former CIA director who is now a partner in the KKR.

“Given the huge contributions from weapons systems, ammunition, vehicles and drones, as well as other military equipment from the United States and other NATO countries, it is not inconceivable that Ukraine could actually start counter-attacks in the coming weeks. is the last thing Putin needs an extra combat operation in response to Finland and Sweden announcing a desire to join NATO. “

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