Russian President Vladimir Putin leaves Red Square after the Victory Day military parade in central Moscow on May 9, 2022. Kirill Kudryavtsev | Afp | Getty Images With Finland and Sweden both announcing their bids to join the Western military alliance NATO, ending a decades-long history of military non-alignment, all eyes are on Russia and how it might react. Moscow has already expressed outrage at the idea of its old foe NATO's potential imminent expansion soon after Finland announced its intention to apply to the organization last week. Now that Finland has officially confirmed that it will apply — with Sweden's governing Social Democratic Party similarly backing a bid to join NATO — Moscow has wasted no time in making its feelings known, with Russia's President Vladimir Putin saying Monday that the expansion of NATO "is a problem." Putin claimed that the move was in the interests of the U.S., in comments reported by Reuters, and said Russia would react to the expansion of military infrastructure to Sweden and Finland, although he insisted Moscow had "no problems" with the countries. Putin's comments come after other top Kremlin officials deplored the future expansion of NATO, with one describing it is a "grave mistake" with global consequences. Three NATO warships from the Standing Nato Mine Countermeasures Group 1 (SNMCMG1 group), EML Sakala from Estonia, Dutch HNLMS Schiedam and the flagship LVNS Virsaitis from Latvia, arrive to a harbour, to train with Finland's coastal fleet, in the Finnish southwestern coastal city of Turku, Finland April 25, 2022. Roni Lehti | Reuters Finland and Sweden's membership of NATO is not a done deal yet as any decision on NATO enlargement requires the approval by all 30 members of the alliance and their parliaments — and Turkey has already voiced objections. With these obstacles expected to be overcome, however, geopolitical experts are looking ahead and assessing the possible "retaliatory steps" President Vladimir Putin — who has made no secret of his loathing for NATO — could take. 1) More NATO provocations Over the years, Russia has made repeated provocative incursions near or into NATO allies' airspace and these seem to have increased in frequency in the last few years. With Sweden and Finland's latest move to join NATO, experts believe the alliance should prepare itself for more provocations from Russia. "This changes the security environment for the entire Baltic Sea and for the Arctic," Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, former commanding general of the U.S. Army in Europe, told CNBC on Monday. "Of course there will continue to be airspace violations, just like there are over other NATO countries, but we're a defensive alliance and we're going to react coolly and professionally. The last thing that the Russians want is to get into a fight with all 30 NATO nations, soon to be 32," he told CNBC's "Capital Connection." "[Putin's] going to complain about it, he's going to threaten things but he actually has nothing that he can do as most of his military is tied up in Ukraine, so I don't see any real threat against Sweden or Finland." Russian provocations of NATO are nothing new. In 2020, NATO air forces across Europe were scrambled more than 400 times to intercept unknown aircraft approaching the alliance's airspace with almost 90% of these missions in response to flights by Russian military aircraft, NATO said in a statement. Last March, NATO planes were scrambled 10 times in a six-hour period in response to an "unusual peak" of Russian warplanes near the alliance's airspace over the North Atlantic, North Sea, Black Sea and Baltic Sea. NATO has said that Russian military aircraft often do not transmit a transponder code indicating their position and altitude, do not file a flight plan, or do n . . . read the full article here.