This article was originally published by War on the Rocks.
When Finland and Sweden applied for NATO membership last spring, Russia’s reaction was negative but muted. It consisted only of words, not actions — in all likelihood due to Russia’s preoccupation with its war against Ukraine. Yet we should not assume that Russia will refrain from responding in the future. The Kremlin made its position clear years ago: there will be consequences from Finnish and Swedish NATO membership. Finnish president Sauli Niinistö offered one illustration of Russia’s approach in an interview in February 2022, recalling Vladimir Putin’s warning from 2016: “When we look across the border now, we see a Finn on the other side. If Finland joins NATO, we will see an enemy.”
Russia will seek to increase conventional deterrence along its northwestern flank as soon as it has the capacity to do so.
As we argue in a recent Center for a New American Security report, NATO’s forthcoming enlargement will permanently alter the European security architecture and erode Russia’s geopolitical position. Moscow will see these changes as a threat to its security and is likely to respond in ways that will pose challenges to NATO in both the short and long term. In the short term, the allies will need to counter Moscow’s attempts to undermine NATO’s position in the Nordic-Baltic-Arctic region, including through various gray zone tactics and more aggressive nuclear posturing aimed at compensating for losses in its conventional military capacity. In the long term, NATO must plan for a resurgent Russia, as the country will eventually reconstitute its conventional forces in the North and adapt its force posture in response to NATO’s presence in Finland and Sweden.
Read the full article from War on the Rocks.
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