Vladimir Putin. Yet another megalomaniacal psychopath pursuing Lebensraum, a true heir to the Nazis he claims to despise.

If he has accomplished anything in his invasion of Ukraine, it is justifying the existence of NATO. Ironically, he claims that it was the advance of NATO, presumably threatening Russian security, that forced him to initiate his “special military operation.”

NATO’s “advance” is of course countries seeking to join the alliance and being accepted if they meet certain requirements. The reason Eastern European countries sought membership after the collapse of the Soviet Union has now been made apparent.

Russia has been engaging in empire-building for a very long time, first under the tsars and then under the commies, and Putin has made it clear he intends to continue the imperialist tradition. Ukraine, on the other hand, having had enough of tsars and commissars, looks in the other direction, at independence and democracy.

It had hoped to join NATO but has not yet met the requirements. However, Putin’s imperialism has been duly noted by two other countries that have not as yet sought membership but now will likely apply—Finland and Sweden. Both meet most of the criteria and would almost certainly be accepted.

Not long ago, only 25 percent of Finns were interested in joining. That has now jumped to 76 percent. A nation which shares an 800-mile border with Russia would become formally aligned militarily with the United States.

Finland is a little country with serious military clout. Its army has a wartime strength of 280,000 soldiers and a total of 900,000 reservists, and its defence spending meets the NATO target of two percent. According to Alexander Stubb, a former Prime Minister, “Over time, the reality that Russia is willing to create greater chaos in our region has become even clearer, so joining NATO becomes the pragmatic option.”

By joining, Sweden would end 200 years of neutrality. Fifty-seven percent of Swedes now support membership. After saying only last year that Sweden would never join NATO, Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist describes the change in heart as the moment Putin proved he was “unpredictable, unreliable and prepared to wage a cruel, bloody and brutal war.”

Such is the irony of Putin’s war-mongering. With his crude attempt to undermine NATO, he may have both reinvigorated and expanded it. Europeans weren’t ready for Hitler. Thanks to NATO, they were ready for Putin.

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