: Finland and Sweden Seem Likely to Join NATO. What That Means for Europe #WorldNEWS One of the many justifications Vladimir Putin has offered for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is that NATO’s
Finland and Sweden Seem Likely to Join NATO. What That Means for Europe #WorldNEWS
One of the many justifications Vladimir Putin has offered for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is that NATO’s post-Cold War eastward advance threatens Russia’s national security. But if he hoped his assault on Ukraine would push the transatlantic alliance onto the back foot, Finland and Sweden are about to disappoint him. Both are preparing to join NATO in coming months, instantly doubling the length of the border that separates Russia from the largest and most successful military alliance in history.
Many Americans may be surprised to learn that Russia’s large Nordic neighbors weren’t already members. Before and during World War II, Finland fought two wars with the Soviet Union that ended in stalemate. That allowed Finland to keep its independence in exchange for a pledge to remain neutral in the Cold War battle between East and West. For its part, Sweden has safeguarded neutrality as a central pillar of its foreign policy for 200 years.
After Soviet collapse, the two countries joined the European Union, but neither felt an urgent need to sign up for a post-Cold War military alliance whose continuing purpose was unclear. Russia’s 2014 seizure of Crimea persuaded both countries to build cooperation with NATO, but there was no groundswell of public opinion to join. That remained the case until Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
Why would Finland and Sweden want to join now? Because growing numbers of voters in these countries are now convinced that NATO membership provides necessary and urgent protection. After all, Russia has harassed but not attacked former Soviet republics Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. They are full NATO members. And non-alignment hasn’t spared Ukraine. “Russia is not the neighbor we thought it was,” said Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin after its soldiers crossed Ukraine’s borders. “When Russia invaded Ukraine, Swedens security position changed fundamentally,” read a statement from Sweden’s governing Social Democratic party earlier this month. “I do not really see how Sweden and Finland will be able to guarantee our security outside NATO when Russia is ready in 2022 to start completely unprovoked a full-scale war against a neighboring country,” wrote the political editor of a Swedish newspaper linked to that party, which has been historically reluctant to support joining NATO. Record numbers of people in both countries now favor NATO membership.
How quickly can they join? Finland will probably file a membership application before a NATO summit in Madrid on June 29.
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