Why Finland and Sweden are joining NATO?

Why Finland and Sweden are joining NATO?

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has provoked a major shift in the way Europe sees its security and defense. Two Nordic nations (Finland and Sweden) that have spent decades avoiding any military alliance have decided that they are no longer safe on their own; have requested to join NATO. They took a dramatic U-turn on decades of previously non-alignment policy.

The hostility between Russia and NATO has taken a historic turn. NATO which started with 12 countries now is going to consists of 32 powerful countries giving Russia a tough time. American president triumphantly said that Russia wants the Finlandization of Europe but he failed and the Natoization of Europe started.

Natoization is simply the process of joining NATO (North Atlantic Treaty of Organization). As additional nations joined NATO, Europe became more Natoized. Natoization began after WWII because Soviet Union was seizing European nations one by one during the cold war. The blockade of West Berlin was the most crucial event that led to the foundation of NATO.  When U.S.S.R imposed a blockade, the Western powers joined together to begin rescue efforts in West Berlin, and the Western countries recognized U.S.S.R threat as a white bear for them. NATO was established in April 1949.

When the European countries were joining NATO to face the U.S.S.R menace. Finland employed a different strategy. It agreed with U.S.S.R that it would not face an invasion from the Soviet Union in exchange for Russia’s ability to wield influence in domestic, foreign policy, and internal and external affairs. This is Finlandization, a political approach that maintains its seeming sovereignty while allowing a superpower to exert influence over it.

During the Cold War, three countries demonstrated remarkable behavior: Finland, which signed a friendship treaty with Russia, and Sweden and Switzerland, which remained neutral. Sweden has not fought a war in over 200 years; the last war was fought in 1814. The cold war ended 31 years ago, and NATO and Russia’s positions have shifted. Russia has lost Central Asian and Eastern European nations. NATO gained power and strength with the addition of 30 members. The question is what compelled a country that had been neutral for more than 200 years and had formed a friendship arrangement with Russia to join NATO?

Even though the Cold War ended 31 years ago and the Soviet Union was disintegrated into 15 parts. The reason for this is apprehension over what they would do if Russia emerged as a superpower or regained its lost status. In truth, Russia is fighting to reclaim its lost position under President Putin, a phenomena also known as the resurgence of Russia. Russia took control of Chechenia in 1999, invaded Georgia in 2008, grabbed Crimea in 2014, which is the basis for the present continuing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, and Russia occasionally interfered in the affairs of Baltic States populated by ethnic Russians.

To avoid collisions with Russia, the countries that were once part of Russia started joining NATO. Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungry joined NATO in 1999. Bulgaria, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Romania joined in 2004. Albania, and Croatia in 2009. Montenegro in 2017. North Macedonia in 2020.

What binds them together is Article 5, a defense treaty that specifies that an assault on one country is an attack on all of them. This means that an attack on a weak nation will draw military strength from the United States, the United Kingdom, and France. The Russia-Ukraine war has forced Finland to consider the possibility that if Russia strikes Ukraine to safeguard its borders, Finland, which shares a 1349km border, may be attacked. Sweden also violates its 200-year neutrality by believing that if Finland is attacked, Russia would attack Sweden as well to safeguard the border and reclaim its lost position.

Seeing these countries fear President Joe Biden came to the ground and he along with the President of Finland and the Prime Minister of Sweden announced joining NATO. Finland’s President also faces internal pressure as a poll by a public broadcaster found that 76% of Finns want to join NATO which is much more than 19% five years ago. The same is with Sweden, its population support for NATO increased from 32% to 41%

Joining NATO with Sweden and Finland only favor its geography. Finland’s lengthy border aids NATO’s onslaught on Russia, and its accession to NATO gives NATO entire control over the Baltic Sea. The path to NATO membership for these countries is not without obstacles one of which is Turkey, despite the fact overwhelming voting in the U.S senate on August 3 ratify the approval for membership of NATO along with the support of 23 member countries. NATO membership requires the agreement of each member country’s parliament. Turkey is concerned about Sweden and Finland because they are active in backing Kurds in Turkey. Turkey urged NATO to admit Sweden and Finland to the alliance on a conditional basis.

NATO, on 29 July 2022, at the Madrid summit proposed a conventional invitation to Sweden and Finland at their request. If Sweden and Finland succeeded in getting membersship of NATO then the members of NATO increase to 32. Putin has warned Finland and Sweden that if they were to join NATO then they should be ready to face serious political and military consequences. Interestingly, Putin disclosed in 2017 that he asked Bill Clinton in 1999 to make Russia a member of NATO. After 21 years, Putin is hostile to NATO and off and on threatens the countries that desire to join NATO.

Russia invades Ukraine because it is going to join NATO and will be a threat to its security. Putin warns Sweden and Finland desire to join NATO of deploying nuclear weapons if they join NATO. Sweden and Finland will be able to get umbrella of NATO in military crisis situation. The membership of NATO will be helpful to deal with the Russia expansionist approach to regain its lost status. This will ensure their national security and keep their people safe from foreign invasion. However, they will also need to keep in account whether the benefits of doing so outweigh the potential risks keeping in mind the utility of the alliance in the Ukraine Conflict.

The views expressed by the author are his own and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Global Affairs.

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Muhammad Wasama Khalid

Written by Muhammad Wasama Khalid

Muhammad Wasama Khalid is a Correspondent and Researcher at Global Affairs. He is pursuing his Bachelors in International Relations at National Defense University (NDU). He has a profound interest in history, politics, current affairs, and international relations. He tweets at @Wasama Khalid and can be reached at Wasamakhalid@gmail.com

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