Written by Samaira Aima, a grade 12 student.
What Could This Expansion Mean for Russia?
Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly cited NATO’s post-Cold War expansion as one of the many reasons for his invasion of Ukraine. Finland and Sweden formally submitted applications for membership to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) on May 18, 2022, a move that will significantly alter the security landscape in Europe and more than double the length of NATO’s borders with Russia.
Why does this matter?
This will be NATO’s ninth expansion since its founding in 1949 and is expected to dramatically transform the security of Europe, adding 830 miles of border with Russia along the Finnish frontier and reversing 200 years of Swedish military non-alignment.
Why was NATO formed?
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was formed in 1949 by 12 countries, including the United States, Canada, and other Western European countries, to provide collective security against the Soviet Union. NATO has doubled in size since the fall of the Soviet Union to include 28 European countries, as well as North America and Canada.
When does NATO act militarily?
According to Article 5 of the NATO founding treaty, an attack on any member of the alliance should be considered an attack on all members of the alliance. The treaty says that each member will take “measures necessary to restore and maintain international peace and security” in the event of such an attack.
Why do Finland and Sweden want to join NATO?
In spite of their official non-alignment, Finland and Sweden have been NATO’s closest partners for decades. The public support for NATO membership in both countries soared almost overnight after Russia invaded Ukraine, with a strong majority in both nations now in favor of joining NATO.
Sauli Niinistö, the President of Finland, said that his country is seeking NATO membership because the Russian invasion of Ukraine shows that the Kremlin doesn’t respect nonaligned nations.
Magdalena Andersson, Sweden’s Prime Minister, said that if Sweden were the only country in the Baltic Sea region that was not a member of NATO, it would be put in a very vulnerable position. She said that it could not be ruled out that Russia would then increase pressure on Sweden.
What implications does this have for Russia?
In his May 9 speech, Russian President Vladimir Putin blamed the West for the war and demanded NATO stop expanding. However, public opinion in Finland and Sweden shows that he has pushed the two countries into NATO’s arms. The Russian Foreign Ministry warned last week that Moscow would take “retaliatory steps, both of a military-technical and other nature,” if Finland and Sweden applied for NATO membership.
Putin claimed that this move was in the interest of the United States and said Russia would react to the expansion of military infrastructure in Sweden and Finland, despite insisting that Moscow had “no problems” with the countries.
Although the war in Ukraine is about more than NATO expansion, Putin has only succeeded in broadening and deepening the alliance’s influence in Europe.