The pretext was Putin’s feigned concern that Ukraine might join NATO.
Thanks to the steely determination of the prime ministers of Finland and Sweden over the past week, Putin could be the western alliance’s most effective recruiter.
Let’s remember how we got here. As Max Fisher wrote The New York Times at the beginning of the war: “Since the end of the Cold War, a number of countries in Eastern Europe have decided to join NATO, making them military allies of Moscow’s former adversaries in the West. In 2008, Washington urged NATO to announce that it might one day consider Ukraine’s membership, although Western leaders have since insisted they see little chance of that happening any time soon.”
Fourteen years later, Putin “designated NATO enlargement as a plot to destroy Russia.”
This is of course a lie. NATO is a defense alliance. US President Joe Biden reiterated on February 24: “This has never been a real security concern on your part. It was always about naked aggression, about Putin’s desire for empire by any means necessary – harassing Russia’s neighbors through coercion and corruption, violently changing borders and ultimately choosing war without cause.”
Putin’s aggression in Ukraine was a spectacular mistake. It has brought NATO allies closer together, prompting European members to increase their own defense spending and wean themselves off Russian oil.
The United States has increased troop levels in NATO countries, demonstrating its solidarity with allies and its refusal to be intimidated.
The Washington Post also reported last week that the “open door” to NATO membership could now become a busy thoroughfare: “Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said at a joint press conference with her Swedish counterpart Magdalena Andersson on Wednesday in Stockholm that Finland is ready to announce a Decision on NATO “within weeks” rather than months after extensive debate in the 200-seat Eduskunta legislature.”
Marin stressed that Finland and Sweden, two neighboring Nordic countries with close economic, political and military ties, will make independent decisions about their security agreements, including joining NATO. The post reported that the ruling social democratic parties in Finland and Sweden “are expected to announce their NATO views in early and late May respectively. Parliaments in both countries are ready to finally decide the matter – something that could happen in Finland at the end of May and a little later in Sweden.”
Putin snorted and gasped when Finland and Sweden began contemplating the move, threatening to deploy nuclear weapons and hypersonic missiles in the region.
As Reuters noted, “Lithuania said Russia’s threats were nothing new and that Moscow stationed nuclear weapons in Kaliningrad long before the war in Ukraine.”
The prime ministers of the Nordic countries refused to give in to Putin’s intimidation.
Former Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb, who has long been in favor of joining NATO, remarked in an interview with Business Insider: “Putin has only himself to thank. You know, I should probably be grateful to Putin, as a strong supporter of Finnish NATO membership, I’ve given up hope.”
Witnessing the skillful leadership of the United States and the determined and coordinated action of European NATO members, Marin and Andersson recognized the new world in which they live.
Instead of cowering, they are now ready to defy Putin, improve their nations’ security, and add to the list of Putin’s catastrophic failures as a result of his war.
For standing up to Putin’s bullying and for standing in common with Western democracies, we can say to Prime Ministers Marin and Andersson: Well done.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/vladimir-putin-has-inadvertently-become-natos-best-recruiter-41562104.html Vladimir Putin has inadvertently become NATO’s best recruiter