The initial stage of confrontation between Russia and the West is a process of consolidating the positions of both opposing sides. One of its most obvious manifestations is the beginning of Finland and Sweden joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, writes Konstantin Khudoley, professor at the Faculty of International Relations at St. Petersburg State University. The consequences of this step for the future development of international relations in Europe and beyond can be very significant.
First of all, the entry of Finland and Sweden will help strengthen the bloc. Both countries have developed economies, high living standards, an effective public administration, modern armed forces (Sweden also has a large military industry) and a good international reputation. This stimulates NATO rapprochement with other neutral states in Europe (Switzerland has already made this clear), as well as a number of countries outside the North Atlantic region. The trend towards NATO becoming a global military bloc is likely to intensify. Now it is difficult to name the countries that in the future will want to join NATO, which the bloc will be ready to accept into its membership. However, we can predict with a high degree of certainty that this prospect, the pros and cons of such a step, will be very carefully analysed in a number of countries of the post-Soviet space and the Middle East, as well as in Brussels. Most likely, the current expansion of NATO will not be the last one.
NATO is a military-political alliance, and joining it, of course, means accepting certain obligations. However, the picture here is not uniform at all. So, for example, there are no nuclear weapons or foreign military bases on the territory of Norway. Most likely, Sweden and Finland will choose a similar option, although the establishment of some NATO military facilities in Finland hasnt been ruled out. NATO exercises in Finland and Sweden, as well as in the adjacent parts of the Baltic Sea, will undoubtedly take place. The issue of the Åland Islands, which have had a demilitarised status for many years, is not clear. And, perhaps most importantly, the armed forces of Sweden and Finland, based on NATO doctrines, will consider Russia as the main threat.
In the political sphere, the situation for Russia will undoubtedly become less favourable. Russia has no territorial disputes with Sweden or Finland. It is unlikely that politicians who call for a revision of the border established by the peace treaty of 1947 and confirmed by the treaty of 1992 will be able to come to power in Finland. However, the atmosphere on the border, which for many years has been distinguished by goodwill, may already be different. In the Baltic Sea, Russia will be the only non-NATO member state, as it is in the Arctic Ocean today. We can predict with a high degree of certainty that the West will try to use this to establish its own rules of the game. The room for manoeuvre is very limited.