Russia’s military build-up along the border with Ukraine and the hostile rhetoric coming out of Moscow make some of its regional neighbors rethink after lengthy post-World War II security arrangements.
New statements from Finland and Sweden indicate that the two countries are now more open to joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and that they will not back down in the face of threats from Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The likelihood of a Russian invasion of Ukraine is increasing daily, and yet the leaders of Finland and Sweden are determined to defend their countries’ interests against threats from Moscow. Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin reaffirmed Finland’s right to map its own security position.
RUSSIA THREATS, RHETORICS INCREASE RISK OF CONFLICT WHEN APPLYING FOR NATO INSURANCE
In his New Year’s address to the nation’s Prime Minister Marin declared “We retain the opportunity to apply for NATO membership. We should uphold this freedom of choice and ensure that it remains a reality, as this is part of each country’s right to decide on its own security policy.” Finnish President Sauli Niinisto reinforced the Prime Minister’s feelings in his own New Year’s speech. proverb “Let it be stated once again: Finland’s room for maneuver and freedom of choice also include the possibility of military adaptation and applying for NATO membership, should we decide for ourselves.”
Sweden’s Foreign Minister Anne Linde also claimed that Russia does not have a veto right against whatever alliance Sweden chooses to join. Minister of Defense Peter Hultqvist backed Linde and dismissed the notion that Russia has something to say about Sweden’s security policy.
The possibility of Finland, a country with a history of not joining a military alliance, in Russia’s backyard joining NATO, clearly rattled Moscow, with the Foreign Ministry anger the possibility of Finland and Sweden joining NATO “would have serious military and political consequences that would require an adequate response from Russia.” Given the historical and political differences in relations with Russia, the demands for possible NATO membership are currently greater in Finland than in Sweden.
The signals from Finland about a possible NATO membership would be an unprecedented interruption from Helsinki following World War II’s international security policy that formed the basis of its Cold War foreign policy. Finland’s neutrality after the Second World War was due to its uncertain and unique geographical location, which was mainly a buffer between the Communist East and the democratic West in Europe. Finland shares a long border with Russia and was subjected to invasion and occupation in the meantime Winter war from 1939-1940.
After realizing its difficult strategic position between East and West and after the destruction of the Soviet occupation, Finland pursued a policy of neutrality and did not join NATO or any other military alliance during the Cold War. A treaty of friendship was introduced for Finland in 1948 and the terms of the agreement were defined by the Soviet Union. The underlying agreement meant that Finland accepted a certain level of Soviet influence over its international orientation, limited its relations with the West and committed it to collective defense with the Soviet Union.
THINGS BECOME EDGY HERE IN UKRAINE. AND COLD.
Finland’s consent to Russian security problems is precisely the guarantees that Putin is calling for in his relations with Ukraine. Ukraine, which also borders Russia and had parts of its territory annexed and occupied by Russian forces in 2014, has the long-term goal of joining NATO in hopes of averting future Russian aggression.
If Finland were to join the Atlantic Alliance, it would include another Western allied country near Russia’s border, which violates Russia’s core principle after the Cold War that NATO would refrain from moving east and towards Russia. It is this misconception that is at the heart of the modern conflict with Ukraine and other countries seeking NATO protection. When Germany was reunited in 1990 and the Soviet Union was on the verge of collapse, the Soviets sought assurances from the United States that former Warsaw Pact countries would not join NATO. President Putin claims that the United States broke its promise when NATO launched a steady stream of enlargement, beginning with Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic in 1999. Further NATO membership was extended in 2004 with the release of Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. in. At the Bucharest Summit in 2008, the Alliance agreed to extend membership to Georgia and Ukraine.
The post-Cold War enlargement rounds took place under conditions of undisputed American superiority and relative Russian economic weakness and international decline. Since Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008 and the annexation of Crimea and the occupation of the Donbas region of Ukraine in 2014, Russia has recovered on the international stage and Putin has once again made it clear to the West that Russia will not tolerate NATO’s expansion to the east.
Alexander Stubb, who was Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Finance from 2008 to 2016 and now Director of the School of Transitional Governance at the European University Institute, said that Finland should have joined NATO in 1995. “My personal opinion is that Finland should have joined 1995, at the same time as we joined the EU My opinion has not changed. Now it’s more a matter of timing. Finland’s military system is more NATO – compatible than some NATO members. Negotiations are never a walk in the park, but in Finland the membership track would go fast, says former Prime Minister Stubbs to Fox News.
Finland also deepened its cooperation with NATO during that period without becoming a formal member.
In 1994, Finland joined NATO’s Partnership for Peace program to strengthen cooperation and dialogue between NATO and non-NATO member states. Finland also conducted regular exercises with NATO forces and was an active contributor to many NATO-led missions, including missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
If Finland were to formally take the leap and join NATO, it would mean both benefits and costs for the country.
“What Finland would see as the most important benefit is NATO’s collective security guarantee, which the European Union, in its current form, does not provide militarily,” Laura Nordström, a doctoral student at the University of Helsinki, told Fox News. With a revengeist and re-dissolved Russia threatening its neighbors, NATO’s collective security guarantees would lower the threat posed by Russia.
The obvious cost to Finland would be to worsen relations with Russia at a time when Moscow’s relations with the West are already strained and at its worst since the dark days of the Cold War. Such a move would run counter to Putin’s demand that NATO stop all further expansion to the east. From the Alliance’s perspective, full NATO membership means that Finland enjoys the right to Article 5 collective self-defense. If Russia were to attack Finland, the Alliance would be forced to respond and defend Finland.
Former Prime Minister Stubbs said Russia’s latest hostility and blatant violations of international law and standards for NATO missions returned to its original Cold War mandate.
“It was created as a deterrent to the Soviet Union. Won the Cold War without firing a shot. Then had to do some soul-searching through crisis management. And now, with Russian aggression, it has returned full circle to its origins. Hardly what the Kremlin had in mind, Prime Minister Stubbs told Fox News.
With that in mind, it is not entirely certain that Finland’s accession to NATO would pose as serious a threat to Russia as Ukraine or Georgia joining the alliance. “Finland’s membership, which is already an EU member state and not a former Soviet country, would be seen as a minor problem for Russia. At least Russia has not publicly indicated that Finland would be an equal threat. But this is at the heart of the fears of the the Finnish debate on membership, “said Nordström. Unlike Ukraine and Georgia, Finland was never incorporated into the Soviet Union and enjoys full membership in most Western institutions.
Some in foreign policy and the international security world believe that NATO’s expansion, including Finland’s membership, is unnecessarily provocative at a time when any escalation could lead to armed conflict.
“NATO was created to counter the now defunct Soviet Union. A condition for ending the Cold War was that NATO should stop devouring countries in Russia’s sphere of influence. Hawks want to pretend that Russia is not genuinely concerned about NATO’s expansion, but this is “Not a serious argument,” Max Abrahms, an international security expert at Northeastern University, told Fox News. place in the world.
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Although support for joining NATO has increased slightly over the years, public opinion has Vote shows that Finns are still opposed to joining the Atlantic Alliance, with 28 percent in favor and 42 percent in opposition. The fact remains that NATO membership for either Finland or Sweden remains a distant endeavor, but much may change in the coming months depending on Putin’s whims and whether he decides to move into Ukraine.