IT’s Win-Win All Round. For Putin too.
A threatened Russia is just what he wants.
Sweden and Finland are joining NATO, their decades-long tradition of neutrality tossed overboard in the wake of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. The move has garnered the Russian leader a lot of derisive jeers from the western commentariat, who assume that this must be unwelcome news in the Kremlin, an ironic and well-deserved consequence of his aggressive folly.
But the opposite is true. Putin has quite evidently been intent on stoking western hostility throughout this entire crisis. For example, just as Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin huddled with Magdalena Anderson, her Swedish counterpart, to discuss their applications to join the alliance, he gives them an encouraging shove by threatening to deploy nuclear weapons close to their coasts.
This makes sense once you understand that Putin is wholly concentrated, foremost and lastmost, on preserving his own regime. The basis of his power has always been his pose as the strong leader who defends a threatened Russia. Ergo, the more Russia is threatened, the stronger his position. As I explained in an earlier post, “Putin’s Private Passion,” his Ukrainian policy made political sense for him as a means of outflanking the nationalists on his right flank, a group that now includes the Communist Party of the Russian Federation.
So everybody wins. Marin and Anderson (who is facing a tricky election in the fall) will profit from their martial display. As a member of the club, the Swedes may finally be allowed sell their very capable Gripen fighter in the NATO market. The euphoria of the Lockheed Martin Corporation (which has been going gangbusters with sales of the certifiably hopeless F-35 around Europe, including to Finland) can be taken for granted.
And Putin wins, as his rocketing poll numbers attest.
The Ukrainian people lose terribly, of course, as will Russians immiserated by sanctions. But political leaders east and west don’t really seem to care about them.