NATO, Stefanini: “Putin’s strategic failure to enter Finland”

The former ambassador: “Moscow’s reaction? It’s hard to say what it can do beyond a rhetorical elevation”

Finland’s entry into NATO represents for President Putin’s Russia “a strategic and political failure”, “a result contrary to what was hoped for”. For the Alliance it is a decisive step, because “it makes the Baltic countries much more easily defensible”. This was underlined by Stefano Stefanini, senior advisor of ISPI, former ambassador to NATO and former diplomatic advisor to President Giorgio Napolitano.

“The cause that led Finland and Sweden to abandon neutrality – observes Stefanini, speaking with Adnkronos – was the Russian invasion of Ukraine, carried out by the Russian side – allegedly – to prevent Kiev from joining NATO, even if at that moment it was not in the cards. The result obtained is the opposite of what was hoped: that of bringing two important countries such as Finland and Sweden from a tradition of neutrality maintained throughout the Cold War to join NATO”.

It is difficult to predict what can be expected now from Moscow, even if “Finland’s entry has now been discounted for some time, formally by the approval of the Turkish parliament, but it has been in the air for more than a year, and it has been abundantly announced. Furthermore, NATO – he underlines – is a defensive alliance, the entry of Finland does not represent a threat to Russia, but it strengthens the defensive capacity of the Alliance. Moscow is then committed to its hair in Ukraine, it is difficult to say what could go beyond a rhetorical elevation, even if everything can be expected from Putin and Russia for more than thirteen months”.

As for the announcement of the transfer of Iskander missiles from Russia to Belarus, he continues, “it is nothing new, or in any case it is not strictly linked to Finland’s entry, as Putin had announced it the day after Xi Jinping’s visit to Moscow and at the time he had presented it as a response to the promise to supply Kiev from London with depleted uranium shells, which, moreover, have nothing nuclear”.

“However, the making available of the Iskanders to the Belarusian forces is worrying – he continues – if only for the fact that if the Iskanders are also supplied with nuclear warheads, this means making Belarus a country with nuclear weapons. And this goes against the Non-Proliferation Treaty, all the commitments made by the nuclear powers, starting with Russia, and a policy that has been constantly followed by the nuclear powers trying to limit the number of countries equipped with these weapons. Giving them to a regime like Lukashenko’s is even more worrying.” But, he adds, “it is very very doubtful – even if with Putin you never know – that the Russians want to put control of their nuclear weapons in the hands of another country”.

Strategically, the announcement about the Iskanders “doesn’t change much for NATO: the Iskanders are already in Kaliningrad, very close to the Alliance. We don’t know if they have nuclear warheads but they can carry them”, Stefanini continues, who then points out “the difference of reaction with respect to the prospect of Finland and Sweden joining NATO or instead of Ukraine, a difference that reveals the ethnic-nationalist foundation of the war unleashed by Putin”.

Russia, “at least so far, has also reacted verbally with less anger than when faced with the prospect of Ukraine. This has to do with another discourse, which is that of the real reason for the invasion of Ukraine, the conviction of Putin to be an integral part of Russia, the real goal, the Russification of the country, if not with the annexation of all of Ukraine, with the installation of a pro-Russian regime in Kiev, as there is in Minsk. Sweden have never been judged by Russia as part of its nation, however neutral they have never been in the orbit of Moscow which has always recognized them as independent states, while Ukraine does not recognize sovereignty”.

For NATO, the change is immediately perceptible by looking at the map: “When Sweden also enters, the Baltic Sea will almost become a ‘NATO lake’, almost all the coasts surrounding what is a practically closed sea will belong to member countries”.