Russia warns Sweden and Finland: Better say nyet to NATO

AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko

Can a country that spent the last two months bombing European cities lecture other nations about continental “stability”? Well, Russia can certainly try, but in this case actions speak much louder than words:

Russia has warned Finland and Sweden against joining Nato, arguing the move would not bring stability to Europe.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that “the alliance remains a tool geared towards confrontation”.

It comes as US defence officials said Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine has been a “massive strategic blunder” which is likely to bring Nato enlargement.

US officials expect the Nordic neighbours to bid for membership of the alliance, potentially as early as June.

Talk about chutzpah. Russian confrontation precipitated this crisis, turning a stable situation with NATO in regard to Scandinavia into a massive lesson about preparing for renewed Russian aggression and expansionism. Peskov can complain about NATO all he wants, but NATO hasn’t invaded European nations for territorial conquest like Vladimir Putin did in Georgia in 2008 or Ukraine in 2014 and 2022. The last NATO military action in Europe was to settle the Balkans wars a generation ago. That’s hardly a “confrontation” with Russia, let alone a pretext for Putin’s series of expansionist wars.

Former Finnish prime minister Alexander Stubb set the record straight on that point, and on how badly Peskov’s rhetoric has already backfired:

Russian aggression on Ukraine since 2014 and atrocities taking place in Bucha, Irpin, and other Ukrainian cities have prompted the two Nordic countries to consider joining Nato — amid escalating tensions between Russia and the West.

“Finnish foreign and security policy began a long transition towards full Westernisation with EU membership in 1995. This transition is about to reach its next level with full Nato membership in 2022,” former Finish prime minister Alexander Stubb tweeted.

Stubb on Monday told BBC World Service radio a formal application to join Nato from Finland will be made “in a matter of weeks” — probably in May.

Finland shares a 1,340km-long border with Russia and its neutrality status dates back to the end of World War II.

While the country’s public support for Nato has been traditionally low, the war in Ukraine has begun changing opinions in Finland. About 68 percent of Finns support Nato membership, according to a survey commissioned by MTV.

Stubb elaborated on his Twitter feed:

In other words, every time Peskov opens his mouth, he pushes Finland closer to Brussels. Perhaps Putin might consider making nice rather than using threats at this stage, especially with war crimes getting exposed on an almost hourly basis.

The Times of London followed up today as well on earlier reports of interest in NATO from Finland and Sweden, covered by Jazz on Saturday. Both countries are expediting a security review this month with the aim of producing a NATO application as soon as next month, and both prime ministers echo Stubb:

Finland’s application is expected in June, with Sweden expected to follow.

Sanna Marin, the Finnish prime minister, said it was time for Finland seriously to reconsider its stance on Nato. “Russia is not the neighbour we thought it was,” she said at the weekend, urging the decision to be taken “thoroughly but quickly”.

She added: “I think we will have very careful discussions, but we are also not taking any more time than we have to in this process, because the situation is, of course, very severe.”

Sweden is carrying out a security policy review that will finish by the end of next month, mirroring the Finnish timetable. “I do not exclude Nato membership in any way,” Magdalena Andersson, the Swedish prime minister, said a fortnight ago.

Finland would be Putin’s biggest nightmare in terms of NATO expansion. It shares a border of about 850 miles with Russia, far longer than the border along the Baltic states’ border on Russia proper. It would put NATO ground forces just a little over 100 miles from St. Petersburg and not much farther from Murmansk, one of the Russians’ most important naval bases. That would force the Russians to redeploy along a very long front with troops that (a) they no longer really have, and (b) have proven entirely ineffective against supposedly inferior forces in Ukraine.

Allahpundit offered his condolences to Putin, tongue firmly in cheek:

About the only leverage Putin has left in Europe are his threats to use nuclear weapons in a conflict. Unfortunately, that’s the reality of a dictatorship in control of such weapons, but Putin knows that we have them too. And using that threat will only galvanize the desire to join NATO in Finland and Sweden, especially in Finland, which has Russian aggression still in living memory and recognizes it for what it is.

Addendum: When do we start discussing the status of Kaliningrad?