From the moment that Russia began amassing troops on the border of Ukraine, telegraphing their impending invasion, there were whispers about the potential for the coming conflict to bloom into something much larger. In fact, there were some who believed, even at this early stage, that there was the potential of kicking of World War III on account of the Kremlin’s ostensibly kooky suggestions about rebuilding the old Russian empire and potentially using nuclear weapons to do so.
Now, as NATO expands to add another 800 miles of border with Russia, the international organization is preparing for the worst.
At a summit in Madrid, NATO leaders agreed to put more than 300,000 troops on high alert while beefing up its European defenses with extra forces, enhanced air power and new equipment, including two additional squadrons of US F-35 stealth fighters. After Turkey dropped its veto on Sweden and Finland’s membership applications, the alliance is also set to add two new members, bolstering the exposed Baltic nations.
And it wasn’t just Russia on their mind, either.
Signaling a shift to a more global perspective, NATO leaders also identified China’s increasing military presence as a “challenge” for the first time and sought to deepen relations with democracies in the Asia-Pacific region as a counterweight to Beijing.
Putting it bluntly:
“Having a common enemy with a strategic nuclear arsenal tends to concentrate minds and encourage cooperation,” said Mary Elise Sarotte, a professor of historical studies at SAIS Johns Hopkins University.
NATO extended an invitation to both Sweden and Finland this week, bringing to fruition one of Vladimir Putin’s most dire concerns, and signaling that his invasion of Ukraine has backfired in more ways than one.