Russia's invasion of Ukraine has pushed Sweden and Finland into NATO. The stance of both countries, which until now had not expressed a desire to join the Alliance, has changed completely in the wake of the war in Ukraine.
During a meeting in Stockholm between the prime ministers of Finland and Sweden, Sanna Marin and Magdalena Andersson, the Finnish leader declared that her country, which shares a 1,300km border with Russia, will decide on NATO membership "quite quickly, within weeks, not months", despite Moscow's threats.
📹 Watch: Sanna Marin, the Finnish prime minister talks Nato membership.— The Times (@thetimes) April 13, 2022
“There is no other way to have security guarantees than under Nato’s deterrence and common defence as guaranteed by Nato’s Article 5” pic.twitter.com/Jdr6wGwrQB
Shortly after the invasion of Ukraine, Russia addressed Finland and Sweden directly, warning both countries that joining NATO would have consequences. In this regard, Marin assured that Helsinki had to be "prepared for all kinds of Russian actions", as "everything has changed" since the aggression in Ukraine.
Andersson, for his part, pointed out that there has been a before and after after 24 February, the day the Russian invasion of Ukraine began. "This is a very important moment in history. The security landscape has changed completely," he stressed.
Russia has already responded to the prime ministers' latest statements. Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of Russia's Security Council, has reported that if Sweden and Finland join NATO, Moscow would have to strengthen its land, naval and air forces in the Baltic Sea.
Medvedev has also indicated that, should both countries join the Alliance, there could no longer be talk of a "nuclear-free" Baltic, alluding to a possible deployment of nuclear weapons in the region. "Let's hope that the common sense of our northern neighbours will win out", the Russian politician stressed.
"No sane person wants higher prices and higher taxes, higher tensions along the borders, Iskanders, hypersonics and nuclear-armed ships literally at the fingertips of their own home," he added.
However, as reported by Reuters, Lithuania stressed that Moscow's threats are not new, as Russia deployed nuclear weapons in Kaliningrad long before the war in Ukraine. "They use them as a threat," Lithuanian Defence Minister Arvydas Anusauskas said.
Also, according to the Russian news agency TASS, Medvedev also wrote on his Telegram account that if Sweden and Finland join NATO, the country would have "more officially registered adversaries". Moreover, should this happen, Medvedev recalled that "the length of the alliance's land borders with the Russian Federation will more than double", so "these borders will have to be strengthened". As part of this strengthening, Medvedev proposed Russian military reinforcement in the Gulf of Finland, including the possibility of transferring nuclear weapons to the area.
Russia's invasion of Ukraine has completely upended the European chessboard. Equally, NATO's relevance in this war is increasing. If the Russian president intended to paralyse the Alliance's expansion towards its borders, with the aggression in Ukraine he has achieved the complete opposite. Sweden and Finland are leaving behind their military neutrality and are considering NATO membership.
A recent poll has shown that 68 per cent of Finns are in favour of joining the Alliance, a figure that has risen in the wake of the war in Ukraine. Polls in Sweden also suggest that a majority of the country now look favourably on joining NATO, according to The Guardian.
For his part, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has said that if Stockholm and Helsinki apply for membership, "they will get in easily". At the upcoming NATO summit in Madrid in June, this issue will undoubtedly loom large, as will the Alliance's role in the war in Ukraine.