AMU Intelligence Original

What Sweden Joining NATO Will Mean for Russian Power Goals

The latest meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Council has put an end to a yearlong saga concerning the admission of Sweden to NATO. With Sweden joining NATO, Putin will have a NATO nation at the Russian border, posing a direct threat to Russian national security.  

Putin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine has encouraged more Scandinavian states, such as Finland (admitted in a previous summit), to join NATO. Also, the invasion of Ukraine may have caused many NATO members to commit larger parts of their budget toward protecting their own security.

Related: Why Sweden Has Remained Hesitant about Joining NATO

Turkey Withdrew Its Objection to Sweden Joining NATO

CNN reported that NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg announced at a news conference in Vilnius, Lithuania, that the road is open for Sweden to join NATO. This announcement followed a meeting between Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson.

Stoltenberg said that Erdoğan “has agreed to forward the accession protocol for Sweden to the Grand National Assembly as soon as possible, and work closely with the Assembly to ensure ratification.”

As I mentioned in an article from February, Turkey objected to Sweden’s request to join NATO, due to anti-Turkish terrorist activities with Swedish roots. Ankara accused the Kurdish community in Sweden of supporting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (also known as the PKK), a Kurdish organization that has used violence against Turkish targets for several decades. Beyond that, there have been cases of Quran burning, which have sent shock waves through the Muslim world and caused Erdoğan to criticize Sweden.

Related: Turkey, Earthquakes and the Geopolitics of National Disasters

Turkey and US Weapons Via Sweden

As many news outlets such as the Associated Press reported, not much is actually expected from Sweden. Last year, Sweden agreed to pay more attention to Kurdish activity and has kept that promise. Ulf Kristersson has also explained his attempts to limit Quran burning as much as possible under Swedish law.

Turkey is actually interested in U.S. weapons. ABC News observed, “Erdoğan’s promise to Stoltenberg to reverse course on Sweden’s NATO membership may also have been linked to Turkey’s efforts to upgrade its fleet of F-16 fighter jets. Turkey has asked the U.S. for approval to buy 40 new F-16s, as well as kits to upgrade its existing fleet.

“The request was backed by the White House but ran into opposition in Congress. Both U.S. and Turkish officials have insisted that any such deal would not be linked to Sweden’s NATO membership.

But within hours of Erdoğan apparently dropping his veto on Sweden, President Joe Biden signaled that the U.S. intended to proceed with the F-16 sale in consultation with Congress. In a statement welcoming Erdoğan’s agreement to bring Sweden’s NATO bid before Parliament, Biden said he will work with Turkey ‘on enhancing defense and deterrence in the Euro-Atlantic area.’”

Turkey’s withdrawal of its objection to Sweden joining NATO is yet another step in the changing trajectory of Turkish foreign policy. Overall, Turkish rhetoric has grown less vitriolic in the past few years, and Erdoğan appears to be calming down as hie gets nearer to the end of his political career.

With Finland and Sweden Joining NATO, What Are the Implications for Russia?

To NATO, Sweden and Finland are bringing small but capable armies. According to Defense News, Sweden and Finland “will collectively contribute over 150 fighter aircraft, including 96 JAS-39 Gripens and 62 F/A-18 Hornets. By the end of the decade, Finland intends to acquire 64 fifth-generation F-35 fighter aircraft. This compares with Polish plans to acquire 32 F-35s and Italian plans to acquire 90 F-35s.

“Sweden is also set to procure two advanced GlobalEye airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft, more capable platforms than the aging E-3A AWACS planes NATO currently uses to monitor European airspace. AEW&C aircraft are critical components of an effective air defense system. Indeed, at their June 29 summit in Madrid, NATO members endorsed a strategy to ‘ensure the seamless delivery of the next generation Airborne Warning & Control System (AWACS) and related capabilities.’”

Reuters added that the most significant addition from Sweden joining NATO will be the Swedish navy, saying, “Sweden has three advanced Gotland-class submarines and one older model which will be retired when two new design A26 vessels are delivered in 2027 and 2028, giving it five by the end of the decade….Sweden has been operating submarines in the Baltic since 1904. None of the neighboring countries have been as active underwater as the Swedes.”

So with both Sweden and Finland joining NATO, the Russian attempt to keep NATO away from Russian borders has failed. The attack on Ukraine has backfired in that sense.

Instead of deterring NATO from getting close to Russia, NATO has come closer. This situation shows that Putin’s foreign policy and his entire legacy are failing.

Looking at the destabilization of the Russian sphere of influence, the Putin era has become a colossal failure, notwithstanding a total termination of Western support to Ukraine. Russian hopes for a swift victory and the installation of a pro-Russian government in Kiev failed.

While there is not a clear end in sight for the war in Ukraine, the might of the Russian army has been shown to be hollow. The mighty empire that Putin has sought to recreate in the name of Pan-Slavism and Christian Orthodox Unity is a goal that is unlikely to gain momentum. Putin’s legacy will likely be that of Russia being relegated to a second-class power in world politics.

Ilan Fuchs

Dr. Ilan Fuchs is a scholar of international law and legal history. He holds a B.A. in Humanities and Social Science from The Open University of Israel and an M.A. in Jewish history from Bar-Ilan University. Ilan’s other degrees include an LL.B., an LL.M. and a Ph.D. in Law from Bar-Ilan University. He is the author of “Jewish Women’s Torah Study: Orthodox Education and Modernity,” and 18 articles in leading scholarly journals. At the University, Ilan teaches courses on international law while maintaining a law practice in several jurisdictions.

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