Associated with NATO since 1994, within the framework of the Partnership for Peace (PPP), the outbreak of war in Ukraine on February 24 brought Helsinki and Stockholm, two non-NATO countries, even closer towards a “probable” candidacy. The Social Democratic Prime Minister of Finland said “there is no other way to have security guarantees than within the framework of common defense and deterrence as guaranteed by Article 5 of the ‘NATO. »
A Scandinavian enlargement that bristles Moscow
This possibility of NATO’s enlargement to Scandinavian countries greatly displeases the Kremlin, which has not hesitated to directly threaten its neighbours. The Russian Foreign Ministry reacted by indicating that Helsinki’s accession to the Atlantic alliance would lead “to serious political and military consequences. The spokeswoman for the ministry indicated that an extension of NATO to the Scandinavian countries would not strengthen their national security, “but would place them de facto in the front line. For several days, the Russian army has multiplied the signs of provocations. On May 4, a Russian helicopter, a Mil Mi-17, crossed the airspace for four to five kilometers for the second time in less than a month. A type of incident that has become regular, the day before, Russia had also violated Estonian airspace.
In Brussels, the Scandinavian file is closely followed. “We are in dialogue with Stockholm and Helsinki and the decision is up to them. But if they decide to submit an application, Finland and Sweden will be warmly welcomed and the process should take place quickly,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on April 28 in Brussels. Within the organisation, the Member States are almost unanimous in favor of the integration of Sweden and Finland. Following a meeting in Berlin on Tuesday May 3, the political leaders of Germany, Sweden and Finland, Chancellor Olaf Scholz had specified that “if these two countries decide that they must join the NATO alliance, then they can count on our support. »
From non-alignment and neutrality to the Atlantic alliance, a 180° turn
The possibility of a candidacy for NATO represents a major geopolitical revolution for the two Scandinavian states. Aligned with the policy of the Soviet Union during the Cold War, Helsinki underwent a “forced neutrality” summarized under the term “Finlandization”. The break-up of the communist regime in 1991 enabled Helsinki to free itself from this forced alignment. In 1995, the country joined the European Union, breaking definitively with this neutrality imposed since 1945 and the end of the Second World War.
A new historic step was taken in mid-April, when the government presented the parliamentarians of the Eduskunta (the Finnish parliament) with the new “white paper. This document defining the military objectives and the geostrategic orientations recommends joining NATO. Deputies began to study the issue during a parliamentary debate. Prime Minister Sanna Marin wants to step up the pace to submit an application before the next NATO summit in Madrid in June: “I think it will happen fairly quickly. In a few weeks, not a few months. »
Peaceful since the Napoleonic wars, NATO has no longer been a taboo word in Stockholm since February 24, the date of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. “We have been non-aligned for 200 years and it has served us well,” Magdalena Anderson cautiously asserted. The Scandinavian country is also not ruling out joining the ranks of the Western alliance. “We have to think about what is best and safest for Sweden, I don’t have an answer to this question yet,” said the Swedish leader during the festivities of the 1er may.
The debate on a possible candidacy is intensifying in the country. The war has reinforced the Atlanticism of the Swedes, 54% of them now want Sweden to join the Atlantic alliance. Five months before the general elections, the Social Democrats currently in power announced in early April the opening of internal discussions to clarify the line. “This dialogue should be completed before the summer,” said Tobias Baudin, secretary general of the party since November 2021.
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