Russia: NATO gaining more countries 'bad for Putin' says Jones

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Vladimir Putin’s “special military operation” commenced in February as his administration voiced fears Ukraine would join NATO, extending the organisation’s reach to Russia’s border. But his fears of western military expansionism have had the opposite effect, as while Volodymyr Zelensky is considering neutrality, the violence has pushed Finland and Sweden into NATO’s arms. The two countries have been almost in lock-step in their announcements, but not their actions.

Why is Sweden behind Finland in applying for NATO?

Sweden and Finland’s Prime Ministers, Magdalena Andersson and Sanna Marin, announced plans to pursue NATO applications in April.

They said Russia’s invasion had “changed Europe’s whole security landscape”, persuading them to take the step.

Finland is within days of making a final decision, with the country’s parliament primed to give their formal assent by May 15.

Sweden must first overcome splits within its ruling party.

The Social Democrats have opted to hold an internal consultation on whether they should greenlight a similar vote.

Their decision is also due on Sunday, and the Social Democrats majority would set the parliament up to officially initiate the application the following week.

Swedish media outlets expect the final consequential vote by Monday, May 16.

Lawmakers should send the formal application to NATO soon after, although there is no expected date yet.

Both countries are riding on widespread public favour and have not felt it necessary to hold referendums on joining the organisation.

Public attitudes towards NATO have reversed since Putin started invading Ukraine, with national polls showing the majority in favour.

Approximately 75 percent of Finnish nationals want to join, while a slimmer majority of 60 percent want Sweden to do the same.

How has Russia responded to the plans?

Russian officials, especially Putin, have lashed out at NATO since the organisation’s members started aiding Ukraine.

They see it as a vehicle for western imperialism over a pact for mutual protection.

The prospect of another two members – taking it to 35 in total – has only incensed the country’s leaders further.

When the nations announced their intentions last month, the Putin administration’s immediate response was to threaten to pad its nuclear presence in the nearby Baltics.

The regime said it would have to “restore military balance” as NATO adds hundreds of miles to its collective border.

Finland shares a vast 830-mile long border with Russia to the country’s northwest flank.

Russia’s foreign ministry has described its potential accession to NATO as a “radical change” to its foreign policy.

The move would cause “serious damage” to Russian-Finnish relations, the statement added, with a knock-on effect on maintaining “stability and security” in Northern Europe.

The statement said it would be “forced to take retaliatory steps” in both a military sense and “other nature”.

But Russia has not outlined its exact plans for dealing with its new perceived threat.

The Kremlin said: “Everything will depend on how this expansion process plays out, the extent to which military infrastructure moves closer to our borders.”

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