The Russian leader has constantly criticised NATO’s expansion towards Russia’s borders, since the end of the Cold War. Many of the former Warsaw Pact countries in Eastern Europe were granted membership of the western military alliance after the collapse of the Soviet Union. This has infuriated the Russian leader, who has consistently argued that NATO expansion undermined Russia’s security and posed an existential threat to his country.
Putin has devoted much energy in trying to undermine NATO and prevent its further enlargement.
Mr Neil, however, argued that the Russian President had only succeeded in strengthening the organisation and increasing its appeal to non-aligned countries.
He said: “Putin has always wanted to weaken NATO and stop its membership growing.
“Thanks to his Ukraine misadventure historically neutral Finland and Sweden are expected to join this summer, taking membership to 32.”
Both Sweden and Finland have started to re-evaluate their stance on NATO membership.
Currently they are non-aligned militarily, but public support for NATO membership has surged in the wake of Russia’s attack on Ukraine.
A new opinion poll shows as many as 68 percent of Finns are now in favour of joining the military alliance.
Alexander Stubb, a former prime minister of Finland, told AFP it was “a foregone conclusion” that Helsinki would apply to join, probably in time for a June Nato summit in Madrid.
Sanna Marin, the Finnish prime minister, said her government would reach a decision no later than by midsummer.
She said: “We will have very careful discussions, but not taking any more time than we have to.
“I think we will end the discussion before midsummer.”
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US officials are increasingly confident that Finland and Sweden will apply for membership, after NATO leaders met with the foreign ministers from both countries for talks last week.
The prospect of the Nordic countries becoming full members of the military alliance delighted the former Lithuanian Foreign Minister.
Linas Linkevicius tweeted: “It’s very likely that #Putin will achieve even more geostrategic ‘victories’ coming summer.
“#NATO will invite #Finland and #Sweden to join its ranks. That would be a huge boost to the security of our region.
“We need you! Tervetuloa mukaan! Välkommen ombord! #WeAreNATO!”