Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is having some unintended consequences. Although Putin certainly expected sanctions and resistance, the coordinated response from the Western powers is most likely harsher than he anticipated.
Now, both Finland and Sweden have requested fast-track acceptance into NATO, and President Joe Biden told the leaders of both countries last week that he would support their admittance. If this were to occur, Russia would have another NATO partner, Finland, on its border. Some observers question the wisdom of this move, making the argument that NATO expansion will only destabilize the situation further.
One of the stated goals of the invasion was the possibility of NATO accepting Ukraine as a member nation. The eastward expansion of NATO has been a sore point for Putin, given that there was an informal agreement that the alliance would stay static in membership when the wall fell. Also, Ukraine gave up its nuclear arsenal with the understanding that NATO would defend it from Russian expansion. Both of those promises were broken, although NATO is providing massive amounts of arms and money to Ukraine.
As Putin’s war machine gets bogged down, he may become desperate. This could mean a preemptive move against NATO with nuclear weapons. The Russian president has said previously that nuclear weapons would be used if there was an existential threat to his country’s existence. A cornered Putin may use NATO’s expansion as such an excuse.
Finland and Sweden may have to wait, however, which may have the effect of cooling things down in the region. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has signaled that he is opposed to admitting the two countries.
Each member country effectively has a veto for the quick admission of countries applying to NATO. Erdogan has a complicated relationship with Putin and may look at the opportunity to halt the admissions process to be in Turkey’s national interest, and the admission of Finland and Sweden into NATO has the potential to have negative consequences for all involved.