Analysts fear new ‘iron curtain’ if Finland joins NATO
Although some analysts agree it would strengthen NATO’s northern flank, others worry about new ‘iron curtain,’ possibility of nuclear escalation
Russian President Vladimir Putin has long been complaining about the expansion of NATO, even citing it as the reason behind the Moscow's war on Ukraine.
As Finland's president and prime minister announced their support for joining NATO on Thursday, many argue that the Russian attempt to stop the alliance's expansion backfired, and resulted in a reverse “iron curtain” on its western border.
But the question remains: how would NATO protect the border between Russia and Finland if the Nordic country joins the transatlantic alliance? Could the 1,300-kilometer (807-mile) border between the two countries become a frontier between the East and the West?
Finland, which shares a 1,300-kilometer-long border with Russia, currently spends nearly 2% of its GDP on defense. Its military consists of 23,800 active military personnel and 216,000 reserve personnel with some 600 artillery pieces and 100 main battle tanks. It also trains 20,000 conscripts a year.
Sweden, which spends 1.4% of its GDP on defense and has around 14,600 active military personnel, is also expected to follow Finland's suit. The two countries may apply to join the alliance at the NATO summit in Madrid in June.
Russia, on the other hand, warns Baltic countries of “military and political consequences” if they join the transatlantic alliance.
For Thomas Greminger, the former head of the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE), the likelihood of the two countries joining NATO is a “double-edged sword.”
“It would clearly strengthen NATO's northern flank massively. Finland and Sweden could bring in lots of naval and air assets,” Greminger, now director of the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, told Anadolu Agency.
However, he added: “From a cooperative security point of view, it would, of course, further contribute to the iron curtain through the entirety of the European continent.”
“So in that sense, it will be another important element that kind of will take us back in some sort of Cold War. You can call it cold war 2.0,” he said.
Opposition to expected NATO membership bids
On the other hand, for some, it is a “step in the wrong direction.”
Reiner Braun, a German peace activist and an executive director of the International Peace Bureau, on Friday warned that Finland joining NATO would “bring more nuclear weapons” to the border of Baltic countries.
"People on both sides will suffer," he said in an interview with New York-based Democracy Now.
The Green and Left parties are also not in favor of Sweden's and Finland's NATO membership.
Sweden should refrain from joining NATO, even if Finland decides to become a member of the alliance, said Marta Stenevi, spokeswoman of the Swedish Green Party that holds 16 seats in the 349-member Swedish parliament.
Meanwhile, for the first time, polls show that more than 50% of Finns support joining the Western military alliance. A similar poll in Sweden showed that those in favor of NATO membership outnumber those against.
Citing the latest polls, Greminger said: “I think it is fair to assume that from a point of view of domestic approval, of such move, I think this is going to happen.”
Possibility of NATO-Russia confrontation
According to Murat Aslan, an academic who specializes in security and defense studies at Istanbul Sabahattin Zaim University, if these two countries join NATO, there will be new contingency plans to include these territories in the area of military operations.
“Meanwhile, these countries should reserve some of their forces for NATO as rapid reaction forces,” he told Anadolu Agency.
“NATO's defense coverage will reach the limits of the Northern Poles expanding the potential escalations with Russians. Hence, Russia will take countermeasures both across the Baltics and the Poles,” he added.
This pattern will push NATO to have a boldened presence not only at the eastern but northern flank, according to Aslan.
“Hence, strategic priorities and asset allocations of NATO will change in the coming years as per the new strategic concept to be approved in June's summit,” he said.
He also added that “American presence in Greece has become meaningless due to prioritized strategic objectives.”
“That is why the Greek PM (prime minister) has been circulating the American prominence to defend Greece against 'threats' implying Turkiye,” he said.