Russia's destruction in Ukraine has incited other countries to join the alliance. Non-NATO countries are faced with options, either stay neutral, which risks invasion from Russia, or apply for membership in NATO, which also risks war with Russia. Still, a war Russia would not dare to start if the country is a NATO member.
Russia's invasion of Ukraine was a message to those wanting to join NATO, or the anti-Kremlin alliance as the Russian ruling Siloviki called it, that joining the alliance would mean a threat to Russia that the Kremlin would not tolerate.
However, the invasion served the opposite of what the Kremlin intended to do. NATO and the US are more closely involved in Ukraine, and Russia seems to lose its economic clout in Europe. Now NATO forces are closer to Russia than they would probably have ever been because the use of military troops brings other military forces closer.
Despite repercussions, the Europeans are bent on finding an alternative to Russian gas and oil. Europe has many options to choose from, but Russia does not.
Putin's plan to divide Europe was partly successful when its military was kept in the shadows. As the Russian army marched, Europe and NATO were brought together, and differences evaporated overnight.
The West's democratic approach was more powerful in Germany and later Ukraine than Russia's traditional method of buying off leaders to their advantage. Therefore, Russia overestimated its non-military and military strength when it tried to meddle in western elections and later when it marched into Ukraine.
The West has limited Russia to the extent that all the Kremlin has left is usually the threat of nuclear war. Moscow's long-embraced and innovative policy of Finlandization seems to be faltering.
Finland per se might seal the last nail in the coffin of Finlandization term. A term might not make one proud. Sweden, Finland, and others seem to risk Russian attacks on their soil. Russia's entire army is stuck in Ukraine, and its attention is scattered across a multifront war and a volatile public.
The two Nordic countries would become a new frontier between the East and the West. The relationship between the West and Russia would be more militarily defined. Russia's limited options might be spent fuel as it would be left with only stopping its energy flow to Europe, something Russia would be as damaged as Europe would be.
The war in Ukraine is a European problem. Surprisingly, Europe's purchase of Russian energy indirectly funds the Kremlin's war chest. At the same time, the West is financing Ukraine to counterpoise the cash it gives Russia.
As such, Europe is at war, and ordinary Europeans depending on Russian gas, feel the effects of war, indirectly, as Ukrainians do.
For Europeans, NATO expansion is a historical and extricable development beginning from the 18th century. At the same time, it is a historical threat for Russia that needs to be settled sooner or later.
Russia has failed to stop NATO's eastward advance. Employing energy and economics to halt the alliance has not worked, as has not it's meddling with elections of the western countries.
Therefore, the expansion of NATO is a forgone conclusion because NATO, whether in Germany or Finland, or Ukraine would mean a constant threat of war with Russia.
As the war has begun, NATO sees no reason not to expand into Russian borders. There, the Europeans must expand NATO into Russian bordering states and eliminate the deadlock rivalry that is a remnant of the cold war, which these countries still grapple with.
To Stop NATO expansion, Russia would have to pay for a long-term war on its western frontier or risk nuclear war, which would end the game together.
Finland and Sweden joining NATO would mean a significant diplomatic, military, and economic victory and probably the harshest sanction the West could impose on the Kremlin. In a scenario where Russia and the West negotiate, Russia's most viable option to exit NATO's expansion is to apply for membership in the alliance.