The Russian threat of “serious consequences” if Finland and Sweden join NATO lies far in the uncertain future. But the ironic consequences of the invasion of Ukraine cannot escape President Putin: the goal of saving Ukraine from NATO has instead pushed Europe on the front lines ever further into the arms of NATO.
With Finland almost certainly now in NATO, the invasion policy has escalated dangerously. Russia faces the prospect of US ground troops and air bases right on its doorstep on a 1,340 km front with Finland.
This marks an apparent success in NATO policy in enlisting more and more hitherto neutral border countries with Russia into NATO, which has pushed east towards Russia with some determination.
A Russian reaction will not be an easy option for her, but it would also mean that NATO would inevitably be drawn more frontally into a wider conflict with Russia. This could turn today’s somewhat exaggerated predictions of World War III into stark reality.
NATO’s hope is clearly that Russian forces will fight poor Ukraine, which it massively outmatches with a military arsenal. Russia will not be in a hurry to attack Finland, which gave Russian forces more than a fight in 1939, and again showed its unexpected power in World War II.
Russia has already signaled the start of what could be serious consequences, it may not be quite the bluff it is currently attributed with. Russia is to shut down electricity supplies to Finland this weekend. RAO Nordic, a subsidiary of the Russian state company selling electricity to Finland, said it would cut off supplies if payment was not made.
For now, Finland says it will make up for lost supply with alternative supply from Norway and Sweden. Less than 10% of Finland’s electricity supply comes from Finland.
The power supply threat came just a day after Finnish leaders announced the country must join NATO “without delay”.
Russian warnings have been intensified, with signs that its retaliation may not stop with a power cut. He accused Finland of “pushing above their weight”. Energy supplies were Russia’s first weapon against Europe, but it may not be the last. Russia has officially declared that it will be “forced to take reciprocal military-technical and other measures to deal with the resulting threats”.
Pushed to the wall
Former British Ambassador to Moscow Sir Tony Brenton told the BBC that there could now be “many more Russian nuclear deployments in the Baltic”. The warning goes against the UK’s official dismissal of an increased nuclear threat from Russia as mere posturing.
The relative failure of conventional Russian forces in Ukraine means that the Russian military “will therefore be increasingly inclined to use its nuclear power as a demonstration that it should be taken seriously”.
An informal meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Berlin this weekend will be a crucial moment to determine where NATO stands. Few expect him to take the path of conciliation rather than confrontation. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock called the meeting to work out a coordinated response to the Russian attack on Ukraine. Now Finland and Sweden are also on the agenda. A separate dinner was organized with the leaders of these two countries.
The NATO meeting was declared informal and a formal realignment of positioning is not expected. But the most critical signs to emerge may be the extent to which NATO offers real protection to Finland and Sweden before they formally join. This could take more than a year because it must follow ratification by the parliaments of all NATO member countries.
– London Eye is a weekly column by CNBC-TV18’s Sanjay Suri, which provides insight into unusual affairs in and around London.
(Edited by : Kanishka Sarkar)