NATO needs to prepare for ‘worst case’ with Russia says expert
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Russian forces led by Vladimir Putin launched an incursion on Ukraine in February, when the premier announced a “special military operation” over its western border. Ukraine has headed off what military chiefs likely hoped would be a lightning-fast takeover, leaving Russia unable to reach the country’s capital of Kyiv. Local Ukrainians have led the resistance, backed by funding and resources from NATO, members of which have agreed to provide long-term support to Volodymyr Zelensky’s administration.
Leading NATO members have offered to take potential applicants under their wings.
While Ukraine has fought off the Russian invasion, Putin and his allies have levelled threats at would-be applicants near the country’s border.
Sweden and Finland, both once lukewarm to the prospect of joining, are chief among them.
Between March and April, Russian officials warned the countries that applying to the military alliance would court “consequences”.
Among threats levelled at the nations was one to install new nuclear weapons in Russia’s Baltic territory.
In April, Putin ally Dmitry Medvedev said there would be “no more talk of any nuclear-free status for the Baltic”, adding that “balance must be restored”.
These threats have mostly fallen on deaf ears in Sweden and Finland, where the general public has warmed to NATO membership.
And as the countries start the application process, current members have vowed to protect them.
Earlier today, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said they could “count” on Germany to protect them.
Standing alongside Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin and her Swedish counterpart Magdalena Andersson at Schloss Meseberg, he told reporters his office was following the two leaders’ NATO applications.
He said that, should they decide to join the other 30 nations, they could count on German support.
He added: “Even in the period before such NATO membership is decided, they can always rely on Germany’s support.”
Sweden and Finland both have additional European support guaranteed as members of the European Union.
The Lisbon treaty of 2009 outlines specific defence aid in the event of an attack.
Article 42 specifies that other EU nations would “come to the support and aid, with all possible means, of a member state under armed attack”.
How the EU would enact this aid and whether it is mandatory remains up for debate.
Recent reports suggest that Finland is the closest to finalising its NATO application.
Decision day for the country is in just over a week on May 12, according to national paper Iltalehti, which cited an anonymous government source.
The move would require President Sauli Niinisto’s approval, and parliamentary groups will follow with a national vote.
Sweden’s parliament is conducting a security policy review and is slightly further behind, with results due on May 13.
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