The NATO Welcoming Sweden Is Larger and More Determined

By John Mercury February 27, 2024

BERLIN — Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine two years ago was an enormous shock to Europeans. Used to 30 years of post-Cold War peace, they had imagined European security would be built alongside a more democratic Russia, not reconstructed against a revisionist imperial war machine.

There was no bigger shock than in Finland, with its long border and historical tension with Russia, and in Sweden, which had dismantled 90 percent of its army and 70 percent of its air force and navy in the years after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

After the decision by Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, to try to destroy a sovereign neighbor, both Finland and Sweden rapidly decided to apply to join the NATO alliance, the only clear guarantee of collective defense against a newly aggressive and reckless Russia.

With Finland having joined last year, and the Hungarian Parliament finally approving Sweden’s application on Monday, Mr. Putin now finds himself faced with an enlarged and motivated NATO, one that is no longer dreaming of a permanent peace.

As NATO countries look with some trepidation at the possibility that the unpredictable Donald J. Trump, no fan of the alliance, may become U.S. president again, its European members are taking measures to ensure their own defenses regardless.

Critics consider their actions to be too slow and too small, but NATO is spending more money on defense, making more tanks, artillery shells, drones and jet fighters, putting more troops on Russia’s borders and approving more serious military plans for any potential war — while funneling billions of dollars into Ukraine’s efforts to blunt Russia’s ambitions.


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