In response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Scandinavian nations Finland and Sweden have both submitted applications to officially join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a military alliance both nations have been informally aligned with for decades.
A top U.S. general just assured a Senate committee this week that Finland and Sweden joining NATO would likely not result in additional U.S. troops being deployed to Europe, though he did acknowledge a likely increase in the frequency of military exercises and troop rotations in the region, Breitbart reported.
That assurance came from Gen. Christopher Cavoli, the current commander of U.S. Army forces in Europe and Africa, who has been nominated by President Joe Biden to be the leader of all U.S. forces under European Command as well as the supreme allied commander of NATO.
Nations would provide crucial benefits to the alliance
During testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Cavoli welcomed the idea of Finland and Sweden joining NATO and said, “Each of those militaries brings quite a bit of capability and capacity to the alliance from day one,” according to Defense One.
The general praised Finland’s already highly-trained and well-equipped military and its decades of experience in guarding its own border with Russia, and was similarly pleased with Sweden’s smaller but growing and equally well-trained military and naval forces.
“Critically, they bring a Navy in the Baltic Sea, which will be of enormous military significance for the alliance,” Cavoli explained. “The entire [Baltic] Sea with the exception of a few kilometers will be coastline of NATO nations, which will create a very different geometry in the area.”
No more U.S. troops are necessary
Both of those Scandinavian nations have historically remained militarily neutral and unencumbered with alliances, but nevertheless have fought and trained alongside NATO forces for years, and according to Business Insider, Gen. Cavoli insisted, “I think it will be quite easy for us to integrate them quickly. We’ve been integrating them in our large-scale exercises as well as our operations abroad for some years now.”
Further, while the general suggested the addition of those two nations to NATO would not require additional deployments of U.S. troops, it would likely force Russia to redeploy some of its own forces to its shared border with Finland which previously had been not been a high priority.
The prospect of needing to deploy more U.S. troops to Europe is a legitimate concern raised by some, but the general insisted that the Biden administration plans to keep roughly the same number of U.S. troops in the region going forward, around 100,000, though that number was increased by Biden in recent months from the roughly 80,000 who were stationed in Europe prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Breitbart noted.
Opposition to NATO expansion
Not everybody is thrilled with the idea of Finland and Sweden joining NATO, particularly member nation Turkey, as the Associated Press reported that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to veto their acceptance — unanimity of all members is required — over the support those Scandinavian nations have given to certain Kurdish militia forces that Turkey views as terrorist organizations.
Also skeptical of NATO expansion more broadly is the U.K.’s Brexit leader Nigel Farage, who warned that acceptance of the pair of northern European nations would be a “mistake” that would “box in” Russia’s borders and fuel Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “paranoia” about NATO further encroaching on Russia’s natural sphere of influence.
It will be interesting to see if these concerns can be mollified enough for Finland and Sweden to be unanimously accepted as new members of NATO, not to mention if Gen. Cavoli’s assurances against additional U.S. troop deployments were true or not.