Sweden and Finland will greatly strengthen Nato’s defence against Russia
The existing world order fundamentally changed on 24 February 2022.
Vladimir Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, the first such attack in Europe for 80 years, has resulted in the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians and the displacement of millions. Following numerous abhorrent acts perpetrated by Russian soldiers, Ukraine has become an international crime scene.
For years the Nato Parliamentary Assembly has analysed the Russian threat. It was accepted that Putin was a masterful tactician, and that Nato must counter each Russian threat with appropriate and proportionate responses. However, it is now becoming clearer with each passing day that Putin is beginning to resemble the fascist dictators of old.
Any Russian victory could embolden Putin for an attack on Nato territory
Putin’s essay of July 2021 outlined his aim for a resurrected Russian Empire, beginning the dismantling of Ukraine; a country which he denies the sovereignty of. It is hard not to draw parallels between Putin’s imperialistic mindset and that of Stalin and Hitler in their regard to Polish sovereignty.
Putin’s essay continues to make similar claims against Belarus, and against Nato allies in Lithuania and Poland. The conflict in Ukraine is not one which the West can ignore, as it is obvious that any Russian victory could embolden Putin for an attack on Nato territory, which would almost certainly begin with cyber-attacks on NATO infrastructure.
Sweden and Finland’s application to join Nato has far wider reaching effects than simply the military capability that the two countries would bring to the alliance. Finland’s standing army of over 280,000 troops, 700,000 reservists, order of over 60 F35s and its integrated command and control practices which have been developed in partnership with Nato ensure that the country is more than capable of mounting effective defensive strategies. Equally, Sweden’s naval capabilities will help to secure the Baltic Sea against Russian aggression. By joining Nato’s nuclear alliance, with a first strike policy, Sweden and Finland strengthen Nato’s military counterbalance against Russian threats.
Putin’s sabre rattling regarding the potential employment of nuclear weapons has been carefully crafted to create fear amongst allied populations, placing political pressure on governments for non-intervention in the Ukrainian conflict. Conversely, Western intervention has so far caused Putin to dial back on his nuclear threats.
Within the Nato alliance, Sweden and Finland would undoubtedly look to expand their counter-cyber capabilities. As we saw during a recent cyber attack in Ukraine, which knocked out several power plants and attempted to send each reactor into meltdown, it is vital that Nato is on full alert for constant cyber-attacks, with cyberspace becoming a new key frontier alongside land, sea, air and space. Latvia’s cyber offensive capability and Strategic Communications (STRATCOM) programme is the largest in Europe, and within the alliance Sweden and Finland would benefit from this additional layer of protection against an aggressive Russia.
While it seems that Nato has overestimated Russia’s material military capability and the effectiveness of their supporting infrastructure, they retain significant cyber warfare capabilities which they so far have not been reluctant to employ.
As Nato ratifies its new strategic concept in Madrid, this new frontier must be foremost in our leader’s minds.
Alec Shelbrooke is the Conservative MP for Elmet and Rothwell and leader of the UK delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.
Get the inside track on what MPs and Peers are talking about. Sign up to The House's morning email for the latest insight and reaction from Parliamentarians, policy-makers and organisations.