Understand why Finland and Sweden were neutral and now want to join NATO | Ukraine and Russia

Earlier this year, Swedish Army tanks began patrolling the sleepy island of Gotland, until then an alternative tourist destination for Swedes in the Baltic Sea. The move responded to increasing Russian military activities in the region.

It was one of the first signs that Scandinavian countries were about to abandon the neutrality they had historically adopted in world conflicts, with the main objective of protecting their own territory from a potential Russian threat.

Swedish military plane and tanks on the island of Gotland, a tourist destination in the country where the government has announced an increase in the presence of the army due to threats from Russia in the Baltic Sea (Photo: Associated Press)

This is one of the main readjustments of world geopolitics as indirect effects of the Ukraine war. This Thursday (12), Finland formalized its intention to apply “as soon as possible” to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the western military alliance that the Kremlin considers its main enemy today.

The two countries remained neutral for decades, albeit for different reasons.

Sweden maintained neutrality for cultural reasons. The country was one of the oldest to have this model, which it adopted after World War I and, although it formally abdicated neutrality when it joined the European Union in 1995, the Swedish government has already rejected proposals to join NATO and has continued without intervene in conflicts.

Border between Russia and Finland is more than 1,300 km long — Photo: Arte g1

For Finland, being a neutral country was related to its geographical position. The country fears a 1,300-kilometer border with Russia, and since tensions between Russia and Ukraine escalated late last year, it fears it is unprotected if Moscow decides to retaliate against the West.

The population, which was always the majority in favor of neutrality, began to show support for the entry of the Finland in NATO. According to a recent survey, 76% of residents support joining the military alliance.

“I think it’s great news. We’ve really been waiting for this NATO entry to happen for a long time and we’re very happy. This will bring more security to Finland against Russian aggression, and it also shows Russia that Finland can make a decision without their interference,” said Niko Ohvo, a resident of the Finnish capital.

Sweden’s Prime Minister Andersson meets with Finland’s Prime Minister Marin in Stockholm on April 13, 2022 — Photo: Paul Wennerholm/TT News Agency/via Reuters

In mid-April, the prime ministers of Finland, Sanna Marin, and of Sweden, Magdalena Andersson, announced together that they would debate in their parliaments the intention to join NATO, which should happen by mid-May. The increasingly concrete possibility provoked the ire of the Russian government, which made veiled threats to the two countries.

Also on Thursday (12), the governments of the United States, Germany and France said they support the candidacy of Finland and Sweden to NATO and stated that they will strive to facilitate the entry of both as soon as possible. That way, if Russia attacks the territory of both countries, NATO can fight back.

“I spoke on the phone with the President of Finland and assured him of the German government’s full support for joining NATO,” said German Prime Minister Olaf Scholz.

About Abhishek Pratap

Food maven. Unapologetic travel fanatic. MCU's fan. Infuriatingly humble creator. Award-winning pop culture ninja.

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