This article highlights the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and its increased boundaries in relation to Russia, primarily due to the recent inclusion of Finland as its 31st member in April 2023.
What is the context?
- NATO’s territory has almost doubled along its borders with Russia.
- Finland joined NATO as its 31st member in April 2023.
- Sweden is also set to become a member after the ratification process.
- This will further expand NATO’s territorial expanse.
- The Baltic Sea will become a NATO-controlled body of water.
- The accession of Finland was the quickest on record.
- NATO’s expansion:
- Finland became NATO’s 31st member in April 2023, with Sweden set to follow once the ratification process is complete.
- This expansion has almost doubled NATO’s borders with Russia, making the Baltic Sea a NATO lake and causing Russia to increase its military presence in adjacent areas.
- Nordic countries, previously focused on internal socio-economic development and military non-alignment. Now they have abandoned their neutrality due to the unpredictability of Vladimir Putin’s actions and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
- Russia’s actions have strengthened European unity, but NATO’s expansion has created more frontiers and complicated the security landscape.
Implications for the Arctic:
- Climate change and the potential for untapped resources have increased attention on the Arctic region.
- Nordic countries, along with Russia, Canada, and the United States, are members of the Arctic Council, and the region may become a new geo-strategic dimension.
- Confrontations between Russia and other actors in the Arctic have already occurred. NATO’s expansion may increase the potential for conflict.
Implications for India:
- India has had limited engagement with NATO but needs to be mindful of the potential scenarios that may emerge.
- India’s relationship with Russia is unlikely to help Moscow counter NATO’s expansion, and Russia may increasingly turn to China for support.
- India has expressed interest in cooperating with the Nordic region, but NATO’s expansion may complicate India’s strategic choices.
- India’s observer status in the Arctic Council and Arctic policy may be affected by the region’s militarization. And particularly with China claiming ‘Near Arctic State’ status and partnering with Russia in the region.