Putin accused of 'massive strategic blunder' that could boost strength of Nato

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·Breaking News Editor, Yahoo News UK
·4-min read
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FILE - Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a Security Council meeting via videoconference at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Russia, Thursday, April 7, 2022.  The credit ratings agency Standard & Poor's has downgraded its assessment of Russia’s ability to repay foreign debt, Friday, April 8. That indicates Moscow could soon default on external loans for the first time in more than a century.   (Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)
Vladimir Putin made a "massive strategic blunder" in invading Ukraine, Western officials have said. (AP)

Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine is a "massive strategic blunder" that could result in an expansion of Nato as early as this summer, officials have claimed.

According to the Times, US officials reportedly confirmed that membership of the alliance for Sweden and Finland was "a topic of conversation" during talks between Western foreign ministers last week attended by representatives of both Nordic countries.

It is thought the two nations could launch a bid for Nato membership in the coming months in the wake of Russia's widely condemned military assault.

Finland -which shares an 830-mile land border with Russia - is expected to apply for Nato membership by June, with Sweden potentially poised to follow soon after.

One former Finnish prime minister told CNN the move to join "was pretty much a done deal on the 24th of February, when Russia invaded."

Finland's Prime Minister Sanna Marin attends an EU summit at the Palace of Versailles, near Paris, Thursday, March 10, 2022. European Union leaders have gathered in Versailles for a two-day summit focusing on the war in Ukraine. Their nations have been fully united in backing Ukraine's resistance with unprecedented economic sanctions, but divisions have started to surface on how fast the bloc could move in integrating Ukraine and severing energy ties with Moscow. (Ludovic Marin, Pool via AP)
Finnish prime minister Sanna Marin said over the weekend it was time for her nation to seriously reconsider where they stand on their foreign policy. (AP)

Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said last week Nato allies would welcome Finland and Sweden into the alliance if they decided to join.

Putin has long harboured animosity towards the peacetime alliance and says he regards it as a direct threat. In 2014 he signed off on Russia's military doctrine, which placed Nato as his country's main existential enemy.

Finland has been officially neutral since signing a pact with Russia in 1948, agreeing to never join a military alliance hostile to Russia, or allowing its territory to be in an attack against Russia.

But Finnish prime minister Sanna Marin said over the weekend it was time for her nation to seriously reconsider where they stand on their foreign policy.

A man with a bicycle walks in front of a destroyed apartment building in the town of Borodyanka, Ukraine, on Saturday, April 9, 2022. Russian troops occupied the town of Borodyanka for weeks. Several apartment buildings were destroyed during fighting between the Russian troops and the Ukrainian forces in the town around 40 miles northwest of Kiev. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
A man with a bicycle walks in front of a destroyed apartment building in the town of Borodyanka, Ukraine. (AP)
An emergency worker stands by the multi-storey building destroyed in a Russian air raid at the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine war in Borodyanka, close to Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, April 9, 2022.  (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
An emergency worker stands by the multi-storey building destroyed in a Russian air raid at the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine war. (AP)

She said: "Russia is not the neighbour we thought it was. I think we will have very careful discussions, but we are also not taking any more time than we have to in this process, because the situation is, of course, very severe.”

Sweden is in the midst of a review into its security policy which will finish at the end of May.

It is also in a long-standing neutrality agreement with Russia but recent polls have shown 60% of people favour joining Nato if Finland does.

The Swedish prime minister said two weeks ago: “I do not exclude Nato membership in any way."

Watch: Putin made 'big mistake' in invading Ukraine, Nato chief says

Moscow has been clear that it opposes any chance for Nato to get larger.

Responding to the reports on Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said joining the alliance would not bring any further security to Europe.

He said the bloc "is not that kind of alliance which ensures peace and stability, and its further expansion will not bring additional security to the European continent".

Since invading Ukraine on 24 February, Nato has increased the number of troops on the eastern flank tenfold, stationing 40,000 from the Baltic to the Black Sea.

Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told the Telegraph Nato is "in the midst of a very fundamental transformation" that will reflect "the long-term consequences" of Putin's forces.

He added: "What we see now is a new reality, a new normal for European security. Therefore, we have now asked our military commanders to provide options for what we call a reset, a longer-term adaptation of Nato."

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson walk past a check point after a meeting, as Russia?s attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine April 9, 2022. Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT
Boris Johnson met with Ukraine's president Volodymyr Zelenskyy during a visit to Kyiv at the weekend (Reuters)

Russia has previously warned of “serious military-political consequences” if the two countries were to join Nato.

It comes amid reports Russia is planning to alter its strategy to target the south east of Ukraine after being thwarted in their attempts to take control of major cities.

A Western official said: "The Russian plan has been a failure at this point, and they are having to readjust.

"The strategy is obviously being adjusted and diminished considerably from where they started off and that is an enormous achievement on the part of the Ukrainian fighters and their government.”

The official said Moscow is looking to double or possibly treble the number of forces it has in the Donbas region as part of the next phase of the conflict.

Reports continue to emerge of war crimes being committed by Russian troops.

Mass graves have been uncovered after civilians were deliberately targeted, and there have been widespread reports of soldiers raping Ukrainian women.

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