Finland and Sweden formally applied for membership into NATO. Russia has threaten to retaliate. Russia is not about to start World War III, but it definitely can take retaliatory actions. CNBC suggested these potential measures: (1) More NATO provocations, in the air and sea, (2) Cyberattacks and Movement of troops along northern border and (3) Cut off of Russian gas to Europe.
See CNBC link: How Russia could react to Finland, Sweden joining NATO
Of course, Russia did not wait to see if Finland would apply. They announced they would cut off electricity to Finland generated in Russia, which accounts for about 10% of Finland’s electricity.
The Washington Post had similar comments on these retaliatory actions and stated, “Finnish officials said they had already been scaling back imports of Russian electricity to guard against possible attacks on the country’s infrastructure, and Russian electricity accounted for only 10 percent of its consumption.”
See Washington Post link: Russia is furious that Finland is joining NATO but can’t do much about it
Prior to the invasion of Ukraine, there was a strong argument to be made, that to maintain good or at least peaceful relations with Moscow, it was best for Finland to stay out of NATO. But Ukrainian invasion changed all that. As reported in the Washington Post, polls show 76% of those polled support joining NATO. Polls taken prior to the invasion showed about 20% in favor of joining.
I call it invasion backlash, and something Putin did not see coming. Turkey has stated they do not support admission of these countries, but I am certain, this will be negotiated, and perhaps something can be worked out.
I don’t believe in buffer security zones. Intercontinental missile in the last two decades has made this idea obsolete. Also, arms races especially among the superpowers have the potential to turn small conflicts into larger ones.
What maintains the peace is adherence to international law, particularly on agreed upon international borders and practices. And the use of international forums, like the United Nations, to find common solutions, and avoid military action at all costs. But we don’t seem to be moving in this direction. Countries in Asia, the Middle East and Eastern Europe, seem to be increasing their arms purchases, as threats pile up.
I am sure that among the 24% of Finland who don’t support joining NATO (assuming the polls are accurate) there are those who prefer neutrality, as not to disturb a sleeping dog (Russia) next to their border. Also, a small accidental incident could rapidly escalate with horrific consequences. As noted by CNBC,
“Russian provocations of NATO are nothing new. In 2020, NATO air forces across Europe were scrambled more than 400 times to intercept unknown aircraft approaching the alliance’s airspace with almost 90% of these missions in response to flights by Russian military aircraft, NATO said in a statement.
NATO has said Russian military aircraft often do not transmit a transponder code indicating their position and altitude, do not file a flight plan, or do not communicate with air traffic controllers, posing a potential risk to civilian airliners.”
There is nothing really about the collective security principle of NATO (Article 5) which can guarantee peace or stability. By binding 30 countries together into a pact which says an attack on anyone of us, is an attack on all of us, does give a higher sense of security to the smaller Eastern European countries. But it comes at a cost, in that a small attack in say North Macedonia, now is a conflict between the US and Russia.
Perhaps a good example from nature comes in handy. The vines in a rainforest help support the trees during a storm with high winds, because the trees are bound to each other. But if the wind is strong enough, these bound trees will fall. Collective strength can fail catastrophically.
However, I applaud Finland and Sweden because they are standing up against Putin. They clearly saw the conflict as an invasion and the respect for international law and conflict resolution was gone from Putin’s Russia.
Long term peace will depend on the reduction of offensive military weapons.