SURELY Russian president Vladmir Putin and his Kremlin cohorts must have considered the possibility when he decided to invade Ukraine?

I’m talking about the likelihood that far from neutering Nato such a move might conceivably strengthen the alliance.

Then again, the more Russia’s war in Ukraine unfolds the more one is left wondering at Putin’s miscalculations on so many fronts these days.

In many ways the West is still reeling from the February 24 invasion which when viewed from Europe’s perspective at least has been the equivalent of the 9/11 attacks on the US in its impact on security thinking.

In short, it’s been a geopolitical wakeup call that kicked into touch any lingering notion that diplomacy could produce a working and more stable relationship with Russia. The effect of that wakeup call was driven home yesterday as both Finland and Sweden moved a step closer to becoming Nato members.

As Sweden’s former prime minister Carl Bildt observed, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has created an entirely new security scenario for the two Nordic countries. It’s one Bildt noted in a recent article that “demonstrated overnight that Russia is in the hands of a regime that will use military force to impose its imperial designs on Europe”.

Depending on who you ask of course Sweden and Finland’s Nato membership ambitions are either being welcomed or resisted.

On one side the argument goes that it will create an even stronger bulwark against Russian aggression, while on the other detractors see it as a red rag to a bull in term of Moscow’s response, underlining Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov earlier insistence that “the alliance remains a tool geared towards confrontation”.

Even in Sweden itself unlike its Nordic neighbour Finland, there appears a certain wariness over becoming a member, though polls show that a larger number of Swedes than ever before see their place in Nato.

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Neutrality has long been part of Sweden’s national DNA, giving it an enviable record of not being involved in a conflict for more than 200 years. Add to this the fact that the country’s Social Democratic Party in part also has military non-alignment close to their heart, and any rush to join Nato is far from a given.

The Social Democrats’ position as such remains different from that of Sweden’s four centre-right parties that have been in favour of Nato membership for the past five years. As for the nationalist Sweden Democrats, they have already made it clear they will vote in favour of joining Nato if Finland decides to join the alliance.

Which brings us to Finland itself which is very much heading in the direction of membership.

It’s a move in part born out of both historical conflict with Russia as well as the fact that neutrality was imposed on Finland as a way of dealing with the Soviet Union and their shared border during the Cold War.

Conscious of this historical relationship, Finland today sits more uneasily than ever alongside its giant Russian neighbour and a regime that has starkly revealed itself to be no respecter of frontiers or national sovereignty. The bottom line here is that if Finland applies – which is almost certain – then Sweden is likely to do the same, to ensure that it does not become the sole Nordic outsider given that other Nordic countries – Norway, Denmark, and Iceland – joined the pact as founding members.

But even with both countries committing to join the alliance it could take up to a year for ratification of membership, as parliaments of all 30 Nato countries need to approve new members. This would of course give Putin time to make mischief and throw down the gauntlet should he choose to do so.

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With Moscow having already warned of “serious consequences” if Finland and Sweden join up, no doubt we will hear yet more threatening noises from the Kremlin about beefing up its land, naval and air forces in the Baltic Sea, and raise the possibility of deploying nuclear weapons in the area.

For Finland tricky times could lie ahead in the land domain given its 830-mile border with Russia, likewise in the maritime domain when it comes to Sweden, considering the many islands it has in the Baltic Sea, including strategically important Gotland.

Should both countries commit, then that period between application and accession to Nato membership is sure to be tense and uncertain as Moscow brings pressure to bear.

Until both Nordic neighbours are full members and come under the Nato’s Article 5 defence guarantee, Putin is sure to up the geopolitical ante even if Russia evidently has its work cut out right now in Ukraine.

So, am I in favour of Sweden and Finland becoming members? The short answer is yes. Both Nordic countries are among the world’s most robust democracies and it’s precisely such countries that are needed right now to stand together in making it harder for Putin to threaten more European countries.

For Sweden and Finland Nato membership would make them feel more secure while bringing bringing fresh resources to the alliance both militarily and geographically by providing strategic access to the northern region of Europe.

In a nutshell it would prove beneficial for the security architecture of Europe at a time when democratic values and interests are under threat. All that said, there remains of course the danger that Russia will see it as confirmation of Nato ambitions and raise the stakes even further over Ukraine.

But if President Putin is so concerned about ‘Nato expansionism,” then by ordering the invasion of Ukraine, he himself carries as much responsibility for Nato’s ninth enlargement since its foundation in 1949.

To put it quite simply he should have thought of that before attacking Ukraine and history will show that this, if anything, was Vladimir’s Putin’s Nato enlargement.

Had Russia not made such an act of aggression, I doubt very much whether Sweden or Finland would have been quite so inclined towards being part of the Nato club.