Nordic nightmare is coming to reality for Putin

For years, President Vladimir V. Putin viewed NATO’s expansion as an existential threat to Russia blocking Western missiles. Now, Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine appears to be making the Russian leader’s nightmare a reality, and NATO is on the verge of embarking on its biggest potential expansion in nearly two decades.

After surviving a post-war period of non-alignment and neutrality, Sweden and Finland are now actively seeking promotion to a Cold War-era military alliance, with officials from both countries scheduled to meet with their NATO counterparts on Saturday.

Russia promised an immediate “military-technical” response after halting electricity exports to Finland and warning it would pose a clear threat to national security.

Some analysts feared that Russia was laying the groundwork for threatening the deployment of nuclear weapons near the Finnish border. But officials in Sweden and Finland have downplayed the threat, noting that Moscow, just 200 miles from Russian territory, Kaliningrad, already has nuclear-capable missiles within easy range.

Sweden and Finland’s accession to NATO, a process that would normally take years to complete, would bring the Western military alliance to Russia’s 810-mile border with Finland and mark another significant change in Europe’s strategic landscape brought about by the Russian war. is. in Ukraine. At the same time, the Pentagon is rotating new troops into Europe to strengthen the eastern flank of the alliance, a sign that temporary increases are likely to be permanent.

As the Western powers withdrew from what the Ukrainian defense minister has called a “new long-term phase” of the war, the idea that Ukraine is still relentlessly fighting Russia in the east is unfolding on the ground, reports that Russia is gaining ground.

In recent days, Ukrainian forces have begun tightening control of the main city of Kharkiv after months of Russian attacks and massive artillery shelling. Ukrainian officials say the battered battalion is withdrawing from Kyiv to protect important supply lines to the east and to strengthen struggling units elsewhere in eastern Donbas, as Russia appears to be retreating from Kiev.

Kharkiv Provincial Army Chief Executive said on Saturday that Ukrainian forces had launched a counterattack against Russian forces around the northeastern city of Izium.

Amid U.S. diplomacy, minority leader Senator Mitch McConnell from Kentucky made a surprise visit to Ukraine on Saturday to meet President Volodymyr Zelensky. The accompanying delegation of US lawmakers made their most recent visit to the country as the US deepens its commitment to Kyiv to fight a Russian invasion.

US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken was scheduled to visit Germany on Saturday to meet with NATO officials prior to discussions with Sweden and Finland.

In a phone call on Saturday, Finland’s President Sauli Ninisto told Russian President Vladimir V. Putin that Russia is seeking access to NATO because Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has “fundamentally” changed Finland’s security environment.

The Kremlin said in a statement that Putin had warned the Finnish leader that Putin’s abandonment of Finland’s long-standing military neutrality policy was “a mistake”.

“By joining NATO, Finland strengthens its security and assumes responsibility,” Finland’s president said in a statement. . “

There were early warnings as Turkey, a longtime NATO member, signaled this week that it might block Nordic countries from joining the alliance. However, a spokesman for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday backed off a potential challenge, saying it was only trying to get Turkey to pay attention to the security concerns of all its allies.

NATO’s potential growth has added more and more stumbling blocks to Putin. Russia’s military strikes on eastern Ukraine are still at a standstill, and the Washington-based think tank Institute for the Study of War said in a recent assessment that Ukraine had won the Battle of Kharkiv.

Failing in initial campaigns to seize Ukraine’s capital and overthrow the government, the Kremlin cannot afford another defeat in the East.

Military intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov told Sky News on Saturday that the next few months will be decisive.

“The nodal point will be the second half of August,” he said. “Most active combat activities will be completed by the end of this year.

However, Moscow forces around Kharkiv are expected to fight hard to maintain important supply routes through the region as they retreat to the Russian border. Russia also controls large lands across southeastern Ukraine, where it is increasingly consolidating its presence. Analysts say the military campaign will continue with a long slog, characterized by heavy casualties on both sides and devastating long-range bombing.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Olexi Rezhnikov warned that “the coming weeks will be very difficult”. “No one can predict how many there will be.” he said in a statement.

President Volodymyr Zelensky acknowledged that the fight to regain control of Russia-occupied territory would be long and difficult, but vowed not to give up.

“The gradual liberation of the Kharkiv region proves that we will not entrust anyone to the enemy,” he said.

The effects of Battlefield Conflict continue to have ripples around the world.

“Russia’s war of aggression has created one of the most serious food and energy crises in recent history, which currently threatens the most vulnerable people around the world,” said the leaders of the Group of 7, the world’s richest democracy, on Saturday. said.

The war halted wheat production in its major suppliers, Ukraine and Russia, and battles and blockades in the Black Sea halted grain shipments. And poor harvests in China, heat waves in India and droughts in other countries have further disrupted global supplies.

However, India, the world’s second-largest wheat producer, said it had banned exports with some exceptions. This action could exacerbate the global shortages exacerbated by the Ukraine war and deepen the already serious predictions of hunger around the world.

According to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, India holds about 10% of the world’s grain reserves, a huge surplus as a result of massive subsidies to farmers. It has been seen for months as a country that could help make up for a global supply shortage.

Wheat Export Ban Announced by the Ministry of Commerce To find out Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday told President Biden in April that the country was ready to supply the world from its reserves. He also urged domestic wheat producers to seize the opportunity, saying Indian officials and financial institutions should support exporters.

The Commerce Department said on Friday that wheat exports were immediately banned, with a few exceptions, as food security in India was threatened by a sharp surge in grain prices. Export bans are another blow to international organizations working to combat the widespread threat of hunger.

who contributed to the report callotagall from Kharkiv, Ukraine; Mark Santora in Krakow, Poland; Stephen Erlanger in Brussels; Matthew Mfock Big And Cassandra Vinograd in London; Emily Cochrane in Washington; And Samir Yasir in New Delhi.

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