Finland and Sweden are being pushed towards NATO membership by the “unpredictable Russian bear”, according to a British military analyst.
He told Metro.co.uk that the saber race of the Russian president must be met by the West to expose him as a “noisy barroom bully”.
Both countries have received repeated warnings from the Kremlin to join NATO, which stands for North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin has signaled that a decision will be made “within a few weeks”, at the same time as the country’s Nordic neighbor is also considering whether to sign a full membership, without any time frame.
Mr Cooper said: “Russia’s ongoing descent into military gangsterism has fundamentally changed the political and security landscape in Europe and neighboring regions.”
“It has also encouraged some hard thinking from previously non-aligned countries – especially Finland and Sweden.
“Many of Russia’s neighbors and observers, previously affirmed by its apparent strength, have become courageous in realizing its military unpreparedness and incompetence.”
Cooper spoke to Metro.co.uk after Russia tested a new one intercontinental ballistic missile capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
RS-28 Sarmat, nicknamed Satan II, has a range of between 10,000 km and 18,000 km and can reach cities in the United States and Europe.
The beating is intended by Putin to send a burning message to the West and follows his warning that Finland and Sweden will face “serious military and political consequences if they join NATO”.
The European countries were militarily neutral during the Cold War but became partners with NATO – which means that they receive briefings but do not participate in military exercises – when they joined the EU in 1995.
“There is now a growing feeling among the people and the political classes of these two Baltic nations that the previous position of peace through neutrality is not a defense against an unwavering and unpredictable Russian bear,” Cooper said.
“As a result of their relative history and geography, the strength of emotion in Finland is much stronger for NATO membership, 68%, than in Sweden, where there is a narrow majority.
“NATO has made it clear that they will be welcome to join, and Finland is likely to make the call very soon; this will put pressure on Sweden to follow, even if accession requires that all NATO countries agree, and even a slimmed-down process can take months.
“The strengthening of NATO’s northern flank that would follow is obviously not something that Russia had in mind when planning to subjugate Ukraine. One can imagine the hybrid meetings in the Kremlin visualizing a newly resurrected Great Britain curing a weakened NATO and preparing to resume its “near abroad” in the coming months and years. ‘
The Kremlin is escalating its attack on eastern Ukraine as its unprovoked invasion of the neighboring country approaches the end of the eighth week. A common refrain from Ukraine is that the country is not the first, and will not be the last, to have its borders violated by Russian aggression.
The fact that Finland and Sweden join NATO would be a major new hotspot, but also a counterweight to all plans by Moscow to expand its military campaign further into the heart of Europe.
“Russia is terrified of having enemies at its gates,” Cooper said.
“A cohesive bloc of countries with full NATO Article 5 declaration in the north creates a clear flank threat to all planned adventures in Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania, provides a huge advantage in maritime control and completely surrounds the isolated Russian province of Kaliningrad between Poland and Lithuania. ‘
Despite Russia’s terrifying display of firepower, the Afghanistan and Balkan veteran does not believe Putin poses an immediate threat to the West as he plows resources into a war in which he failed in his initial goals, including an attempt to capture Kyiv.
“Putin’s recent show of strength seems to fit in with Russia’s doctrine of threatening extreme sanctions if it does not get its way,” he said.
“The announcement of the successful test of the new Sarmat ballistic missile does not fundamentally change the strategic balance.
“Although, according to Moscow, it is a gradual change in nuclear capacity, the alleged undefeated missile is several years away from replacing Russia’s aging fleet of SS-18 and SS-19 missiles. Russia is limited by treaty to about 1,500 missiles; although allowing a high failure rate, there is already more than enough in circulation for a given purpose. ‘
Putin’s tough stance has met with heightened responses from Western leaders who do not want to directly escalate tensions with the Russian president.
But Mr Cooper told Metro.co.uk that, despite the brutality facing Ukraine, the broader strategic map against Moscow is tipping.
“NATO’s reluctance to take an active part in the Ukraine war is not a precedent for Finland and Sweden,” he said.
“And any planning by the Russian High Command would have to take into account the very real threat of direct conflict with NATO forces still deployed in the southern Baltic countries.
“Its threat of escalating nuclear power must be taken seriously in the West, but this kind of brinkmanship must be turned down and revealed as the empty sting of the drunken barroom bully.”
The Finnish Parliament is currently aiming to reach a consensus on whether to apply for NATO membership, which will include security experts speaking to MEPs in the coming weeks.
The country, which shares a 800 km long border with Russia, declared independence from Moscow in 1917 after more than 100 years of occupation. Sweden, which has not fought a war in 200 years, has no border with Russia but sees its security interests as inherently associated with its neighbors.
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