Finland and Sweden have a long history of neutrality. Since the cold war, both countries have avoided the long feud between, the then-Soviet Union, and the US. However, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has posed a direct threat to Finland and Sweden. Their nonaligned nature made them possible future targets for Russian expansion especially given their vital strategic locations. Now it looks like Finland and Sweden will be full NATO members by the end of 2023.
KJ 1: It is highly unlikely that Russia will launch a conventional attack on Finland or Sweden in the next 12 months.
- Russia has issued a warning to Finland and Sweden about joining NATO. However, that warning was rapidly backtracked by Putin. Instead, he said that any NATO installations and troops posted to Finland and Sweden will be mirrored by Russia on their side of the border. [source]
- Finland and Sweden have been long-standing partners of NATO, supporting operations in the Balkans, Iraq, and Afghanistan. This means they align cohesively with NATO forces already, so the inclusion of Sweden and Finland will not be difficult. [source] [source]
- Although Russia has a history of conflict against the nordic countries, now they have become invitees, and any action against Finland and Sweden would bring all other NATO members into conflict. [source]
- One issue that may cause problems is that now Russia is the only state outside of NATO in the Arctic Circle. With such a resource-rich location and sea routes becoming more accessible every year, Russia could see NATO’s Arctic expansion as a limit on their hugely profitable Arctic. [source]
KJ 2: It is likely that Russia will move more troops and weapons to the border with Finland in the next 12 months.
- NATO’s border with Russia has been extended by around 830 miles now that Finland has joined NATO. The Karelia Isthmus is strategically important, and Russia will look to secure this land and thus secure St Petersburg in the south of the Isthmus. [source]
- Russia will also look to make sure that naval routes through the Baltic Sea are secure now that the northern states, Finland and Sweden, on the Baltic are NATO members. Russia will look to ensure in peacetime that they can navigate the Baltic Sea safely to connect St Petersburg and Kaliningrad. [source]
- Putin has said that any NATO troops moved to Finland or Sweden will be matched in kind by Russia on their side of the border. There was also the threat of the potential to move nuclear weapons to the north as a potential deterrent. [source]
- Russia feels threatened by NATO expansion and will look to maintain a military presence on its northern border with Finland. [source]
KJ 3: It is highly likely that Sweden and Finland will become full NATO members in the next 12 months.
- The war in Ukraine prompted NATO to move quickly in accepting Sweden and Finland as NATO invitees. However, the process still needs every NATO member to ratify the agreement and sign off on it. So far 23 of the 30 NATO members have done so. [source]
- Countries that could delay the process are Hungary and Turkey. The latter has already made it clear that they want Finland and Sweden to accept their conditions before allowing accession. The condition is a more aligned stance on Kurdish rebels in Turkey and Syria. [source]
- Finland and Sweden agreed to Turkey’s conditions. However, it will take time for Turkey to see this new stance in action and cooperation with it. [source]
- Hungary is the other potential stalling spot. Orbán has expressed his worries about NATO expansion and Putin’s possible response, especially given the closeness of their relationship. Orbán will ratify the agreement, but he will likely use Turkey’s motivation to help him prolong the process. [source]
- Turkey’s next presidential elections are in 2023, and it is likely that Erdogan will use his position on Finland and Sweden’s accession to show his power. Hence leaving the ratification until 2023. [source]
Intelligence Cut-off Dater 29 August 2022