Key decision-makers in non-aligned Finland and Sweden are set to announce their positions on NATO membership this week in what could be a serious blow to Russia as its military struggles to make decisive gains in Ukraine.
If Finland’s president and the Social Democrats who govern both countries ignore Moscow’s warnings and come out in favor of accession, NATO could soon add two new members right on Russia’s doorstep.
Such an expansion by the Western military alliance would leave Russia surrounded by NATO countries in the Baltic Sea and the Arctic, as well as represent a serious setback for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
NATO membership was never seriously considered in Stockholm and Helsinki until Russian forces attacked Ukraine more than 10 weeks ago. Virtually overnight, the conversation in both capitals shifted from “Why should we join?” to “How long does it take?”
Along with hard-nosed Ukrainian resistance and wide-ranging Western sanctions, it’s one of the most significant ways in which the invasion appears to have backfired on Putin.
“There is no going back to the status quo before the invasion,” said Heli Hautala, a Finnish diplomat previously posted to Moscow and a research fellow at the Center for a New American Security in Washington.
Read the full story and more from The Associated Press.