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Published: 10:49, June 06, 2022 | Updated: 10:49, June 06, 2022
It's time to stop the eastward expansion of NATO
By Ma Xiaolin
Published:10:49, June 06, 2022 Updated:10:49, June 06, 2022 By Ma Xiaolin

Despite the objections of Turkey and Croatia, it seems Sweden and Finland will face little resistance in joining NATO, albeit the process could take a year or so to be completed. The two countries' entry into NATO will have a profound impact on geopolitics, as it would bring two Northern European countries into NATO's fold, strengthen the organization's weaker northeastern flank, and reorganize the continental security structure and relationship.

Apart from NATO's physical expansion, the membership of Sweden and Finland, if it materializes, will also have a significant impact on the overall security and geopolitical structure of Europe, given that the two countries rank 11th and 14th in the world in terms of per capita income.

But NATO's expansion will also aggravate tensions and confrontations with Russia, because Sweden and Finland, thanks to their considerable military, economic, financial, diplomatic and soft power, will boost NATO's strength in a nonlinear way and thus intensify the threat to Russia.

Also, the risk of a nuclear war in Europe is increasing. As soon as the Russia-Ukraine conflict broke out, Russia warned the Western powers against taking sides, reflecting its deep fear of the machinations of the Western powers and their war of attrition.

Besides, after Sweden and Finland join NATO, the length of the border between Russia and NATO will increase threefold, raising the threat to Russia's national security and territorial integrity because the two countries, especially Finland, will increase their defense budgets.

No wonder Russia has refused to rule out the use of nuclear weapons for strategic containment. As Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy chairman of Russia's Security Council, said, there could be no more talks of a "nuclear free" Baltic if the two Nordic countries join NATO.

The Ukraine crisis is essentially a creation of the United States. After the Cold War, the US has used every excuse to expand NATO eastward. It has also prompted European Union leaders to do the same, with the aim of alienating China from the international community and weaken Russia.

It's time the US reflected on why it's becoming increasingly difficult for it to maintain its global hegemony. And it should realize that the world cannot be brought under US-style governance, and that it can no longer fool the global public using double standard.

As for the EU, it has more to reflect on, because the Russia-Ukraine conflict is the first such conflict in Europe since the end of World War II and it committed the mistake of facilitating NATO's continuous eastward expansion by ignoring Russia's warnings.

Not only leaders of Germany and France, but also US strategists such as former US ambassador to the Soviet Union George F. Kennan, and former secretaries of state Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski warned NATO to avoid doing anything that would affect Russia's strategic security. The Ukraine crisis is the result of ignoring those warnings.

Regrettably, the US and the EU have not learned any lessons from the major strategic missteps they have taken and, instead, continued their march of confrontation, splitting the world.

The Ukraine crisis shows the US can be restrained only if countries ignore, or resist, its call to choose sides. Not only Russia's traditional partners such as Iran, Venezuela, Belarus and Serbia have ignored the US' call to indulge in the zero-sum game, but also Hungary, India, South Africa and Israel have openly said they won't take sides. Most countries may not agree with Moscow's special military operation in Ukraine, but they still don't want to get involved in major countries' conflict.

Thanks to the Russia-Ukraine conflict and the subsequent US sanctions, energy and commodity prices have shot up, and inflation has risen across countries. More important, countries such as Egypt are facing grain shortage as they used to get a major part of the imported grains from Russia and/or Ukraine.

Moreover, the monopoly position of the US dollar in the global monetary system is crumbling, despite the US and the EU kicking Russian banks out of the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, freezing their assets and threatening to punish Russia's trade partners with secondary sanctions. Such economies will certainly reduce their dollar-denominated assets, and slowly cleanse their financial system of the dollar, thereby weakening the dollar's dominance of the global financial system, which is the basis of US hegemony.

That Ukraine has promised to put everything on the negotiation table including the future of the Crimea and Donbass regions indicates this conflict might end with the failure of the US and the EU, even though Russia will also suffer huge losses.

In short, in order to restore lasting peace, European leaders have to stop the eastward expansion of NATO and the EU, take Moscow's strategic security concerns into consideration, and say no to Washington's instigation. And it's time they realized that only talks can promote peace and prosperity.

The author is the dean of and a senior professor of the Institute for Studies on the Mediterranean Rim at Zhejiang International Studies University.

The views don't necessarily represent those of China Daily.

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