Nordic countries wonder if they are next on Putin’s list

Nations that were neutral provided weapons for Ukrainians; governments that have been falling short of their defense spending commitments to NATO for years, impressive reversals; and countries that had deep economic ties with Russia went even further disconnection than anyone seriously thought a little over a month ago.

The near-unprecedented unity of the West on sanctions, political and military action has left many in Europe, despite the horrors of Putin’s war, optimistic that the continent will emerge better prepared to deal with security threats.

Nowhere is this more true than in the three Scandinavian countries located on the Scandinavian Peninsula: Norway, Sweden and Finland.

The fate of these three countries has become the focus of the crisis in Ukraine due to their unique relationship with each other, the rest of Europe and Russia.

Both Norway and Finland share land borders with Russia, although Norway’s border is considerably smaller, less than 124 miles, compared to Finland’s 800 miles. Norway, the westernmost of the three countries, is a member of NATO but not a member of the European Union, while Finland and Sweden are members of the EU but not NATO.

All three have historically supported a non-confrontational approach to Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union due to their proximity. In addition, all three are also members of the EU’s Schengen area, which means there is borderless travel between the three countries.

It is these last two facts that have played a significant role in the major rethinking of European security over the past three weeks: how can you pursue a policy of non-confrontation when you share open territory with Russia at the same time?

One senior European defense official told CNN that “if Putin succeeds in Ukraine, we are already wondering who will be next?” They added that due to the open borders between the three countries, any compromise on the Finnish border would be “traumatic” for the peninsula.

Active talk, once seen by Sweden and Finland as a risky provocation against Russia, is now underway in both countries about joining NATO. And, along with their neighbor Norway, both are throwing non-confrontation out the window.

“Finland and Sweden suddenly violated a longstanding position(s) not to export arms to war zones and sent supplies to Ukraine, which was the biggest shock for Europeans in terms of the Nordic reaction – and I suspect for Putin,” Charlie said. Salonius. -Pasternak, Leading Global Security Researcher at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs.

He expects we may see bolder moves from the three countries because of the commitments made in the Nordic Defense Cooperation Vision 2025 (NORDEFCO), which outlines plans for closer military cooperation between the five Scandinavian countries that have different relationships. with NATO and the EU.

“If all of a sudden Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Iceland store weapons and units in other countries and coordinate their actions, then we are in the territory of a strict guard operating across the borders of the EU and NATO, which will really complicate the life of Russia. Salonius-Pasternak said.

The seriousness and harshness of the Nordic reaction increased the likelihood of Finland joining NATO.

Alexander Stubb, a former Finnish prime minister, believes NATO membership is much more likely because Putin has upset the cautious balance that Finland has maintained for years.

“Strategically, we have always wanted to keep joining NATO in our back pocket as a deterrent to stop Russia’s aggressive behavior. We maintained a balance between our NATO-compliant military without being members of an alliance,” Stubb told CNN.

However, he believes Putin’s actions have made that balance impossible. “Finland is driven by what I call rational fear. We see Russian aggression and do not want to be left alone, as was the case during World War II.”

While joining NATO would be an important announcement, one could argue that it makes little difference in a world where there is widespread revulsion at Putin’s actions.

Soldiers of the US Army Airborne Brigade at the Adazi military base of the Latvian armed forces in Adazi, Latvia, February 25.

“Over the years, Finland and Sweden have taken action to mitigate the fact that they are not NATO members by strengthening ties with the US, the UK and the rest of the transatlantic community,” says Haakon Lunde Saksi, associate professor at the Norwegian Defense University. College.

He says things like NORDEFCO and closer security cooperation between Scandinavian countries make the region less vulnerable, which in some ways goes beyond EU and NATO membership.

“The most powerful message of the past few weeks has been unity,” Saxxy said.

“First, Denmark and Sweden sent lethal equipment to Ukraine, then Finland and Norway followed suit. The urgency of the situation is to accelerate such cooperation, which makes it more possible to defend against any adversary, ”he added.

It must be hard for Putin and his associates to understand, but their barbaric war in Ukraine has galvanized those parts of Europe that once went out of their way to accommodate Russia for previously unthinkable moves.

Whenever the horror ends, he can wake up in a completely different Europe that is almost unrecognizable compared to the one he was able to intimidate with gas and rhetoric. And some of the most ardent opponents may be waiting right at his doorstep.

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