University of Connecticut Department of Geography research scholar Barry Zellen’s continuing interview with Dr. Julian Reid, University of Lapland on the implications of Finland’s April 4, 2023 accession to the NATO alliance.
Zellen: With their land borders now closed to Russian entry, has the Nordic region shut off a much-needed escape hatch for young Russian men avoiding conscription and opponents of the war avoiding persecution – and would allowing refugees to arrive by land provide a helpful escape route for opponents of Putin’s war?
Reid: For sure. The closing of the border and the severing of relations with Russians, including the Russian academic community, looks really narrow-sighted for all sorts of reasons.
Zellen: Has the war in Ukraine, by consuming fighting men from Russia’s remote northern communities as well as military weapons and ammunition hitherto stored in the north near to the Nordic states, paradoxically reduced the military threat Russia poses to the Nordics?
Reid: That would certainly be one way of looking at it. It would be foolish to underestimate the importance of the Arctic to Russia though. Given that its contemporary strategy of cooperation over conflict in the Arctic no longer has the same value, I think we can anticipate a shift towards their using conflict as a means by which to make strategic gains. They have no choice when the other Arctic states are offering them so little to work with otherwise.
Zellen: What’s your prognosis on the year to come: will the Ukraine war expand geographically, might Russia implode militarily or experience internal upheaval comparable to the end of WWI when domestic instability rendered Russia’s military unable to project power externally? Or, might Russia master the art of protracted warfare, and regain momentum – both in Ukraine and beyond. Could Russia turn to its nuclear arsenal if it wants to double down on the fight and if so, would this increase the security risk to the Nordic region?
Reid: I think Russia is invested in its ability to hold out in Ukraine and fight a protracted war against adversaries, the morale of which will be worn down over time. How long that might take it is impossible to say. One has to look at this current conflict in context of the realities of U.S. economic and strategic decline, the growth of power of China, and the immiseration of Europe. In context of which Russia has every reason to trust in its capacities to outlast the West in Ukraine.