How Finland and Sweden would alter the NATO strategic map

Over the past 80 years, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO, has grown into an alliance of 30 countries. Founded in 1949 to counter the growing power of the Soviet Union, NATO, long a source of tension between the West and Russia, has reasserted itself as a significant and unified force against Moscow since the Russian president’s invasion of Ukraine. Vladimir Putin.

This week, traditionally neutral nations Finland and Sweden announced their offers to join NATO, a move that analysts say will transform Europe’s security landscape for years to come and further strain relations with Russia, which is opposes the eastern expansion of the alliance.

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The addition of the countries could offer the alliance expanded land, sea and air capabilities. Sweden has a strong navy, which would strengthen NATO’s defenses in the Baltic Sea, and builds its own fighter planes, which it exports to countries around the world. Finland’s well-funded military maintains compulsory military service for men. It’s a “whole-of-society approach to thinking about defense,” said Christopher Skaluba, director of the Atlantic Council’s Transatlantic Security Initiative. “They can mobilize hundreds and thousands of their citizens.”

The countries also offer key geographic advantages, which would enhance NATO’s defenses.


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

That border is close to the kola peninsulawhere Russia’s nuclear submarines and Arctic navy are based.

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

That border is close to the kola peninsulawhere Russia’s nuclear submarines and Arctic navy are based.

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

That border is close to the kola peninsulawhere Russia’s nuclear submarines and Arctic navy are based.

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

That border is close to the kola peninsulawhere Russia’s nuclear submarines and Arctic navy are based.

Finland’s border with Russia stretches for more than 800 miles and is already heavily guarded. The nation’s membership would double the alliance’s land border. “On the one hand, this provides NATO with more of a deterrent, as Moscow would need to defend this border,” said Carisa Nietsche, associate fellow for the Transatlantic Security Program at the Center for a New American Security. “On the other hand, NATO must also protect this border against a Russian attack.”

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Finns remember the Winter War of 1939-1940, when the country suffered heavy losses fighting Soviet forces.

“Their relationship with Russia is defined by mistrust,” said Cristina Florea, a historian of Central and Eastern Europe at Cornell University.

Finland’s membership would 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 stores nuclear warheads. The Northern Fleet, tasked with patrolling the Arctic, is also based on the peninsula.

Greater Baltic presence

To the south, the membership of Finland and Sweden would give the alliance an advantage in the Baltic Sea, a strategic waterway bordered by Russia’s St. Petersburg, as well as some of NATO’s most vulnerable members.


The membership of Sweden and Finland would increase NATO’s access to the Baltic Sea.

Currently, to strengthen the Baltic states, NATO has to go through the Suwalki gapa narrow land corridor close to Russian territory.

The membership of Sweden and Finland would increase NATO’s access to the Baltic Sea.

Currently, to strengthen the Baltic states, NATO has to go through the Suwalki gapa narrow land corridor close to Russian territory.

The membership of Sweden and Finland would increase NATO’s access to the Baltic Sea.

Currently, to strengthen the Baltic states, NATO has to go through the Suwalki gapa narrow land corridor close to Russian territory.

The membership of Sweden and Finland would increase NATO’s access to the Baltic Sea.

Currently, to strengthen the Baltic states, NATO has to go through the Suwalki gapa narrow land corridor close to Russian territory.

“NATO’s main mission is to keep Russia away from the Baltic states,” Skaluba said, referring to Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. A growing presence on the shores of the Baltic Sea would strengthen the security of those countries.

“Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership would provide NATO with another reinforcement route through the Baltic Sea,” Nietsche said. “Currently, NATO reinforcement depends on the Suwalki Gap, the narrow corridor separating Kaliningrad and Belarus that Russia could try to close in a conflict.”

In the middle of the sea is Gotland, a 109-mile-long Swedish island home to medieval ruins and military fortifications. In April, Sweden announced it would spend $163 million to build up its forces on the island, including expanding the barracks to house more troops.

The accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO would mean an increase in their presence in the Arctic.


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

As members of the Arctic Council, the membership of Sweden and Finland would increase NATO’s presence in a region that Russia considers vital to its security.

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

As members of the Arctic Council, the membership of Sweden and Finland would increase NATO’s presence in a region that Russia considers vital to its security.

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

As members of the Arctic Council, the membership of Sweden and Finland would increase NATO’s presence in a region that Russia considers vital to its security.

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

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

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

As members of the Arctic Council, the membership of Sweden and Finland would increase NATO’s presence in a region that Russia considers vital to its security.

The two countries are members of the Arctic Council, an organization that oversees the northernmost parts of the world whose members include Russia, Canada and the United States. With his membership, “Arctic security would continue to move up NATO’s agenda,” Nietsche said.

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

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

“The Arctic is generally seen as a success story of cooperation between NATO Arctic nations and Russia, but there is concern that it will increasingly become a contested area in the security realm, which is probably more likely than not. with Sweden and Finland becoming NATO nations,” Skaluba added. .

Sources: NATO, The Geography of the International System: The CShapes Dataset (former country borders)

Emily Rauhala contributed to this report.

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