Threats to the North: Failure in Ukraine Would Imperil Baltic-Arctic Security
With allied support, Ukrainian troops have defied the odds. They have held their ground against the aggressor in a war many expected to be over in days and severely degraded Russian ground forces previously stationed along NATO’s eastern flank. Continued assistance is needed if Ukraine is to defend its territory and the security interests of all NATO allies, and deter an existential threat to Northern Europe and North America.
An unchecked Russia could reconstitute its forces on the eastern flank and further strengthen its military presence in the Arctic, a region critical to Russian economic and security interests and increasingly central to Sino-Russian cooperation. Russia would then emerge as a formidable, modernized military power with valuable battlefield experience fighting against Western military equipment. To prevent this, Moscow must lose the war decisively and be held accountable for its actions, including through reparations to Ukraine. Anything short of this allows the Kremlin to continue investing in its military, prolonging the threat to Ukraine and NATO.
A result that sees Russia maintain territorial gains could lead it to replicate landgrabs elsewhere, including in the Baltics, where it regularly tests NATO’s resolve with hybrid tactics and belligerent rhetoric. Even a stalemate offers Moscow the ability to threaten the Baltic states with rebuilt forces under battle-tested leadership.
Implications for the Arctic would be equally worrying. Russia’s northern posture has remained largely unaffected by the war and continues to threaten Northern Europe, Canada, and the United States. Even now, the Kremlin’s ongoing sub-threshold provocations could spin out of control through inadvertent escalation. A perception of victory in Ukraine could embolden Russia to raise the stakes by concentrating more forces and assets in the strategically and environmentally vulnerable region. Escalation across the deeply intertwined Baltic-Arctic theaters is not in NATO’s interest and would render Northern Europe and North America less secure.
Continued support of Ukraine can help prevent such a scenario. The transatlantic partners have managed to support Ukraine and degrade Russian military capabilities without sending a single soldier into combat. Further support for Ukraine is morally correct and advances US and allied security interests along NATO’s northern flank.