Is NATO expansion sowing the seeds of World War III?

Russia At War

Washington D.C. (NewsNation) — We’re watching in real-time as Russian President Vladmir Putin’s plans to limit NATO expansion backfire.

Putin had objected to Ukraine’s earlier bid to join NATO, accusing Ukraine and the United States of destabilizing behavior in the region, and sought security guarantees against NATO’s eastward expansion.

Since then, Russia’s war in eastern Europe has challenged the continent’s assumptions about security. As Sweden and Finland now push ahead with their own bids to join NATO, there’s the unknown of what Putin may do next.

When asked if the U.S. was worried that this may be the last straw that pushes Putin over the edge and we head to a world war, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby stressed NATO’s defensive role.

“I can’t possibly get inside Mr. Putin’s head to determine what he will and won’t do,” Kirby said. “I would just remind and it’s important to keep reminding this: NATO is a defensive alliance it does not pose an offensive threat to any other nation and never has.”

President Joe Biden forcefully supported the applications of Finland and Sweden to join NATO on Thursday, insisting the two countries “meet every NATO requirement and then some.”

Russia has already warned that Sweden and Finland are making a grave mistake, and has added that there will be far-reaching consequences.

There was also pushback from Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who emphasized his opposition to the two countries joining the military alliance, accusing Finland and Sweden of giving refuge to ethnic Kurds who are fighting for independence from Turkey.    

Erdogan’s comments added to uncertainty about whether he is determined to derail the expansion, which needs the unanimous support of all 30 NATO members.

What the consequences could mean for the U.S. are unknown as both countries formally applied Wednesday and the process is expected to move fairly quickly.

They could be members of NATO by the end of June.

As the two countries wait to be admitted into NATO, there is one key question: what happens if Russia attacks before they are protected by the strength of the alliance? 

There are ongoing conversations with the countries on potential security needs, Kirby told NewsNation. And he is confident they can provide that if needed.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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