According to Thomas Graham
At the alliance's summit, which ended this week, NATO's New Strategic Concept was adopted. Russia is defined in it as "the most serious and direct threat to the security of the allies, as well as to peace and stability in the Euro-Atlantic region." Tensions on the border between NATO and Russia have not been this high since the end of the Cold War. NATO and Russian aircraft are conducting aggressive reconnaissance flights in narrow airspace over the Baltic Sea, and both sides are likely to intensify these flights now that Sweden and Finland are on their way to NATO membership. The current dispute over Russia's access to its Baltic Sea exclave, the Kaliningrad region, via Lithuania highlights the possibility of the conflict spilling over from Ukraine into a direct confrontation between NATO and Russia. Belarus is also a growing concern for NATO as Russia increasingly uses it to stage attacks on Ukraine.
As the West focuses on Ukraine's grain exports to deal with a looming global food crisis, there are calls for NATO to break the Russian blockade of the Ukrainian port of Odessa on the Black Sea. As always, the risk of Russia using tactical nuclear weapons lurks in the background. In recent weeks, talk of the possible use of nuclear weapons has subsided, but they are likely to resume with even more urgency if the situation worsens. The lack of active channels of communication between Russia and NATO members only increases the risks.
Following the decision to join Sweden and Finland to NATO, senior officials said Russia would take compensatory steps to guarantee its security, which could include additional troops and possibly nuclear forces in its border areas. However, Putin said in May that Russia had no problems with Finland and Sweden and that their accession to NATO posed no direct threat as long as NATO did not build up troops and infrastructure in those countries.