Sweden & Finland Have Pitched Their Voices For Joining NATO
Sweden and Finland have pitched their voices for joining North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) in a move seen as a deterrent against aggression from Russia. A monumental shift with a long history of wartime neutrality and staying out of military alliances. The Kremlin, meanwhile, has responded by saying that the move would be a threat to Russia and warned of a possible retaliation. But their accession into NATO may not be smooth as Turkey, a NATO member since 1952, has said it would oppose the Nordic countries joining the bloc, citing that they harbour “terrorist groups” — a reference to Kurdish insurgent outfits.
After two decades during which public support for NATO membership remained steady at 20-30 percent, polls now suggest that more than 75 percent of Finns are in favour. During the Cold War, Finland remained neutral in exchange for assurances from Moscow that it would not invade. After the fall of the Iron Curtain, Finland remained militarily non-aligned. Sweden, meanwhile, adopted an official policy of neutrality at the end of the Napoleonic wars of the early 19th century. Following the end of the Cold War, the neutrality policy was amended to one of military non-alignment. While remaining outside NATO, both Sweden and Finland have formed ever-closer ties to the Alliance. Both joined the Partnership for Peace programme in 1994 and then the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council in 1997. The two are Nato's closest partners but maintaining good ties with Russia has been an important part of their foreign policy, particularly for Finland. Now they hope for security support from Nato states — primarily the United States — in case Moscow retaliates. Britain pledged to come to their aid.
Sweden and Finland (SweFin) have already developed deep ties with the West. Both are members of the European Union. Their ties with NATO are the closest two non-members could get with the alliance. They hold joint military drills with NATO, share intelligence and have supported NATO’s military missions abroad. They did not formally seek membership until now because they did not want to upset the security status quo in Europe. They also feared Russian retaliation. But that status quo has been altered by the Russian invasion. And the possibility of Russian military retaliation is very less now because Russian troops are fighting a seemingly prolonged war in Ukraine. This opened the door for both SweFin and NATO. And they are ready to embrace each other.
Turkey's government has been fighting against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militant group since the 1980s — and the Gulen movement, which Ankara accuses of orchestrating a 2016 coup attempt. Turkey has designated them as terrorist organizations and accused the Nordic countries of harbouring people linked to both groups. Erdogan, the Turkish President, said an arms exports embargo by both countries ( SweFin) imposed on Turkey after its 2019 incursion into Syria against the Kurdish People's Defense Units (YPG) militia should be lifted. Sweden suspended arms sales to Turkey three years ago, following Ankara's military intervention in Syria. And according to the official Turkish news agency, both Finland and Sweden have rejected dozens of requests to extradite Kurdish militants who Turkey describes as terrorists.
So far, Moscow is doing nothing obvious to dissuade the two — apart perhaps from a couple of incidents where Russian planes entered their airspace. The Kremlin said that its response could depend on how close NATO infrastructure moves toward Russia’s borders. Some at NATO worry that the Russians might deploy nuclear weapons or more hypersonic missiles to the Kaliningrad exclave, across the Baltic Sea wedged between allies Poland and Lithuania.
If Turkey walks the talk and blocks the SweFin bid, that would leave the Nordic countries in an awkward spot — they have already given up neutrality, but they won’t be getting NATO’s protection. Even if the application goes through, it would take time for these countries to be formally inducted into the alliance. So, the time taken for the process to be completed offers a window to Mr. Putin, whose response would depend on whether his troops could meet their military objectives in Ukraine and whether they could do it fast. There’s a lot of uncertainty. The only thing that’s certain is that more instability is awaiting Europe.