Finland regions

Finland and Sweden’s continued NATO membership is the exact opposite of what Putin wanted for Russia’s neighbors

(The Conversation is an independent, nonprofit source of news, analysis, and commentary from academic experts.)

(THE CONVERSATION) No one should be surprised by the decision of the Swedish and Finnish governments to apply for full membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Since the start of the Russian assault on Ukraine on February 24, 2022, the two countries have given Ukraine missile systems, assault rifles, ammunition and money for the resettlement of refugees.

In my view, as a scholar of international relations, Finland and Sweden essentially gave up their political neutrality and non-alignment – key aspects of their national identity – when they both joined the European Union in 1995.

The Russian assault on Ukraine was the last straw that knocked down all remaining obstacles to full integration with the NATO alliance.


Finland’s past and present with Russia

With a combined population of 16 million, Finland and Sweden, as non-members, lack the protection of NATO’s collective security guarantee that an attack on an ally is an attack against all.

Russian aggression is of particular concern to Finland.

Although Finland and Sweden are both sandwiched between Russia and NATO member Norway, only Finland shares a land border – around 830 miles – with Russia.

And only Finland has a recent history of fighting off Russian assaults.

Between 1939 and 1944, around 96,000 Finns, or 2.5% of the population, died in two separate wars with Russia during the Russo-Finnish War and World War II and over 400,000 people lost their home. Fighting under the cover of snow and dense forests, the Finnish army repelled Russian attacks but lost around 10% of Finnish territory in the ensuing peace agreement in 1948.

The Finns were also forced by the Soviets to adopt neutrality after the loss of the country in World War II.

This changed with the latest Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Putting aside Finland’s neutrality with its application for NATO membership, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin made a sobering observation: “Russia is not the neighbor that Finland thought it was. she was.

At the start of 2022, public opinion polls in Finland indicated that only 24% of the public supported NATO membership. But four days after the Russian invasion, Finns were 68% in favor of joining NATO.

On May 9, 2020, this figure was 76%.

“You (Russia) caused this,” Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said. “Look in the mirror.”

Swedish hesitation

Three days after Russia launched its assault on Ukraine, Sweden provided Ukraine with 5,000 anti-tank weapons, 5,000 body shields, 5,000 helmets and 135,000 field rations.

“It is not Swedish practice to send military equipment to conflict zones,” Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said. “The last time Sweden did this to any great extent was when the Soviet Union attacked Finland in 1939.”

In fact, the last time Sweden fought in a war was against its neighbor Norway in 1814.

“We would be rather naïve not to recognize that there is a threat” from Russia to Sweden, Swedish major Stefan Nordstrom told Reuters. “The security situation across Europe has changed and we have to accept that, and we have to adapt.”

Sweden has a very capable military which includes a navy with Baltic Sea expertise and experience in hunting Russian submarines.

Global Fire Power, a military analysis website, says Sweden has 16,000 active military and 22,000 paramilitary forces. Sweden has 121 tanks, according to the website.

These numbers will certainly increase now. Sweden plans to increase its military spending following the war in Ukraine. In 2020, such expenditure represented 1.2% of the country’s GDP, but it will now increase to 2% by 2028.

Sweden’s military budget for 2022 is approximately $8.9 billion.

Swedish public support for NATO membership has increased dramatically since the Russian onslaught, despite its historic opposition to joining a nuclear-armed alliance.

“There is no going back to a past of illusory neutrality,” Carl Bildt, a former Swedish prime minister, wrote in April 2022.

Shared European security

The foreign policy DNA of Sweden and Finland emphasizes collective action and solidarity with those who respect a rules-based system, including the sovereignty and independence of all countries.

Finland and Sweden are already active members of the UN, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Council of Europe.

After Russia invaded Crimea in 2014, Finland and Sweden intensified their cooperation with NATO by participating in NATO military exercises on land, in the air and at sea.

In addition, due to their shared interests in Arctic and European security, Sweden and Finland have maintained security agreements with each other and with other countries such as Norway and the United States. , involving training exercises, intelligence sharing, operational planning and the creation of command and control networks. .

Consequences for Russia

The possibility of Finland and Sweden joining NATO prompted an immediate reaction from Russian President Vladimir Putin – and a realization that what he calls the “special operation” in Ukraine is backfiring. him.

In my opinion, the values ​​and traditions of the Western alliance and their security interests caused Finland and Sweden to abandon their commitment to neutrality.

The addition of Finland and Sweden to NATO, should it occur, will likely lead to a stronger European pillar within NATO. The war in Ukraine could very well be the first military conflict in which a coalition of democracies directly confronts authoritarian states.

It is not wise to be alone in an area with an overbearing neighbor. Sweden and Finland chose to be part of the great controversy to protect the democratic governance and independence of all countries, including their own.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article here: https://theconversation.com/finlands-and-swedens-pursuit-of-nato-membership-is-the-exact-opposite-of-what-putin-wanted-for-russian-neighbors – 183574.