Author note for print: Barry Scott Zellen is a visiting scholar in the Department of Geography at the University of Connecticut.
UConn Department of Geography research scholar Barry Zellen’s continued interview with Dr. Julian Reid, University of Lapland, on the implications of Finland’s April 4, 2023 accession to the NATO alliance.
Zellen: Has Turkey’s continued opposition to Sweden’s accession (unless it renounces it support for the Kurds and extradites selected “terrorists” and other bad actors to Turkey), and Hungarian resistance to expanding the alliance to include Sweden (in tacit support of Russia) led to any second thoughts in Helsinki?
Reid: No, not at all. The opposition of Turkey and Hungary has been cast as a minor irritant, and something simply to be dealt with and surpassed, but not in itself a reason to reconsider. Nothing seems to be able to confuse Finland’s certainty as to the wisdom of its application to join NATO.
Zellen: While Russia has appeared only mildly concerned in its public statements with the NATO expansion across the Nordic region, could Moscow in fact be far more upset than it has let on, and might this lead to increased tension and potential conflict with Russia that might otherwise have been avoided through continued neutrality?
Reid: For sure. Maybe ‘upset’ is the wrong word though. I am sure, given their larger views on NATO expansion, that Moscow will be taking it very seriously indeed, and that all its calculations concerning present and future strategic engagements with NATO, and with Finland in particular, will be changed accordingly. This will have every consequence long into the future, practically for as long as anyone can foresee.
Zellen: If Russia does feel pressure from the expansion, what might it do? Could it use force, or hybrid-warfare methods below the threshold of war, to sow the region with instability and where might it do so? Would Lapland be at risk?
Reid: They will certainly be looking at other areas of the border with NATO as potential spaces to act and change the dynamics of the conflict with and in Ukraine. It would make common sense to do so. One way or the other they have to engage NATO with a view to weakening it. How and where that will happen, we will have to see. But for sure, Finland has offered itself up as a potential battle space, and that includes Lapland too.