A war aimed at halting NATO expansion has ended up expediting it writes Andrew Murray

Joe Biden signing the Instruments of Ratification giving US approval for Finland and Sweden’s membership in NATO.

This week Finland has joined NATO, doubling the length of the border the US-dominated military alliance shares with Russia.

It did so after overcoming objections to its membership from Turkey and Hungary.  Those objections are still stalling the bid by neighbouring Sweden to likewise join.

Since NATO is invariably described as an alliance of democratic states – something that has scant historical foundation – the incongruity of two democratic Scandinavian countries being denied entry by indubitably authoritarian Turkey and largely undemocratic Hungary should escape no one.

Russia has already responded by saying it will take unspecified countermeasures in the region. So, a further escalation to international tension has been the immediate and predictable outcome of this move.

The Social-Democratic government which promoted Finland’s accession has been defeated at the polls. That is unlikely to change things, however, since the main opposition parties also support the NATO accession policy.

This latest enlargement of NATO is a consequence of the war in Ukraine. Prior to Putin’s attack last year, there had been scant support in Finland for deviating from the neutrality it had followed since the Second World War.

Again, therefore, the counter-productive nature of Russian actions has been highlighted. A war aimed at halting NATO expansion has ended up expediting it. While Ukraine itself remains outside NATO that is little more than a formality now. Its Defence Minister has said that the country is effectively a member of the alliance.

Indeed, Ukraine is now flooded with NATO arms and military advisers, directing and prolonging the war with Russia.

NATO’s policy is set by Washington. US power underwrites the alliance’s every move. Ultimately, the US is responsible for the illegal NATO aggression against Yugoslavia in 1999, the disastrous 20-year NATO occupation of Afghanistan and the equally catastrophic NATO attack on Libya in 2011.

While Britain and France played a prominent part in some of these aggressions, they would have been unable to act without US support.

Finland will now be committed to such policies in future. The list of NATO aggressions should remind us that it is not a defensive alliance, nor does it confine its military operations to the North Atlantic.

Its eastward expansion had been a major contributory factor in the war in Ukraine. Russia’s concern at this expansion does not justify its attack on Ukraine, but the actual record of NATO shows that its fears are not irrational.

Conversely, any peace settlement in Ukraine which is to have any chance of enduring must address the security of all states in Europe, Russia included. Finland’s move adds nothing to that perspective.

Stop the War remains opposed to NATO expansion, as it does to Russia’s invasion. The priority is to secure a ceasefire in Ukraine which can help avoid any further escalations of a desperately dangerous security situation.

05 Apr 2023 by Andrew Murray

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