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ISW: Putin wants to break up NATO

by Abbey Fenbert November 21, 2023 7:05 AM 2 min read
An asylum seeker sits on the ground near the Nuijamaa border crossing between Finland and Russia on Nov. 17, 2023, after the Finnish government announced plans to close its eastern crossings. (Alessandro Rampazzo / AFP via Getty Images)
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Moscow's hybrid warfare tactics on the Finnish-Russian border are likely part of a broader goal to destabilize NATO countries near Russia's borders, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said in its Nov. 20 report.

The current tensions between Russia and Finland are largely a result of Russia engineering an artificial migrant crisis at Finland's border, the ISW said.

Finland began closing border crossings on Nov. 17 and announced plans to build fences along its border with Russia on Nov. 19. The move came after Finnish authorities reported an influx of asylum seekers at its eastern border on Nov. 12.

The Finnish government has accused Russia of orchestrating the migrant crisis.

The asylum seekers arriving at Finland's border are refugees and migrants passing through Russia from third countries, such as Iraq, Syria, Turkey, and Somalia.

The ISW said the situation resembles the 2021 migrant crisis on the Polish border, which it says was created by Russia and Belarus.

In November 2021, thousands of migrants from Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and other countries arrived at the Polish-Belarusian border, triggering a humanitarian crisis. Many endured freezing temperatures at makeshift camps in Belarusia's forests and suffered violence from Polish border guards.

EU officials said that Russia and Belarus planned the crisis, using the migrants as pawns in a political move against the EU and NATO countries.

"The Kremlin exploited the manufactured crisis in 2021 to falsely accuse NATO of aggression against Belarus," the ISW said.

According to the ISW, the current Russian-Finnish border conflict likely represents Moscow's efforts to destabilize NATO countries in the region and "distract from the war in Ukraine."

Finland acceded to NATO on April 4, 2023. The Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry issued a response that same day, saying that Russia would be “forced to take retaliatory measures” against Finland.  

"ISW has also consistently assessed that one of Putin’s goals in launching the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022 was to break up NATO – a goal he continues to pursue," the report said.

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