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Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent comments are little more than posturing after a disastrous campaign in Ukraine, but any comments from a world leader with a nuclear arsenal should be taken seriously, military experts tell Fox. NewsDigital.
“I think when Putin says things like that, all he’s doing is really reinforcing the point that [Russia’s] doesn’t really respond to a legitimate external threat,” said James Carafano, vice president of the Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy at the Heritage Foundation.
Finland and Sweden reversed their historically neutral stances after Russia invaded Ukraine, saying the “security landscape” in Europe had changed. Turkey has said it will not support either country’s bid to join the alliance, which would effectively block their entry since any bidder requires the full support of indigenous members.
But Turkey said on Tuesday it would now back the bids after reaching an “agreement” that “paves the way for Finland and Sweden to join NATO”, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg confirmed.
Putin said on Wednesday that Sweden and Finland could ‘move forward’ and join NATO, but warned that Russia would ‘respond in kind’ if either country hosts the forces or infrastructure alliance soldiers.
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“I’m not sure I would read anything strategic into it because on the face of it: it’s a completely ridiculous statement,” Carafano said. “I don’t think you can really read anything strategic into it.”
Carafano explained that setting up such an infrastructure would take “months or even years” and that the two countries already cooperate with NATO allies even though they are not currently members.
“Finland and Sweden are already cooperating and integrating their affairs with the US military, so the idea that any member of NATO would allow a foreigner like Russia to dictate what kind of infrastructure they deploy on any territory in the US. ‘NATO is just laughable at first glance,’ Carafano said. said.
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Carafano suggested that Putin might have intended the comments sarcastically, but that “only Putin knows what Putin is going to do.”
“This guy is pretty much a dictator, and he’s got an arsenal of nukes and an army, so I would never say, ‘Oh hell, he’ll never do that,'” Carafano added. “But if you look at this constant pattern of Russian behavior, where they threatened all sorts of things — everything from implied nuclear exchanges to military activity — ultimately, everything the Russians have done is boring.”
James Anderson, acting undersecretary of defense for policy under President Trump, argued that Putin needed to save face after coaxing two neutral countries into the NATO alliance through his invasion of Israel. Ukraine.
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“[The Russian people] see – and he no doubt fears that they will see it – his aggressive actions in Ukraine have caused historically neutral countries to apply for membership [in NATO]”, said Anderson. “From a strategic point of view, Putin’s invasion made Russia as a whole less secure – not only because the invasion did not go well, but now NATO is about to develop.”
Anderson called Putin’s recent comments an effort to “reframe” the course of the war and its results, calling Sweden’s and Finland’s efforts to join NATO “strategically significant”.
“Just look at the map to see that [Sweden and Finland] are in a geographically important position on the northern flank: it will become easier for NATO to operate in the Baltic Sea,” Anderson explained. “It will also to some extent complicate Moscow’s Arctic strategy.
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“Within NATO, there is an East-West divide: you have countries closer to the border, including Poland, the Baltic countries… which feel the threat of the Russian bear more directly”, he added. “I think Helsinki and Stockholm are doing it, given what Russia has done in Ukraine and what they fear Putin will do in the future. They want the Article 5 guarantee of the NATO – and who can blame them?”