Russia itself has invited expansion of U.S-centered military alliance

The Northern European countries of Finland and Sweden have applied to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

If their entry is officially approved, NATO will be strengthened and its deterrence against Russia will increase. This will be a result of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s outrageous act of invading Ukraine.

Sweden has had a policy of military neutrality for 200 years. Finland, too, has long maintained neutrality so as not to face off with the Soviet Union and then Russia, in light of the experience of having some of its territory seized by the Soviet Union.

The two countries decided to abandon their neutrality and join NATO because they judged that their own individual diplomatic and security efforts would not be enough to deal with Russia, which continues its invasion of Ukraine in violation of international law.

If they officially join NATO, the right of collective self-defense will be exercised in the event of an attack on them, with the alliance regarding this as an attack on all member states and launching a counteroffensive. They will be able to benefit from the deterrence of leading NATO members, such as the United States and Britain, and their security will be dramatically enhanced.

Finland and Sweden share a strong image as peaceful Nordic countries, but both have conscription and maintain high-level military forces. In Afghanistan, they have participated in activities to maintain security together with NATO, and have built a cooperative relationship with NATO.

As NATO members, the three Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania border Russia and have been under its military threat. With Finland and Sweden joining NATO, the security systems of the Baltic nations will be enhanced and the benefit to NATO will also be significant.

The procedure for Finland and Sweden to join NATO will be completed when all 30 member countries have approved and ratified their accession. Turkey is the only country that has expressed reluctance to accept them. The countries concerned need to step up their efforts to urge Turkey to accept their early accession to NATO.

It is also an important challenge to protect Finland and Sweden from Russian threats and ensure their safety before they officially become NATO members.

Britain promised to cooperate with the two countries, including by the provision of military support if they come under attack. The United States also must take the same steps to deter Russia’s provocations.

While Putin said the two Nordic countries joining NATO does not pose a direct threat to Russia, he also mentioned the possibility that Russia could take countermeasures if military facilities are established in the two nations. He seems to be warning against the deployment of military forces and nuclear weapons by the United States and other NATO members.

At the end of last year, Russia sought for the United States and other countries to sign a treaty promising not to expand NATO. Putin should be aware of the fact that it was he himself who brought about the expansion of NATO, the very thing he had wished to prevent.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 19, 2022)