Sweden’s suddenly cleared path to NATO membership casts the Baltic Sea region in a new strategic light. For the first time in modern history, every state in the region except Russia will be part of a single, close-knit military alliance, which has led some to giddily declare the Baltic Sea a NATO lake. Other than the fate of Ukraine itself, the creation of a powerful northeastern bloc in NATO is the most strategically significant fallout for Europe from Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to go to war.
The Baltic region is also a crucible from which the answers to many of NATO’s most pressing questions could emerge. What does a coherent strategy for deterring Russia look like? How can the Baltic states best be defended? What capabilities are needed, and how will they be integrated across the alliance? The contributions of NATO’s newly unified Baltic bloc—the Nordics, the three Baltic states, Poland, and Germany—to European defense will be vital to the resilience of the alliance.