Sweden And Finland Bury a Historic Neutrality And Face a Key Week For Their Entry Into NATO

Before launching his invasion, Putin concentrated thousands of soldiers near the border with Ukraine as an element of pressure to try to renegotiate the continent’s security architecture and prevent NATO’s expansion to the east. It did not work and, almost three months after the Russian assault, their war has achieved just the opposite: I have finished burying the historical neutrality that Sweden and Finland had tried to maintain until now, making their entry into the defensive organization very possible and expanding it directly to your border.

On Sunday, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö announced that the country will formally apply for NATO membership. Hours later, the Swedish Social Democratic Party, which governs in a minority in the country, changed its policy for decades and announced that it will support the candidacy for the Atlantic alliance. Both decisions will go through their respective parliaments this Monday – where joining NATO enjoys a comfortable majority – in a key week for the organization’s history. In addition, both countries will try to synchronize their requests to send them together. The President of Finland will visit Sweden on Tuesday, in whose Parliament will make a speech under the title “a stable, responsible and strong Nordic region”.

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Although for NATO the two states are still neutral, since joining the EU in 1995 are under article 42.7 of the EU on defense: “If a Member State is the object of an armed aggression on its territory, the other Member States will owe it help and assistance with all the means at its disposal. scope. This is understood without prejudice to the specific nature of the security and defense policy of certain Member States”. However, the ambiguity in the formulation and the strength of the NATO collective defense article, under which a large part of the continent falls, have limited the scope of this community clause. In addition, in recent years, both Finland and Sweden have strengthened cooperation mechanisms with the Atlantic alliance.

“NATO is stronger than ever and I think it has postponed the possibility of a European strategic autonomy because we have realized that when the moment of truth arrives, if the Americans are not there, the system does not work. The Swedes and Finns are seeing it now, who have article 42.7 of the EU Treaty that speaks of an automatic defense between the Member States, but if the Americans are not inside, then the difference is noticeable”, said Jorge Dezcallar, former director of the CNI, in a recent interview with elDiario.es.

The origin of neutrality

Finland’s neutrality policy stems from the period after World War II. In 1948, he signed the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance with the Soviet Union., which prohibited Finland from joining NATO and ceding its territory to attack the USSR and recognized its desire to rema in on the sidelines of conflicts between the great powers. The neutrality of the country responds to the Paasikivi-Kekkonen doctrine (presidents of the country in the period 1946-1982). This doctrine sought to achieve the survival of the country as a sovereign, democratic and capitalist state on the border with the USSR. To understand this policy, remember that Finland declared its independence from Russia in 1917 after more than a century under Moscow’s rule; that her troops fought twice against the Soviets during World War II; and that both share 1,300 kilometers of border.

After the dissolution of the USSR, Finland and Russia replaced the treaty with a new friendship agreement in which they simply committed to peacefully resolve possible disputes. This step paved the way for Finland’s entry into the EU, which materialized in 1995.

For its part, Sweden’s policy of neutrality dates back almost 200 years, when it was proclaimed by King Gustaf XIV in 1834. Sweden remained neutral in both world wars. In 1941 it allowed German forces to pass through her territory to reach the front in Finland and at the same time protected refugees from Nazism.

“The security of Sweden depended a lot on the status of Finland and indirectly on the policy of the USSR towards Finland”, NATO points out on its website on neutral states. The Swedish prime minister confirms this analysis: “If Sweden becomes the only Baltic Sea State that is not a member of NATO, we would end up in a very vulnerable situation and it could not be ruled out that Russia would increase the pressure on Sweden.”

“We believe that the best thing for Sweden and the security of the Swedish people is for us to join NATO,” Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said on Sunday after announcing the party’s decision. “It is clear that February 24 marked a before and after. The security system on which Sweden has built its security is under attack. Freedom from military alliances has worked well for us, but it won’t in the future,” she added.

The decision taken on Sunday by the Social Democratic Party represents a radical change in its policy, since two months ago it rejected the opposition’s requests in this regard. “If Sweden were to choose to apply for NATO accession in the current situation, it would further destabilize this region of Europe and increase tensions,” the prime minister declared in March.

In fact, in November last year, Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist said: “Sweden will never be a member of NATO As long as I’m a minister.” In March he ratified his words: “I have the same opinion and I say the same, but without ever using the word.” On Sunday, however, Hultqvist was with the prime minister announcing the change in position. “When the conditions of what we have built disappear – with the war in Russia and Finland approaching NATO entry – then we have to be able to assess the situation and see how we continue”, he declared in a statement. interview with a local media.

The Swedish Social Democratic Party has made it clear that if its candidacy is approved by NATO, it will express its “unilateral reservations against the deployment of nuclear weapons and permanent bases on Swedish territory.”

Explaining the change in policy, the Finnish president has stated that the invasion of Ukraine “shows that [Rusia] is prepared to attack an independent neighboring country.” Niinistö announced his decision to Putin in a phone call on Saturday. “We are known for not slipping away or disappearing. It is better to say it directly to the interested party and that is what I wanted to do.” “The surprise was that he took it so calmly, but in security politics, especially when we talk about Russia, you have to keep in mind that what he said does not mean that you do not have to be very attentive all the time. But at the moment it seems that there are no immediate problems in sight.”

For her part, the Swedish prime minister has said that during the application process, Sweden will be left in a “vulnerable position” against Russia. “We expect disinformation campaigns. It has already started somehow calling us Nazis. There may be cyberattacks and violations of our border”, said Foreign Minister Ann Linde, who pointed out that “several of the big countries” have guaranteed Sweden support at the security level for this next period.

The war in Ukraine has not only changed the opinion of politicians about NATO, but also that of its citizens. According to polls published by the Finnish public broadcaster, before the invasion of the Ukraine, traditionally the majority of Finns rejected the entrance in NATO. However, that changed in February, where the yes to NATO reached 53%. Since then, the percentage has skyrocketed to 76% last week. For its part, a survey commissioned from Demoskop by the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet showed for the first time in March a majority of Swedes in favor of joining the Atlantic alliance (51%). In April, the percentage grew to 57%.

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