For Putin, a Nordic Nightmare Is Springing to Life

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For years, President Vladimir V. Putin has viewed the expansion of NATO as an existential threat that would leave Russia hemmed in with Western missiles on its doorstep. Now, Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine seems to be bringing the Russian leader’s nightmare to life, with NATO on the brink of starting its largest potential expansion in nearly two decades.

After navigating the postwar era in nonalignment and neutrality, Sweden and Finland are now actively exploring ascension to the military alliance forged in the Cold War, with officials from both countries set to meet with their NATO counterparts on Saturday.

Russia lashed out immediately, halting exports of electricity to Finland and promising an unspecified “military-technical” response after warning that the move would pose a clear threat to its own national security.

Some analysts were concerned that Russia was laying the groundwork to threaten the deployment of nuclear weapons near the border with Finland. But officials in both Sweden and Finland played down that threat, noting that with the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad only 200 miles away, Moscow already has nuclear-capable missiles in easy range.

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