M. Greaney

Both Sweden and Finland have remained politically neutral for over a century until the Russian invasion on Ukraine in February of 2022 (BBC 1). Putin’s decision to attack Ukraine broke a “long standing sense of stability” in Northern Europe, leaving countries like Sweden and Finland “feeling vulnerable” (BBC 1). Nordic countries have taken action to support Ukrainian refugees, such as the Swedish National Agency for Education preparing preschools and schools to welcome Ukrainian children (NWC). Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society’s Deborah Soloman believes full membership and NATO’s nuclear suppression could increase tensions and threats of an arms race with Russia, with Finland’s former Prime Minister, Alexander Stubb, adding the process of joining NATO was a “done deal” (BBC 1).

The implementation of NATO’s Article 5 gives Finland and Sweden security to have the full allegiance of all members to come to their rescue (BBC 1). The basis of Article 5 emphasizes the idea of an attack on one is an attack on all (NATO). Official membership status grants Finland and Sweden a wider range of defense on the Nordic and Baltic region (BBC 1). Now officially members of NATO, Finland and Sweden’s decision to join the alliance is not a recent development, as historical tensions with Russia trace back further than recent decades (Reuters). These tensions have roots dating as far back as the 17th and 18th centuries when the Czars held dominance in the Russian Empire (Reuters).

In 1948, Finland signed the Agreement of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance with Russia to secure economic and political security, until the fall of the Soviet Union (Reuters). In 1994, Sweden and Finland became significant contributors to the alliance, participating in numerous NATO missions following the conclusion of the Cold War through a partnership agreement (BBC 1). As of March 2024, both Sweden and Finland are NATO members, with Sweden officially joining on March 7th, 2024, and Finland on April 4th, 2023. (Finnish Government). Sweden’s accession took a considerable amount of time due to Turkey and Hungary’s, opposition of the Nordic country joining (BBC 1).

Turkey’s resistance stemmed from accusations against Swedish support for terrorist organizations, such as the Kurdish militant PKK and the Gulen movement, who Turkey blames for attempted coups in 2016 (BBC 1). Sweden’s embrace of the Kurds and their politics into Swedish forums has created hostilities between the countries (BBC 1). President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey gave primary demands to end political, financial, and “armed support,” to militants. In response to this, Sweden amended its terror laws in June 2023 to prohibit involvement in extremist groups in any form that demonstrates or offers support to anti-Turkish sentiment (BBC 1).

In response to these events, President Vladimir Putin of Russia has asserted that the invasion of Ukraine was triggered by NATO’s expansion and the perceived increased threat it poses (BBC 1). Furthermore, Russia’s foreign ministry has issued warnings of potential consequences in response to Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership (BBC 1). Finland and Sweden have been alerted to Russia’s movement of nuclear weapons into Belarus; however, Russia’s course of action remains unknown (BBC 1). Former Prime Minister Stubb addressed Russia’s warning, highlighting potential repercussions such as Russian cyberattacks, disinformation campaigns, and frequent airspace violations as significant concerns for the Nordic countries (BBC 1).

According to a joint survey by the Chicago Council and the Levada Center, nearly half of Russians disapprove of the idea that Nordic countries such as Finland and Sweden are aligning with NATO due to concerns about Russia. Some participants expressed the belief that both Nordic countries were pressured to join NATO by the United States (Global Affairs). Opinions vary, with three in ten Russians from a Moscow focus group viewing NATO’s growth as a reflection of Russia’s errors in foreign policy (Global Affairs). While NATO remains a lingering long-term threat, Russia considers it unlikely that the conflict with Ukraine will escalate into a conflict with NATO as well (Global Affairs). As of January 2024, NATO has been conducting its largest military exercise ever, named Steadfast Defender, which will involve 90,000 individuals from all 32 NATO member countries (BBC 2).

Reference Page

BBC 1. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-61397478

BBC 2. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-18023383

Global Affairs. https://globalaffairs.org/research/public-opinion-survey/do-russians-fear-west


NWC. https://nordicwelfare.org/integration-norden/en/teman/6854/

Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/brief-history-finlands-swedens-strained-ties-with-russia-2022-05-12/

Posted April 18, 2024