Sweden and Finland renounced their neutrality in favor of NATO's security umbrella
In the context of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Sweden and Finland renounced their neutrality in favor of NATO's security umbrella. The two Scandinavian countries officially applied for candidacy, ending a long term policy of military non-alliance. However, in order to be able to join the alliance, the two countries need the unanimous vote of all present members, and that is being blocked by Turkey. The Turkish authorities are invoking the sanctions that the two countries had slapped on Ankara, and the fact that they allegedly support Kurdish terrorism. In spite of this, NATO is confident that the objections could be overcome, and that subsequently the process of joining would take only a few weeks. Ratification by the parliaments of the 30 member states may then be able to be completed within around a year. Therefore, NATO is preparing for a historic expansion in the region, catalyzed by Russia's war in Ukraine.
We asked what these two countries joining NATO would bring to the table. Answering on Radio Romania was Virgil Balaceanu, retired general, and former Romanian representative at NATO's headquarters in Brussels, saying that this move is beneficial to those two countries, but not only:
“Let us keep in mind that these are two important countries, Sweden and Finland, because they have been and are very close to NATO, because they are the most active NATO partner states. These states have territorial defense principles, most emphatically Finland, but also Sweden. By joining NATO, they bring to it added value and strength, and a strengthening of the northern flank. In addition to Poland and the Baltic states, they bring additional security and deterrence in the face of Russian aggression. This creates a certain problem, but that is in air quotes, because in time we will see that the southeastern flank is the most imperiled, it is the most threatened, while not being the strongest. But that does not mean that the two states joining does not lead to a stronger NATO, and I would not say it creates problems to the Russian Federation. In fact, the Russian Federation fell short of saying that the integration of the two states would create major problems. However, this is a backfire type of situation: the Russian Federation started a war with the idea of ensuring Ukraine's neutrality, but the reverse happened, which is extremely unfavorable for them. These two very strong states, industrially and defensively, will join NATO. Let us hope that the process of integration will be brief, overcoming the problems created by Turkey's opposition.”
Speaking on Radio Free Europe, Doug Klain, deputy director with the Eurasia center of the Atlantic Council, said that if Sweden and Finland join NATO, it is quite clear that they would be security providers, not consumers, since Sweden and Finland have modern and effective armies, which work in tandem with NATO. However, no matter how well trained the two countries are, they are leery of a direct confrontation with Russia.
Doug Klain thinks that the two countries share the same fears, but for Finland this fear is much more palpable. They share a long border with Russia, and in the last few years, Russian military planes have been skirting Finnish airspace more often, flexing their muscle. In the opinion of the expert with the Atlantic Council, one of the reasons for which Sweden opted to join the alliance is the discomfort of being the only Scandinavian country without NATO membership, since Finland chose to join, while Denmark and Norway have been members since 1949. The two countries joining would have a significant impact. The Baltic Sea would be surrounded almost completely by NATO member states, and the border with the Russian Federation would be much longer. Here is military analyst Radu Tudor:
“This is precisely what Vladimir Putin wanted to avoid, and, considering his repeated strategic mistakes, this is precisely what he gets. We would not be talking about this speedy integration into NATO of Finland and Sweden, two countries that have kept neutral militarily so far, were it not for this aberrant and bloody war started by Russia in Ukraine. It shows once again that Russia is aggressive, unpredictable, and poses a threat for civilized countries. Therefore Sweden and Finland believe that only under NATO's umbrella can they be protected from Russia's military aggression, which has been proven historically. As a result, I would venture to say that these two countries bring to the table exceptional expertise in terms of effectively combating Russia's military aggression, given their history, and the long period of time in which they faced challenges from Moscow. In a way, this rounds up the security problem of NATO's northern flank. There we have several anchors, Poland, Sweden, Finland, Norway, and Denmark, which are very serious countries, with a major military contribution to NATO.”
Radu Tudor concluded by saying that what remains to be seen is how to develop the NATO military and infrastructure in the southeast of the alliance, an area that Romania is a part of.