How Finland and Sweden will change NATO’s strategic map

Over the past 80 years, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO, has become an alliance of 30 countries. NATO, established in 1949 to balance the growing power of the Soviet Union – a source of long-standing tensions between the West and Russia – has reasserted itself as an important and united force against Moscow since Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

This week, Finland and Sweden, traditionally neutral countries, announced their bids to join NATO, a move that analysts say will transform Europe’s security landscape for next year – and further strain relations with Russia, which opposes the alliance’s earlier expansion.

Turkey blocked the start of NATO talks on the application of Finland and Sweden

When the countries join, the alliance could offer expanded land, sea and air capabilities. Sweden has a strong navy that will strengthen NATO’s defenses in the Baltic Sea. And makes its own fighter jets, which it exports to various countries around the world. Finland’s well-informed military maintains compulsory recruitment for men. Christopher Scaluba, director of the Atlantic Council’s Transatlantic Security Initiative, said it was a “whole-society approach to thinking about defense.” “They can bring together hundreds and thousands of their citizens.”

Countries also offer key geographical advantages, which will enhance NATO’s defenses.


Finland’s NATO membership will add 800 miles to the alliance’s border with Russia.

Near that border Cola PeninsulaWhere Russia’s nuclear sub and Arctic navies are located.

Finland’s NATO membership will add 800 miles to the alliance’s border with Russia.

Near that border Cola PeninsulaWhere Russia’s nuclear sub and Arctic navies are located.

Finland’s NATO membership will add 800 miles to the alliance’s border with Russia.

Near that border Cola PeninsulaWhere Russia’s nuclear sub and Arctic navies are located.

Finland’s NATO membership will add 800 miles to the alliance’s border with Russia.

Near that border Cola PeninsulaWhere Russia’s nuclear sub and Arctic navies are located.

Finland’s border with Russia extends more than 800 miles and is already being patrolled closely. The country’s membership will double the alliance’s land borders. “On the one hand, it gives NATO increased resilience because Moscow must protect this border,” said Carissa Nietzsche, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security’s Transatlantic Security Program. “On the other hand, NATO must also protect this border from Russian aggression.”

How Putin’s brutal war in Ukraine pushed Finland towards NATO

The Finns recall the Cold War of 1939-1940, when the country suffered heavy losses in its fight against Soviet forces.

“Their relationship with Russia is defined by distrust,” said Christina Floria, a Cornell University historian in Central and Eastern Europe.

Finland’s membership will bring the alliance closer to Russia’s Kola Peninsula, a strategic landmass about 110 miles east of the border where Russia maintains ballistic missile submarines and maintains nuclear warheads. The Northern Fleet, which is responsible for patrolling the Ark, is also based on the peninsula.

Baltic presence increased

In the south, the membership of Finland and Sweden will give the alliance an edge in the Baltic Sea, a strategic waterway that borders Russia’s St. Petersburg, as well as some of NATO’s most at-risk members.


Sweden and Finland’s membership will increase NATO’s access to the Baltic Sea.

At present, NATO has to go through this to strengthen the Baltic states Suwalki GapA narrow land corridor near Russian territory.

Sweden and Finland’s membership will increase NATO’s access to the Baltic Sea.

At present, NATO has to go through this to strengthen the Baltic states Suwalki GapA narrow land corridor near Russian territory.

Sweden and Finland’s membership will increase NATO’s access to the Baltic Sea.

At present, NATO has to go through this to strengthen the Baltic states Suwalki GapA narrow land corridor near Russian territory.

Sweden and Finland’s membership will increase NATO’s access to the Baltic Sea.

At present, NATO has to go through this to strengthen the Baltic states Suwalki GapA narrow land corridor near Russian territory.

Referring to Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, Scaluba said, “NATO’s main goal is to keep Russia away from the Baltic states.” The growing presence on the Baltic coast will strengthen the security of those countries

“Swedish and Finnish NATO membership will give NATO another path to strengthening through the Baltic Sea,” Nitche said. “Currently, NATO’s strength depends on the Suvalki Gap, the narrow corridor separating Kaliningrad and Belarus that Russia may try to close in a conflict.”

Gotland, a 109-mile-long Swedish island in the middle of the ocean, is a medieval ruin and military fortress. In April, Sweden announced that it would spend 16 163 million to increase its forces on the island, including expanding barracks to hold more troops.

Finland and Sweden’s accession to NATO will increase Arctic presence.


More than 50 percent of the coastline of the Arctic Ocean is Russian territory

As a member of the Arctic Council, Sweden and Finland’s membership would extend NATO’s footprint to a region that Russia sees as important to its security.

More than 50 percent of the coastline of the Arctic Ocean is Russian territory

As a member of the Arctic Council, Sweden and Finland’s membership would extend NATO’s footprint to a region that Russia sees as important to its security.

More than 50 percent of the coastline of the Arctic Ocean is Russian territory

As a member of the Arctic Council, Sweden and Finland’s membership would extend NATO’s footprint to a region that Russia sees as important to its security.

Historically, the GIUK Gap has been strategically important as a way to navigate around the otherwise difficult Arctic Ocean.

More than 50 percent of the coastline of the Arctic Ocean is Russian territory

Historically, the GIUK Gap has been strategically important as a way to navigate around the otherwise difficult Arctic Ocean.

As a member of the Arctic Council, Sweden and Finland’s membership would extend NATO’s footprint to a region that Russia sees as important to its security.

The two countries are members of the Arctic Council, an organization that oversees the north of the world, and its members include Russia, Canada and the United States. With their membership, “Arctic security will continue to climb the NATO agenda,” Nietzsche said.

With more than 50 percent of the Arctic coastline being Russian territory, it could also be on Moscow’s agenda. “They see security in the area as a matter of national defense,” Scaluba said.

Military missions from the Kola Peninsula are deployed throughout the Arctic. Sweden and Finland could help monitor that activity, but also increase the risk of growth.

“The Arctic is generally regarded as a success story of cooperation between NATO Arctic countries and Russia, but there are concerns that it will become an increasingly competitive area in terms of security, with Sweden and Finland more likely to become NATO nations,” Scaluba added.

Source: NATO, The Geography of the International System: The CS Shapes Dataset (Old Country Borders)

Emily Rauhala contributed to this report.

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