NATOSource Director and Brent Scowcroft Center Senior Fellow Jorge Benitez writes for US News and World Report on Russia’s efforts to keep Sweden and Finland out of NATO:
Russia’s ambassador to Sweden, Viktor Tatarintsev, recently warned Sweden that if it joined NATO, Russia would respond with “counter measures.” Unfortunately, this was not an isolated threat. It is part of a pattern of earlier threats issued by senior Russian leaders to Sweden and Finland to bully them to comply with Moscow’s wishes over their alliance choices. Stockholm and Helsinki must not underestimate these threats and should make more of an effort to deter Russia from carrying them out. Deterring Russia will require greater political attention to this problem and more defense capabilities against this unconventional military threat.
Tatarintsev made it clear that these threats come directly from Russian President Vladimir Putin. The ambassador specifically warned that “Putin [himself] pointed out that there will be consequences,” if Sweden or Finland try to join NATO. What kind of consequences are the Russians threatening? According to Tatarintsev, Russia’s response will be “of the military kind.” These threats are very troubling because Russia is being very explicit that if Sweden and Finland move closer to NATO membership, Russia’s response will be a lot more dangerous than simple diplomatic criticism. Moscow has already demonstrated it is willing to overreact to misperceived threats to Russia’s security.