Who can blame them?

Whichever way you put it, that barbarous butcher Mr Putin has badly miscalculated how the neighbours might react to his war in Ukraine.

The Russian leader may be doing his utmost to redraw the map of Europe around Ukraine, but he is largely failing, with reports from British intelligence sources that he has now lost about one-third of his invasion force.

Instead, his aggression and his unclear future actions look likely to lead to major changes to that map further north, with next-door Finland and long-non-aligned Sweden confirming their intention to join the 30-nation Nato bloc, probably the world’s most powerful group and definitely a good one to have on your side when there’s an unstable neighbour lurking over the fence.

Mr Putin is obviously unhappy about this state of affairs.

But then he and his sycophant Kremlin associates and generals should have thought about what might happen when you force people into a corner.

He has nobody else to blame for the desires of the two Nordic countries to become part of the political and military alliance and protect their citizens and their borders.

He couldn’t have done a better job of pushing new nations into Nato’s arms if he had tried.

Back-pedalling to cover up his backfired plans, which had been to ensure Nato doesn’t grow stronger by including Ukraine, Mr Putin claims he has ‘‘no issue’’ with Finland and Sweden, presumably in terms of their sovereignty rather than their desire to be part of Nato.

However, the Guardian also reports him as saying that an expanded, Nato, military presence in those countries would spark a reaction from Russia, while his deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov blusters that the move would be a mistake that has ‘‘far-reaching consequences’’.

There are also earlier proclamations from Moscow that it would take ‘‘retaliatory steps’’ to restore the balance in the region, including by deploying nuclear weapons.

We say good on Finland and Sweden for choosing to join Nato. Who could criticise them for wanting to?

While the two are acting together, each has slightly different motivations. Finland is in the trickier position thanks to geography, sharing a 1300km-long border with Russia and having had a chequered history of occupation and fighting back.

Militarily, Finland is strong for the size of its population, more so than Sweden, which has robustly pursued a policy of neutrality and has focused more on being an international mediator and peacekeeper.

Sweden does not border Russia, unlike Norway to its west, which has been in Nato since it was formed in 1949. But Sweden will not want to be the only Nordic country left out of the alliance, for obvious reasons.

The significance of their application cannot be overstated.

It marks a huge change for both from non-alignment, although there remains a concern that Turkey could veto their entry, over its claims that some Kurdish migrants living there are actually terrorists.

So what might happen if Mr Putin decides to attack either of the two nations while their applications are being progressed?

If that were to occur, the other Nordic Nato countries — Norway, Denmark and Iceland — have pledged support, as has the United Kingdom, which a few days ago signed a mutual security pact with both.

Nato is the real thorn in Russia’s side, and will prove far more of a deterrent to Mr Putin’s maverick and murdering actions than the United Nations, whose serious weaknesses have been highlighted in its inability to do much to stop the aggression.

Mr Putin was delusional in thinking he could invade a democracy on his doorstep and get away with it.

It is turning into a disaster for him and, with the move from the Finns and Swedes, support at home and among his inner circle will be slipping.

He has bitten off more than he can chew and appears to have actually strengthened Nato rather than weakened it.

Could this be the beginning of the end?

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