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Russia threatens a strong response against Finland or Sweden if they apply to join NATO. What could Russia do against these countries? After all, they are already in EU and hence included in the EU defense mechanisms such as the mutual defense clause (but that does not include USA, the strongest NATO member, nor "the UK).

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    It might be better to ask if Russia has provided any specific recourse in case of those countries joining NATO. That way, the question can be answered objectively.
    – JJJ
    Feb 25, 2022 at 20:14

2 Answers 2

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Russia could invade them, just as it has the Ukraine. It could do pretty much anything else it wanted as well. Since Russia has nuclear weapons, to the extent that it makes a credible threat that it will use them, other nations opposing Russian military action have to decide it is worth the risk of nuclear attack to support Sweden and/or Finland.

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    Do other EU nations have a choice though? The EU mutual defense clause is phrased in a way that seems more binding than NATO's article 5. Especially: "the other Member States shall have towards it an obligation of aid and assistance by all the means in their power" (from article 42.7 TEU)
    – JJJ
    Feb 25, 2022 at 23:05
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    @JJJ Treaty language is just words on paper. What remedy would Sweden or Finland have if the other EU Members left them hanging in the face of a Russian invasion with a credible threat of nuclear attack against any country that intervened?
    – ohwilleke
    Feb 25, 2022 at 23:10
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    By not acting on the EU mutual defense clause they would basically make NATO obsolete as well; those are also just words on paper. And EU and NATO members in the east will feel pressure because they might be next. So others in the West should have an incentive to act even if they are reluctant. The scenario you describe is basically the salami tactics I cited in my answer here.
    – JJJ
    Feb 25, 2022 at 23:23
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    @JJJ The NATO clause is the same for these purposes. History is full of cases when allies pledged by solemn treaties of mutual defense fail to meet their obligations.
    – ohwilleke
    Feb 25, 2022 at 23:29
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    And this includes the assurances Russia gave to NOT attack Ukraine, in the Budapest Memorandum. Putin claims that the post-Euromaidan Ukraine is literally a "different country" than the one Russia promised to not attack. Feb 27, 2022 at 21:48
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A question of Credibility

The West appears convinced that they cannot hold the Baltics. Yet NATO decided to deploy one (reinforced) battalion each to the three Baltic states. These forces cannot defend against a Russian attack. At best, they can fall back fighting, at worst they go down fighting or are forced to surrender. So why would NATO deploy these forces?

The clue is in the composition. Each EFP battlegroup is built around a mechanized infantry battalion headquarters, from the UK, Canada, and Germany. (The US leads an EFP battalion in Poland, which is a different case.) It also includes contingents from other nations. But why? Not because Canada needs a recon squad from Montenegro, or because Germany needs an Icelandic public affairs officer. The units are multinational to underscore that an attack on the Baltics is an attack on all.

So NATO could deploy similar EFP battlegroups to new or prospective member states. Russia would then have to gamble that all these countries would cut their losses after the defeat of an armored company here, an artillery battery there -- too much to explain away as 'accidental collateral damage' or 'oops, we didn't notice.'

Further enhancing NATO credibility in this hypothetical, an attack on Sweden would have to go around the Baltics or through the Baltics. In either case, a clear threat against NATO members.

On the minus side, there were questions throughout the Cold War that the Americans would trade New York for Paris. This caused France and the UK to develop their independent nuclear deterrent.

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  • And that's why Ukraine was foolish to give up all the nuclear weapons they inherited. wsj.com/articles/… Feb 27, 2022 at 22:05
  • @Fizz, they inherited the hardware but not the launch codes. They might have re-manufactured them.
    – o.m.
    Feb 28, 2022 at 5:19

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