Before launching Russia’s unprovoked and wholly unwarranted invasion of Ukraine, Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin had called for NATO to scale back to pre-1998 levels. Instead, he may have driven the alliance closer as Sweden and Finland – two nations that remained neutral throughout the Cold War – look to join the international military alliance.
Strong Finnish Support
Finland shares an 808-mile land border with Russia. It has essentially walked a foreign policy tightrope since the Second World War in which it sought to maintain a policy of neutrality to avoid confrontation with its larger neighbor. However, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has changed opinions on the long-standing neutrality among the Finnish people and its lawmakers in Helsinki.
“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has caused Finland to review our security strategy. I won’t offer any kind of timetable as to when we will make our decision, but I think it will happen quite fast. Within weeks, not within months. The security landscape has completely changed,” Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said in an address on April 14.
The Finnish parliament began debating the possibility of NATO membership just a week later, and on April 21, major parliamentary groups expressed support for some form of a military alliance in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The majority of Finns are now in favor of joining NATO.
The alliance’s secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, said the country would be warmly welcomed. It has been suggested too that NATO would benefit from Finland’s geographical location and military capabilities. However, Moscow has said it would have to “rebalance the situation” if Finland were to join NATO.
Sweden Still on the Fence?
Sweden has been more reluctant to join NATO, but momentum is also building in Stockholm. Throughout the Cold War, Sweden also maintained a strict policy of neutrality, yet it was largely expected that an invasion was far more likely to come from the Soviet Union than from the West.
Unlike Finland, which had been an ally of Nazi Germany during the Second World War, Sweden stayed neutral during the conflict. However, Sweden and Russia have a long history of animosity that goes back centuries, and Sweden once controlled much of what is now Northern Russia – and in 1809 Sweden lost control of Finland to Russia. Sweden last engaged in a European War in 1814 when it gained control of Norway from Denmark.
In August 2014, Stockholm even celebrated its 200 years of peace. It is therefore not surprising that there remains a reluctance to join NATO.
“What we need to do is to carefully think through what is in the best long-term interests of Sweden, and what we need to do to guarantee our national security, our sovereignty and secure peace in this new heightened tension and situation,” Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson told reporters last month.
De Facto Partners
Even if the two nations were to join NATO, little would likely change. Both Finland and Sweden joined NATO’s Partnership for Peace program in 1994. Throughout the years, each has consistently participated in NATO’s military exercises, including the Saber Strike series and the BALTOPS exercises in the Baltic Sea region.
Both nations are also part of the enhanced NATO Response Force, a highly competent multinational force made up of land, maritime, air, and special operations components that NATO can deploy quickly when needed, in a supplementary role, and subject to national decisions.
One of the guiding principles of the alliance is that an attack on one member is considered an attack on all members. It has only been invoked once, however. That was following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon outside of Washington, D.C.
Russia had actually been the first country outside of NATO’s founding members to join NATO’s Partnership for Peace program, but sadly is now the nation that the alliance looks to deter. Moscow may have wanted NATO to scale back, but the alliance could be stronger than ever.
Now a Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military hardware, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes.
May 4, 2022 at 3:15 pm
A few days ago one of the ”advertising” posters in Moscow saying that Swedes are ”Nazis”… After the speech by the Russian Foreign Minister announcing that Hitler has Jewish blood. All those who oppose Russian imperialism are Nazis according to Russian media which declares that the 40 countries which help Ukraine are as many Hitlers. The Russian authorities have gone totally and completely mad. Psychaters are urgently needed in the Kremlin.
Ashli Babbitt deserved that bullet
May 4, 2022 at 4:23 pm
They also pissed off Israel with the nonsense Hitler has Jewish blood statement. A total myth from the far right Holocaust deniers. The only Nazis in Ukraine are the Russians.
I’d love to see Israel making airstrikes against Russia. They’d be getting a bigger ass whopping than are they now.
May 4, 2022 at 6:18 pm
At this point, I don’t think there are two brain cells you could bang together in the Kremlin.
Israel was one of the few “Western” nations that didn’t take sides in the conflict, refusing to condemn Russia for its attack. Then Russia goes and steps in the shit as always, insulting Israel. Do they realise Israel has some of the best missile interception systems on the planet?
What do you think Ukraine would do with a few Merkavas and/or Iron Dome Systems?
What next in the Kremlin? Why not insult India and China too while you are at it?
May 5, 2022 at 2:03 am
Anyone who argues “don’t poke the bear” — that only applies if the bear is minding its own business. But when a bear is charging at you threatening to attack, whether you poke or not ain’t going to change anything. Russia is not minding its own business.
The West has been minding its own business. No one wants to attack Russia. But the Soviet-Putin propaganda machine has totally convinced the Russian people that the West wants to attack Russia.
I know this first hand, because I talked with my Russian friend from Russia – and I was not able to convince him that no one in the West wanted to attack Russia. He thought Putin is a great guy because he makes Russia strong again.
This is how simple-minded folk, in every country, can get sucked in with false analogies.
Most people, when the hear the “don’t poke the bear” analogy – it goes into their brain, with no critical analysis whether the analogy is correct.
In the way, the vast masses of people can be fooled by propaganda … even in the West.
In the West, when Obama accuses those warning of Russian/China danger of being “fear mongers” – most simple folk think “Oh, I don’t want to be a fear-monger, so I’m going to shut up all these people warning about Russia”. This shows how easily it is to manipulate the masses in the West.
May 5, 2022 at 3:10 pm
Oooh it’s a great idea to judge 100 million people by one of your friends. There is no thought that Germany would attack Russia. Maximum jokes about an Estonian tank)
May 5, 2022 at 8:29 am
If you remove the hysteria of the Bandera Nazis in the comments, then only one thing can be stated:
If the Swedes and Finns wanted to live with the nuclear threat over their heads, then this is their right.
May 5, 2022 at 7:01 pm
They do. The rest of the world already does. We’d rather live with the unlikely threat of nuclear war over our heads, than the very, very likely ACTUAL threat of violence from Russia.
I wonder, if we told Ukraine in 1991 that giving up their nukes would result in Russia’s invasion in 2014 and 2022, if they would have been so kind… I doubt it.