This photo, taken from a video provided by the press service of the Russian Defense Ministry on Friday, February 18, 2022, shows a cannon fired at a Russian warship during a naval exercise in the Black Sea.
Press service of the Russian Ministry of Defense via AP
With both Finland and Sweden announcing their bids to join the Western military alliance NATO, ending a decade-long history of military non-alignment, all eyes are on Russia and how it might react.
Moscow has already expressed outrage at the idea of a possible imminent expansion of its old enemy NATO, just after Finland announced its intention to apply to the agency last week.
Now that Finland has officially confirmed that it will be implemented – Sweden’s ruling Social Democratic Party similarly supports the bid to join NATO – Moscow has not wasted any time in expressing its feelings, a top Kremlin official has described as a “serious mistake”. Global consequences.
Russian President Vladimir Putin takes part in a military parade in Russia’s Red Square on May 09, 2022, to mark the 77th anniversary of Victory Day.
Sefa Karakan | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
NATO membership in Finland and Sweden is not yet a final agreement, as any decision to increase NATO would require the approval of the alliance’s 30 members and their parliaments – and Turkey has already objected.
These objections are expected to be overcome, but geopolitical experts are looking ahead and assessing possible “retaliatory measures” that President Vladimir Putin – who has made no secret of his hatred of NATO – could take.
1) More NATO provocations
Over the years, Russia has repeatedly made provocative incursions into or near the airspace of NATO allies, and their frequency seems to have increased over the past few years. With the latest move by Sweden and Finland to join NATO, experts believe the alliance should prepare itself for further provocations from Russia.
“It changes the security environment in the entire Baltic Sea and the Arctic,” Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, the former commanding general of the U.S. military in Europe, told CNBC on Monday.
“Of course airspace violations will continue, as in other NATO countries, but we are a defensive alliance and we are going to respond calmly and professionally. The last thing the Russians want is to go to war. The war with all 30 NATO nations will soon be 32, He called it CNBC’s “Capital Connection.”
“[Putin’s] He’s going to complain about it, he’s going to threaten things but he has nothing to do with it because most of his troops are tied up in Ukraine, so I don’t see any real threat against Sweden or Finland. “
Russia’s provocation in NATO is nothing new. In 2020, NATO air forces were scrambled more than 400 times across Europe to intercept unidentified aircraft approaching Allied airspace, including about 90% of these missions, in response to Russian military aircraft flights, NATO said in a statement.
Last March, NATO aircraft scrambled 10 times in six hours in response to an “unusual peak” of Russian warplanes near the Alliance’s airspace over the North Atlantic, North Sea, Black Sea and Baltic Sea.
NATO says Russian military aircraft often do not send a transponder code indicating their location and altitude, do not file a flight plan or communicate with air traffic controllers, which poses a potential risk to civilian aircraft.
2) Cyber attacks and troopers
Both Sweden and Finland insisted that joining NATO was not a step against Russia, but both acknowledged that the decision was made in light of Moscow’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine.
Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Anderson told CNBC on Sunday that her country believes NATO membership is the best thing for its security. He told CNBC’s Steve Sedgwick in Stockholm.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Ann Linde said that in the transition period before Sweden and Finland become full NATO members, tensions are likely to rise, noting that “we have predicted more troops near our borders.”
3) Energy war
Another potential venue for retaliation, and possible Russian sanctions for NATO expansion, could come in the form of force.
Russia still holds a strong card in the region because it has traditionally been responsible for about 40% of EU gas imports. And while Europe is scrambling for alternative energy sources to reduce its dependence on Russia as an oil and gas supplier, it is still dependent on it.
On May 21, 2019, a scene is seen near a drilling rig at a gas processing facility operated by Gazprom Company in the Bovanenkovo gas field in the Russian Arctic Yamal Peninsula.
Maxim Shemetov | Reuters
Gilles Moyke, chief economist at the AXA Investment Managers Group, said in a note on Monday that “there is a current possibility that Russia’s supply to the European Union will ‘tap off’, although he noted that Moscow has so far limited itself. The “half system” that did not cut off supply – reflects the country’s own reliance on these financial resources.
A day after Finnish leaders announced their support for NATO membership, the Russian state-owned utility company Inter RAO announced that it would suspend electricity exports to Finland from Saturday (Finland receives about 10% of its electricity from Russia) due to a lack of funding. Because, although the move was widely seen as retaliatory.
What did Russia say?
On Monday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov issued a statement stating that Sweden and Finland’s bid to join NATO was “another serious mistake, with far-reaching consequences,” Russia’s Interfax news agency reported.
Ryabkov added that Finland and Sweden should have no illusions that Russia will simply accept their decision.
“It is clear to us that the decision will not strengthen Sweden’s security as much as Finland’s,” he told reporters in Moscow.
“And the form in which we will ensure our security after this change in the general NATO configuration is a separate question. It will depend, in fact, on the outcome of the expected accession of Finland and Sweden. There is no illusion that we will tolerate it,” Ryabkov stressed.
Russia has long been wary of NATO’s existence, let alone its expansion, which it has long opposed. Moscow’s hostility is not surprising given that the United States, Canada and several Western European countries formed the alliance in 1949 to provide joint security against the then-Soviet Union.
Russia’s Sukhoi Su-34, Sukhoi Su-35S and Sukhoi Su-30S fighter jets perform before Victory Day in Moscow’s Red Square.
Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
For most of the 20th century, animosity between the West and Russia was centered on the protracted Cold War, but tensions between Russia and NATO continued even after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, despite a brief spell of more friendly relations.
In recent years, as relations between Russia and the West have deteriorated, Putin has repeatedly criticized NATO and framed Russia’s national identity and geopolitical position in opposition to the alliance. Russia has largely denied in its aggression against Ukraine that NATO is waging a proxy war against it in Ukraine.
Prior to the February 24 attack, Moscow had issued a list of demands to the West, including that Ukraine should never be allowed to join NATO. The West refused.