Russian President Vladimir Putin is waking up to a security disaster.
In February, he said that his country’s “special operation” against Ukraine was a preemptive move to terminate NATO’s “endless” expansion in Russia’s former stomping ground – Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.
As a result of Russia’s aggression, however, that is exactly what is going to happen.
Finland and Sweden have said they want to join the 30-member security bloc – a process that may take up to a year.
Once they are in, NATO forces may be right next to the Finnish-Russian border that stretches 1,340km (833 miles) across pine forests and frigid lakes.Upon its inception at the Cold War’s dawn in 1949, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) had only 12 members.
After the 1991 Soviet collapse, 11 Eastern European nations that used to be Moscow’s satellites and three Soviet republics joined the alliance.
The Kremlin saw the expansion as an existential threat, and a call to end it was part of Putin’s laundry list of demands handed to the collective West, prior to the February 24 invasion of Ukraine.
So, the announcements by Stockholm and Helsinki deal a double blow to Putin’s reputation both abroad and at home.
“This marks Putin’s defeat on two fronts – foreign and domestic,” Sergei Biziukin, a publicist and opposition activist who fled Russia in 2019, told Al Jazeera.