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NATO Expansion Could Finally Shore Up Alliance’s Weakest Flank

The accession of Finland and Sweden would give the organization scope to protect the Baltic, long seen as a vulnerable region.

A Finnish Army tank crew during the Arrow 22 training exercise in May.

A Finnish Army tank crew during the Arrow 22 training exercise in May.

Photographer: Roni Rekomaa/Bloomberg

NATO has long faced a complex military problem: how to best defend the Baltic states that border Russia and Belarus if ever Moscow chose to attack. President Vladimir Putin may have inadvertently forced a solution.

While much of the focus of deteriorating east-west relations has been on Germany’s new military plans, the expected accession of Finland and Sweden to the 30-member transatlantic alliance is part of the biggest shift in European foreign policy to emerge since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. After waging war in part to stop NATO’s expansion, Putin is now confronted with the opposite.