By Robinder Sachdev :
Against the background of dark enmity and a proxy war in Ukraine with US and NATO that is radically fracturing and redefining the European security structure and global geo-politics, logic indicates that Russia will want to deny NATO expansionism in Finland, Sweden.
IT SEEMS that there will be a conventional conflict between NATO and Russia -- not possible to say when, but probably within the near to medium future in our lifetimes of present folks living on planet earth. And there is a probability, presently in the low teens, that this conventional conflict will spiral into a nuclear conflict (more on this NATO-Russia can be subject of a next column). However, there might arise another scenario wherein nuclear weapons may be rattled within 3-6 months, in a different region of European theatre, as discussed below. As of today there are about 6-7 big picture scenarios of the future that are emerging from this conflict. In my column today, I shall restrict to 2 of these probable scenarios in the short term, 3-6 months. 1. The Black Wall -- Some things have been clear from day 1 of the invasion.
One of the thing that is clear, and that makes eminent sense from the Russian point of view, is to create a Black Wall for the Ukraine of tomorrow, which will deny it access to the Black Sea (and Sea of Azov) -- forever. This Black Wall will be the boundary of a land corridor along the sea coasts of Ukraine. This zig-zag land corridor along the Black Sea coast, starting with Russia on the east of Ukraine, along the entire sea-coast of Ukraine till the south-west end of Ukraine, may range from 50 miles to 100-300 miles at places, and will stretch till Odessa and beyond, till the tail-end borders of Ukraine with Moldova and Romania. Forget the fate of rest of Ukraine, this corridor would be converted into Russian territory.
This will ensure that irrespective of the internal chaos and whatsoever happens inside a landlocked Ukraine, the Ukraine of tomorrow will be forever blocked from access to Black Sea (and Sea of Azov) -- at the mercy of Russia. Plus this region is rich in minerals, base metals and industrial infrastructure (Ukraine provides 70 per cent of global supply of neon gas -- critical to the making of semiconductor chips), logistics linkages of railroads, and ports, including Odessa, the giant hub of shipping and ship-making. This is a rich region overall, will contribute to the Russian economy. It may be worth deploying Russian forces to own this region. What happens inside the remaining territory of a land-locked Ukraine is a very different matter. In this region, there may be urban civil war, political chaos, puppet regimes of Russia, or Russia-hating elements that hold power in the next years or decades -- but Russia would have created a Black Wall for Ukraine for all times to come. 2. Black Umbrella over Finland, Sweden -- One of the last remaining non-NATO countries that share its border with Russia is Finland. Plus Sweden is one step removed from Finland, and is a non-NATO country, thus far. Both these countries now desire, and public opinion is growing inside both of them, to join NATO. In past weeks, some NATO countries have already expressed their support for Finland and Sweden to join NATO. Now, if Russia thinks that NATO, US expansionism is threatening Russia (and that is the primary reason why it has gone to war with Ukraine), then of course the moves and statements from Finland and Sweden should be cause of great worry in the Kremlin. Against the background of dark enmity and a proxy war in Ukraine with US and NATO that is radically fracturing and redefining the European security structure and global geo-politics, logic indicates that Russia will want to deny NATO expansionism in Finland, Sweden. What could Russia do to ensure that Finland and Sweden do not join NATO? Will it warn both of them to not go down this path? Or, will Russia stand-by passively and in the next few years Finland and Sweden both become NATO members? The “Black Umbrella” scenario posits that in view of signals emanating from Finland, and Sweden, Russia may first warn both these countries to remain neutral, and to drop any of their NATO aspirations immediately.
Russia may demand a written treaty from both these nations, to this effect. Essentially the same terms as were dictated to Ukraine are NATO membership. Finland, a small country of about 6 million people, and a defence budget of about $ 6 billion, is puny compared to Russian conventional forces. So is Sweden, though it is buffered by Finland in between. Thus a Russian warning could make them both halt, change their track.
The question is -- what happens if Finland and Sweden ignore Russian warnings, and persist in their NATO admission process? Will Russia assemble forces on the Finland border, and threaten brinkmanship? Or, will it march to Helsinki? With a drumbeat rolling in the background about reports from Russia, about nukes pointed at Helsinki and Stockholm. Prime Minister Sanna Marin of Finland will have to make some choices. Soon. Barring the surprise announcement of Finland and Sweden as NATO member countries, Russia may not need to marshal too large a force at the Finnish border to pose a dire and real threat to Finland. Sure, Russian forces will be stretched in Ukraine, but at the same time it could deploy some small, reasonable numbers on the Finnish border, and inform that its threat must be taken seriously. Combine with some military and strategic nuclear exercise in North-West Russia, or in the Baltic Sea. Then give a 48 hour notice to both countries to sign a treaty of neutrality. Or face war. Will Finland and Sweden acquiesce to Russian demands, and live under the “Black Umbrella” of a Russia dictated foreign policy, or will Finland fight back? Finland may have no choice. The US and NATO will certainly be upset, but war with Russia, in support of a non-NATO country? And risk a nuclear conflagration with Russia? Thus in the next 3-6 months, a Black Umbrella scenario may cover Finland and Sweden. (IANS) (Robinder Sachdev is president, The Imagindia Institute. The views expressed are personal).