Video Above: Patriot Interceptor Missiles & F-35s Could Defend NATOs Eastern Flank Together
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin says both Finland and Sweden are “close” to joining NATO, a development which would doubtless further reshape the alliance’s security posture on the Eastern front.
NATO Finland and Sweden
“NATO is also close to welcoming two new members to the Alliance, and Finland and Sweden have made the historic decisions to apply for membership, and that reflects the appeal of NATO's core values,” Austin said following a meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels, Belgium.
There are a variety of key ways in which Sweden and Finland would greatly impact the NATO alliance, beyond simply expanding its size and geographical reach. For instance, Finland has now formally become an F-35 customer, joining a growing group of European countries capable of participating in data-sharing, multinational F-35 formations across the continent.
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The largest impact, perhaps, is simply that Finland borders Russia and opens up a large Northern corridor through which NATO could enter Russian territory if needed. Part of this proximity also means that short-and-medium range ballistic missiles would be in position to reach deeper into Russian territory if needed.
F-35s and Abrams Tanks
The geographical dynamics here pertain not only to armored formations or 5th-generation air power but also surveillance. The ranges of next-generation drones and surveillance planes are such that real-time video feeds from strategically critical areas within Russia could be gathered and sent more quickly from closer-in-ranges. From a purely tactical point of view, having both Sweden and Finland as NATO members would immeasurable strengthen NATO’s deterrence posture and prospects for victory in the event of a major war with Russia.
Force deployment is another critical variable, because in the event that NATO needed to mass large formations, Finland offers both large space and a direct route to Moscow. Although Poland is getting F-35s and Abrams tanks, forces gathered there would be in less of a position for rapid deployment or force staging as they would need to transit Belarus or Ukraine in order to access the Russian border.
On the Finish border, however, there is vast open terrain upon which to stage large, heavy ground forces in preparation for a land incursion into Russia. This would be critical in the event that NATO needed to use tanks, given that they are difficult to deploy and have trouble traveling by air. A large land force would also need time to assemble, prepare and stage.
The largest advantage of all of this may simply be that the entire Scandinavian peninsula will become part of NATO, an area surrounding the Baltic Sea and enlarging NATO’s proximity and access to the Arctic.
Kris Osborn is the President of Warrior Maven - Center for Military Modernization and the Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.