Putin enemies: What Russia President could do next over NATO expansion threat

Putin ‘shot himself in the foot’ with Nordic NATO applications

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Finland and Sweden have confirmed that they will both be making applications to become the latest members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). The developments represent an historic shift for two countries who have previously maintained long periods of wartime neutrality. Though Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he has no issue with the two Nordic nations, he has threatened a response to the expansion of NATO’s borders.

Mr Putin said the enlargement of what he views as the US-led military alliance was being used by Washington in an “aggressive” way to aggravate an already difficult global security situation.

The 69-year-old added there was no direct threat from NATO expansion which included Finland and Sweden, “but the expansion of military infrastructure into this territory would certainly provoke our response”.

He said: “What that (response) will be – we will see what threats are created for us. Problems are being created for no reason at all. We shall react accordingly.”

So, how could the Russian President choose to retaliate against NATO expanding its borders?

1) Further NATO sabre rattling

In recent years Russia has regularly encroached near or into NATO airspace, testing the restraint of allied members.

For example, in March Sweden scrambled its air force after detecting four Russian jets had entered its airspace on the island of Gotland.

The jets were used to escort the planes away with authorities in Stockholm later labelling it as an “unacceptable” act.

Air Force chief Carl-Johan Edstrom said: “In light of the current situation we are very concerned about the incident.

“This is unprofessional and irresponsible behaviour from the Russian side.”

During 2020 alone NATO air forces across Europe were scrambled more than 400 times to intercept unknown aircraft approaching the alliance’s airspace.

The alliance said in a statement that almost 90 percent of these missions were in response to flights by Russian military aircraft.

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2) Cyber-attacks

Creating disruption from within the borders of Western countries without committing any of its armed forces provides a useful alternative for Moscow.

Last week it was announced that intelligence from the UK and US had shown Russia was behind a cyber-attack targeting American commercial satellite internet company Viasat.

The attack began about an hour before Russia invaded Ukraine, on February 24 and caused outages for several thousand Ukrainian customers.

3) Continued energy woes

Though the European Union (EU) has outlined plans for a Russian oil embargo to come into force at the end of 2022 its members are still heavily reliant on exports from Moscow.

Before sanctions were announced against Russia around half of its crude oil exports went to Europe, where it also supplies around 40 percent of its natural gas reserves.

President Putin could look to exploit this advantage by increasing the price of Russian supplies or even cutting out countries altogether.

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