The brutal war between Russia and Ukraine that threatens to last “as long as it takes” is believed to be the reason Finland and Sweden have applied for NATO membership. On the day NATO leaders met in Madrid, a retired US Army lieutenant colonel called the decision an “American mistake”. Some Western critics also believe that NATO enlargement is not just “bad news for America”, it is more of a threat than a boost for Europe. Furthermore, as the United States and NATO celebrate the loss of neutrality of the two Nordic countries, Biden’s claims have come under scrutiny that the two states voluntarily enter the Organization.
The news from Madrid was that NATO has formalized its invitation to Sweden and Finland to join the security alliance. The only delay in the two Nordic countries joining the security bloc within a year or less is the ratification by the parliaments of the 30 member countries of the Madrid decision. Describing the decision as NATO’s biggest expansion in decades, the global media chose to downplay the decision which could potentially turn Europe into a dangerous rather than a safer place. Comments such as “NATO brought war to Ukraine, expanding NATO membership could push Europe to war” are now commonplace in major European capitals, like in Washington.
What is NATO?
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), also known as the North Atlantic Alliance, is an intergovernmental military alliance founded by 12 countries in Washington, DC on April 4, 1949. During the Cold War, the purpose of the US-led European security alliance was to defend its member states against the perceived threat of the Soviet Union. After the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, not only was the alliance not disbanded, but rather expanded its membership and military operations. It now has 30 member states – 28 in Europe and the United States and Canada.
In the years following the Cold War, analysts in Europe as well as the United States argued that after its main security threat had disappeared, with the Soviet Union gone, there was no reason for NATO to continue and therefore should be disbanded. However, in the years that followed, not only did the alliance increasingly become seen as no longer defensive, but it conducted military operations in the Balkans, the Middle East, South Asia and Africa. In China, analysts and Foreign Ministry officials now refer to the world’s most powerful military alliance as “Global NATO”. Or, as Professor John Mearsheimer puts it: “It is totally wrong to say that the crisis in Ukraine is largely the result of Russian aggression. The United States and its European allies are primarily responsible for the crisis. The root of the problem is the expansion of NATO.
NATO-ization of Finland: a threat or a boost for Europe
Welcoming the two Nordic countries into the NATO family, President Biden said in May: “NATO is an alliance of choice, not coercion.” As if endorsing Biden’s statement above, Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson also pointed out, “I have to say that Sweden chose a new path at one point.” However, the truth is something quite different. According to reports, efforts to bring Finland and Sweden into NATO had been going on for months before the Russian-Ukrainian conflict erupted in February.
Speaking about expanding NATO membership and Europe’s shared security, Biden said in Madrid: “Putin thought he could break up the transatlantic alliance. [Putin] wanted the Finnishization of NATO. He obtained the NATOisation of Finland. Well, for starters, the term “Finlandization” entered German political debate in the 1960s and 1970s and it referred to a country’s decision – modeled on that of Finland – not to challenge a neighbor more powerful in foreign policy.
Moreover, it is now generally recognized in the West that by invading Ukraine, the Russian leader “succeeded” in achieving his “own goal”. Or put another way, the immediate short-term fallout for Russia – with a huge and irreversible specific military consequence – of Sweden and Finland’s quick decision to join the military alliance for Russia is the eight hundred additional kilometers of border with NATO. As Susan B. Glasser wrote in her New Yorker column, the two Nordic states will bring two additional armies among the most capable in Europe. “It will strengthen the prospect that the alliance could bottle up the Baltic Sea and prevent the Russians from getting out,” she added.
On the other hand, for both NATO and Europe, there is an urgent need to overcome immediate challenges such as overcoming the cracks in the alliance and forging political unity “against Russia among the major European powers, including the Germany, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, etc. Or, as several analysts had warned, the accession of two new members “would increase rather than decrease the chances of war on the one hand, and would increase the risk of future conflict for the whole alliance on the other hand”.
NATO enlargement: what are the stakes for the United States?
In an attempt to put the “now hot, now cold” relationship between Russia and the United States and Europe into historical perspective, the Polish academic Debski, quoted above, called the Russia-NATO Foundation Act the root cause of the dramatic ups and downs between Russia and NATO. The law, which no one is talking about today, was signed in 1997 between NATO and Russia and was essentially NATO’s political commitment to Moscow not to deploy substantial combat forces in new member states. of the covenant. Even as brutal war rages in Ukraine, as in the past when Russia attacked Georgia and annexed Crimea respectively, the NATO establishment at the Madrid summit has made every concerted effort to protect the Act of foundation.
In a June 29 statement, the White House said all NATO decisions in Madrid were made in the spirit of the founding act. However, commentators claim that when some alliance members in Madrid called for the law to be denounced, the response was a compromise formula, i.e. “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” Such indecision or miscalculation signals of NATO to Russia could mean more war for Europe. [My emphasis]
Indeed, the decision of the two Nordic countries to join NATO received an extremely positive response both in Europe and in the United States. However, no one knows what other risks to Europe are in place from Russia (with currently only 6% of its borders with NATO) which already feels threatened and surrounded by the current 30-member NATO. Within days of Sweden’s announcement of abandonment of neutrality, the Swedish capital was turned into a “naval garrison” with the arrival of the US Amphibious Battle Group consisting of assault ships etc. Chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, standing atop the assault ship USS Kearsarge, has declared the United States’ intention to make the Baltic Sea a “lake of the NATO”?
Also, seen in relation to a former U.S. Army Lt. Col. Daniel L. Davis saying, “Expanding NATO may seem like a wise thing, [but] adding more members will likely have the opposite effect,” what does the claim that Russian military aggression has “remade” US-European relations mean after all? Interestingly, according to a US political affairs analyst, even long-time proponents of US and European security concerns apprehend the 31st and 32n/a members. The analyst quoted former US State Department Director of Policy Planning Anne-Marte Slaughter as saying “[But] a weak and humiliated Russia is a dangerous Russia. Putin may well be able to stay in power even longer thanks to the “foreign enemy” encroaching on Russia’s borders.
In conclusion, not only in Europe, but even in Sweden, opinions differ on the question of whether the enlargement of NATO membership will aggravate tensions with Russia. “Joining NATO would be preparing for war,” said Gabriella Irsten of the Swedish Society for Peace and Arbitration. Needless to deny that Finland’s and Sweden’s simultaneous declaration to join NATO sparked the fiercest debate in Europe since the end of the Cold War over NATO’s mission. The ongoing debate has once again brought back what one of NATO’s earliest critics warned its European member states in the closing years of the last century.
In an op-ed for the NYT in 1997, George F. Kennan wrote, “NATO expansion after the demise of the Soviets would be the most fatal mistake of American policy in the entire post-Cold War era. Now that the membership of the two Nordic countries is almost certain, imagine how Europe would transform, especially for Finland after NATOisation, remember what Liana Fix and Michael Kimmage warned us about in the Foreign Affairs just days before Russia launches a military attack on Ukraine on February 24: What if Russia wins?