Millennium Post

An effective deterrent?

An effective deterrent?

Russia invaded Ukraine under the pretext of NATO expansion but, paradoxically, the invasion has only laid the ground for further expansion — leaving Russia with a mix of resignation and embarrassment. In fact, it can be said that both the factors — NATO's expansion and Russia's territorial assertion — have been fuelling each other for decades. The Ukraine war represents the tipping point of the spiralling conflict. Though the integration of Finland and Sweden means quite different from the integration of Ukraine for Russia, the expansion deal will likely be, as per Putin, "destabilizing" for Europe. Apart from that, it may also affect the stability of Asia. Instituted in 1949 with 12 members, NATO now comprises 30 countries — inclusion of Sweden and Finland will take the total count to 32. Though a military alliance, the primary objective of NATO was to deter military aggression, apart from countering possible Soviet invasion of Western Europe. After over 70 years of its formation, its core claim is tested by the Russia-Ukraine war. Did it fail in deterring Russia from invading Ukraine, and instead served as a provocation? Also, with the potential inclusion of Sweden and Finland, what will the alliance mean for European stability? In the first place, the inclusion of Sweden and Finland is marked by a slight distinction. Their bid is reactionary, and not proactive, in nature. Until now, both the nations had a non-aligned approach towards NATO — though they are part of NATO's Partnership for Peace, a sort of associate member status. Their decision of NATO inclusion largely appears to have stemmed out from the sense of insecurity created by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In theory, both countries stand eligible on the parameters required for NATO membership. Additionally, they will bring with them an advanced weaponry and a strong military — further strengthening NATO's edge over Russia (which is weakened due to the war). It may be noted that Finland and Sweden already carry out joint exercises with NATO troops, and are instrumental in thwarting Russia's misinformation industry. Practically, enlargement of NATO places a sort of burden on the alliance itself. In the first place, even as NATO gets bigger, funding issues remain unresolved. NATO members have a target of spending two per cent of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on defence. Many member states fail to do so — burdening the United States with extra monetary liability. Inclusion of Finland and Sweden is less of a problem in this regard, as Finland already spends two per cent of its GDP on defence while Sweden falls short marginally. Still, both the US parliament and general population are divided on the issue. The Ukraine war has forced certain nations to consider spending more on defence but how far that resolve will extend is a question better left on time. One thing is for sure, whatever be the hurdles and inconsistencies, the Ukraine war has provided NATO a new lease of life. Very importantly, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, it is for the first time that NATO is revisiting its core objective of safeguarding freedom and security in Europe through political and military cooperation so rigorously. In the Madrid Summit, chalking out the path forward for the coming decade, leaders appeared to have put Europe's security on equal pedestal with issues related to China, climate change and cybersecurity. Tackling misinformation — considered a prominent threat from Russia — has also come to centre stage. If NATO's focus is roughly bifurcated in two parts — countering China in Asia and tackling Russian territorial ambitions in Europe — it gives an impression that the alliance is caught between the two storms. With symbolically expressing its European interests through inclusion of Finland and Sweden, NATO has left both the fronts open at the same time. With its military might expanding, the alliance can still be expected to fare well on both fronts, provided it addresses issues like funding and internal politics among NATO members. It must be noted that NATO may get ample time and space to strongly assert its presence in Europe as, after the Ukraine war, Russia will likely be wary of direct military confrontation in the region. Notwithstanding NATO's rising might, it is still uncertain if it will succeed in its core objective of preventing wars in Europe.

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