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The risks and rationale of expanding NATO

The Prime Minister of Sweden Magdalena Andersson (L) and the Prime Minister of Finland Sanna Marin give a joint press conference in Helsinki, Finland on December 8, 2021. (Markku Ulander/Lehtikuva/AFP via Getty Images)
The Prime Minister of Sweden Magdalena Andersson (L) and the Prime Minister of Finland Sanna Marin give a joint press conference in Helsinki, Finland on December 8, 2021. (Markku Ulander/Lehtikuva/AFP via Getty Images)

Listen to our hour on how NATO expansion happened in the ’90s here.


For 75 years, Kremlin threats kept Finland and Sweden out NATO.

“I think he said something like, ‘Now, when we look over the border towards Finland, we see a friend. If Finland joins NATO, we will see an enemy,'” Finnish diplomat Heli Hautala says.

Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine changed that overnight.

“It’s startling the change in public outlook in these countries,” Wess Mitchell, former assistant secretary of state for Europe and Eurasia, says. “And the calculation is that if they don’t come into NATO, they’re worried that they could be a tempting target.”

However extending NATO’s tripwire right up to Russia’s borders isn’t risk free.

“It makes a lot of sense for states that have fears about Russian aggression to want to come in, particularly under the American nuclear umbrella,” Emma Ashford, a fellow at the Atlantic Council, says.

“But it does then obligate all of us to risk escalation to a broader war, for not very much in terms of military commitments from these states.”

Today, On Point: The risks and rationale of expanding NATO now.

Guests

Emma Ashford, senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. (@EmmaMAshford)

Heli Hautala, Finnish diplomat. Visiting fellow at the Center for a New American Security. (@heli_hautala)

Wess Mitchell, principal at The Marathon Initiative. Former assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs. Co-author of a 2020 ‘reflection’ report on NATO’s future.

Related Reading

Foreign Policy: “Putin United the West—but Now Comes the Hard Part” — “Security will require painful trade-offs Western governments may not be ready to make.”

Center for a New American Security: “Russia Is Driving Sweden and Finland Closer to NATO” — “In December, Russia published two draft agreements that seek security guarantees from the United States and NATO and aim to change the European security order.”

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.