Moscow will again analyse and conclude and then adopt some measures, all regarding the decisions of the NATO summit in Lithuania this week. For the most part they will be determined and sharp, as before.
The same announcements followed after Finland and Sweden announced for the first time more than a year and a half ago, they wished to join NATO because they did not want to be left to their own devices next to a neighbour who attacked neighbouring Ukraine.
Since it has launched the aggression, everything regarding NATO has been a significant surprise for the Kremlin. Firstly, it did not fall apart when Russian troops entered Ukraine, which Moscow seriously believed would happen. They even worked on it for years, bribed, spread misinformation, and created an atmosphere of collapse among the Euro-Atlantic partners. The complete opposite has happened.
Moscow was furious with Finland when its path to membership became certain (they threatened with careful evaluation and a strong response if Finland joined NATO). They were happy about the deadlock regarding the admission of Sweden. Turkey and Hungary were true friends in the eyes of the Kremlin because they had been blocking Sweden’s accession to the Alliance.
But, in recent days, surprises have been accelerating, one after another. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan took care of the biggest when he raised the ramp for Sweden’s entry. Hungary will follow that move by inertia.
Russia was also surprised that Volodymyr Zelensky came to Lithuania for the NATO summit. They expected his boycott because he was too angry that there was no tangible announcement that he would receive an invitation for membership. They are still surprised that the door is open for training Ukrainian pilots on F16s, which will inevitably lead to the delivery of these planes to Kyiv, and even more so by America’s announcements that, after long hesitation, it will also send long-range missiles to Ukraine.
For each of these shocks, the Kremlin has ready threats saying they will “respond decisively” and “carefully monitor” the development of the situation. There has been a long series of empty threats of a counter-strike on everything that has been happening around it in the past 500 days.
None of the estimates they had were even close. None of those “powerful” Russian intelligence services and state institutes for planning and strategic research helped their employer in the Kremlin to predict the moves of the “enemy”.
There has been one surprise after another before the eyes of Vladimir Putin and his court. Europe has been changing, but not in the way Moscow expected.
Someone has either failed or has not been up to the job or as is often the case in dictatorships – no one wants to be the bearer of bad news. In this case, everything mentioned has happened.
Russia always lied when it cited Ukraine’s intention to join NATO and the Alliance’s readiness to receive it as the reason for the attack on Ukraine. The real reason for the invasion was always the Kremlin’s desire to conquer, occupy and subjugate Ukraine, impose a puppet regime and subsequently annex it.
But the false narrative about preventing the expansion of NATO into Ukraine was a command carried out by everyone, from generals to politicians and TV propagandists. They are convinced of that even today, so one of the guests on Russian state TV suggested bombing Vilnius when NATO leaders gathered there.
Ukraine was never close to NATO membership. Ukraine and Georgia received a careless promise from the US 15 years ago, but nothing came of it. It is precisely Russian aggression that drives and accelerates NATO membership, and in the end, Moscow’s false narrative will come true solely because of Moscow’s disastrous decisions.
Moscow’s demand that NATO stop expanding to the east and return to its borders from 1997 before accepting everyone from Eastern Europe was a prelude to aggression against Ukraine. The consequence is that NATO did not withdraw but expanded to the north of Europe, in Russia’s closest neighbourhood, where Moscow did not expect it.
With the entry of Finland and the imminent accession of Sweden, the Baltic Sea becomes a NATO lake because all its shores will belong to the members of the Alliance. The Russian enclave of Kaliningrad thereby loses all meaning and significance for Russia.
Ukraine did not join NATO. Not this week when it had the most fans. But Finland and Sweden, superpowers of democracy and diplomacy and among the world’s most modern armies, did. As far as Ukraine is concerned, while its defence is ongoing, it will not become a member of the Alliance, but during that time, it will grow into the best-trained and equipped European military force. US President Biden said he would like Ukraine to join NATO “an hour and 20 minutes after the war”.
The collapse in strategic planning and assessments has been just one of many that happened to Putin in the last year and a half, followed by a defeat of his army at the front and political suicide on the international stage, where he was excluded from all forums with some degree of influence on world affairs. His economy, which has long been unable to finance the war it entered into (again, a bad assessment), let alone participate more seriously in world trade, has also collapsed. Putin and Russia are victims of their own fake news they have been spreading for decades, both about themselves and others. Their worst nightmare, which they thought was a cleverly devised lie to scare the West but also their own population, has happened to them. Putin was convinced that he was the master of deception and that his plan of a collapsing world and a rising Russia would triumph thanks to its mythical power and historical mission. In the end – they believed in everything, which at the very start, they knew very well to be an ordinary Russian “fairy tale” intended for others. It’s too late to wake up.