Updated: Mar 16, 2022
Russia’s recent demands to halt NATO’s expansion further into Eastern Europe have intensified long underlying tensions between the Western military alliance and Russia. President Vladimir Putin has insisted that NATO roll back military deployments in Eastern Europe and refrain from accepting former Soviet nations as members of the alliance (Euronews 2022). The United States has rejected Putin’s demands, but has demonstrated its willingness to engage in talks and diplomacy to resolve tensions. NATO and the United States have emphasized their open-door policy for membership and the sovereign right of individual states to decide whether to join the alliance. However, Russia has threatened to take military measures if NATO does not give in to its demands (Euronew, 2022). Shortly following this, Russia increased its troops at the Ukrainian border.
The tensions between NATO, the United States, and Russia have spilled from Ukraine and Eastern Europe over to Finland and Sweden. The two Nordic countries are not yet NATO members and are located close to Russia. They are crucial players in trade routes and movement of people from the East to the West, as they are located at the European Union’s external border (Harju 2022; Yle News 2022). This adds another layer of tension to the NATO-Russia situation since these functions could be disrupted in case of conflict in that region. Finland has played a key role in stabilizing the West and Russia throughout the decades by fostering diplomatic dialogue between the regions (Yle News 2022). Sweden and Finland have maintained that their NATO membership is a possibility, and the recent demands by Russia have not yet changed the position of the two countries. Particularly, a New Year’s statement by Finnish President Sauli Niinistö has gained attention in the midst of the talks between NATO and Russia: President Niinistö emphasized Western unity, but also on the sovereignty right of small states to make their own decisions regarding military matters (Yle News 2022).
Russian landing ships on the Baltic Sea: pressure on Finland and Sweden?
In mid-January 2022, Russia deployed landing ships in the Baltic Sea, which has caused Sweden and Finland to bolster their combat readiness. Sweden added troops on the geopolitically important Gotland, which is located near Kaliningrad. Similarly, Finland has alerted the Air Force, the Marine Corps and the Finnish Border Guard, but has yet to disclose any more specific information on the increase of operations or troops on the ground (Ringstrom 2022). The sudden increase in the combat readiness of the two countries diverges from previous courses of action since the Nordic countries have previously refrained from large and visible military operations in the region (Harju 2022). This in turn has drawn attention to Russia’s influence in the Baltic Sea. Nevertheless, Finland and Sweden have maintained that a Russian offensive in the Baltic Sea or against the two countries is highly unlikely. The deployment of Russian landing ships, therefore, is seen more as a showcase of strength rather than an actual threat. Despite increasing combat readiness, Finland and Sweden have tried to demonstrate that the influence of Russia’s demands on their overall foreign policy and decisions to join NATO remains limited (Euronews 2022). As the situation between NATO and Russia evolves, Finland’s and Sweden’s positions remain important due to their geopolitical location and role in securing trade routes and movement of people to Europe.
Written by Jasmin Saarijärvi, Amsterdam Chapter of European Horizons
Source: Dhaka Tribune
Ringstrom, Anna. 2022. “Sweden Boosts Patrols on Gotland Amid Russia Tensions.”
Reuters, January 14, 2022. https://reuters.com/world/europe/sweden-boosts-
Euronews. 2022. “Russia and NATO Meet as Moscow and Washington Harden Stances on
Ukraine.” January 12, 2022. https://www.euronews.com/2022/01/11/russia-and-us-take-tougher-stances-before-more-talks-on-ukraine
Harju, Jukka. 2022. “Suomi on Ruotsin Tavoin Nostanut Sotilaallista Valmiuttaan, Arvioi
Asiantuntija: ‘Siitä ei Vain ole Tapana Puhua’.” Helsingin Sanomat, January 15, 2022.
Yle News. 2022. “Ex-Nato Secretary General: ‘Finland and Sweden Could Become
Members Overnight’.” January 15, 2022. https://yle.fi/news/3-12272467