Why does Russia threaten Sweden and Finland?

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (left) and Finnish President Sauli Niinistö during a joint press conference on October 25, 2021 in Helsinki – Vesa Moilanen © 2019 AFP

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Another unexpected turn and disdain for Moscow. At the end of February, when Vladimir Putin announced the start of his own military operation in Ukraine, the President of the Russian Federation, in addition to wanting to do a “dishonesty” of the country, confirmed that he wanted to prevent Ukraine from integrating NATO in order to prevent the alliance from finding itself directly on its borders.

Quickly join NATO in the face of the Russian threat

More than two months after the conflict began, this abominable scenario may become a reality for the Kremlin. In recent days, Sweden and Finland have privately announced their desire to join NATO in the very short term. Thus, a majority (54%) of Swedes would now support joining NATO, according to a recently published Novus Institute poll.

The Social Democrats in power in Stockholm announced on Friday that they expect to reach a decision on their country’s potential candidacy for NATO membership by May 24. Prime Minister Magdalena Anderson promised a decision that would not be taken “lightly”.

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On the Finnish side, the country bordering Russia, desires are getting stronger and stronger. On Wednesday, Prime Minister Sanna Marin said she hoped 30 NATO members would “as soon as possible” endorse their candidacy to join the alliance.

She added, citing the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and France, that Helsinki is also in discussions with key NATO countries to obtain protection guarantees during the membership period which can last several months.

“If Finland and Sweden are candidates, the main issue is that we have the shortest certification process possible. This will be the best guarantee of security we can have,” she pleaded. Only NATO members formally benefit from the protection of Article 5, the security umbrella of the military alliance that the United States launched at the start of the Cold War with the Soviet Union.

The end of impartiality and impartiality

This desire to join NATO has strong symbolism. For several decades, these two countries suffered from non-alignment and sometimes imposed neutrality. “What is ironic is that Sweden, which has been neutral since 1814, has decided to join NATO,” analyzes BFMTV Defense Adviser, General Jerome Belestrandi.

The situation is different for Finland. During much of the 19th century, the country was under Russian influence while still retaining some independence. However, during World War II, Helsinki decided to learn about Nazi Germany after a war against the Soviet Union, called the Winter War, in the early 1940s.

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At the end of the World War, Finland was forced to compromise with Moscow and had to establish an active neutrality with the Soviets, called Finnish. “Finland, Finnish, neutrality imposed by the Soviet Union in its time, and now also feels threatened,” adds Jerome Belistrandi.

“Finland and Sweden have since the beginning of their history faced first the Soviet threat and now the Russian one. These two neutral countries have strong armies relative to their populations, and their ability to work interchangeably with the forces” of NATO. If the political process is accepted, and the technical process will be accepted quickly, and finally what Putin wanted to avoid, that NATO is getting close to its borders, and it manages to get what it does not want ”, adds – Ho.

Even worse, this Finnish and Swedish desire to join NATO is a “serious strategic defeat” for Vladimir Putin, asserts Anthony Bellanger, BFMTV’s international political columnist. “Sweden and Finland have not supplied a belligerent country with arms since 1945. The speed with which they emerged from their neutrality is a sign of a real strategic defeat for Putin. It is dangerous because they are two calculated countries, whose economies are mixed with that. For Russia, this speed is amazing.”

Diplomatic threats and responses

On the Kremlin’s side, the premise of Finland and Sweden joining NATO does not really go away. “In the event that Finland and Sweden join the alliance, there will be a tense situation with Russia, and all the possible consequences,” said Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Foreign Minister, in the last hours. Russian foreign affairs are, in vague terms, the same used since the beginning of the Ukrainian invasion to threaten the West without actually saying it.

Despite what has not been said, divorce seems inevitable, especially since several events in recent days should encourage the Finnish government to move away from Moscow. On Wednesday morning, a Russian military helicopter violated Finnish airspace.

This is the second time in a month and the second time since the beginning of the year that Helsinki has denounced the incursion of a Russian plane into its airspace, according to the ministry, amid tensions over the war in Ukraine. On April 8, a civilian transport plane of the Russian army briefly entered Finnish airspace.

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And the Swedish Defense announced, last Saturday, that a Russian reconnaissance plane briefly penetrated the airspace of the Scandinavian country on Friday. “We will, of course, protest through diplomatic channels,” Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist said.

In a sign of the escalating tensions, the Russian Foreign Ministry said at the end of April that it had expelled several Swedish diplomats in response to similar action by Stockholm. The same ministry said it had summoned the Swedish ambassador to “strongly protest” the expulsion of Russian diplomats in early April, and Stockholm’s military support for the Ukrainian government.

Original article published on BFMTV.com

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