This week, Finland and Sweden applied at the same time to join NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), which is a political-military alliance with headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, founded in 1949 to initially counteract the expansion of the Soviet Union in East Europe. By this treaty, an attack against one member is considered as an attack to the whole organization. The only occasion when this happened was during the September 11 attacks by which the members sent their air force to assist the United States in patrolling its skies. The US is the biggest contributor with 80% of the budget and has 5,500 nuclear warheads compared to France’s 290 and UK’s 225 (Germany does not have since this was a condition to be accepted into the EU in 1954). Each of the thirty countries that are in NATO has a veto right about the possibility that a new candidate may join the alliance.
Sweden has been following an official policy of military neutrality since 1812 after it lost the territory of Finland to Russia, and to avoid internal political instability regarding which major European continental power should be supported in a new war after Napoleon Bonaparte was defeated. This policy protected Sweden from invasions during the two World Wars, and when the Social Democratic Party dominated Swedish politics during the Cold War, it gave Sweden a role in the world as a peacekeeper nation that also supported the Non-Aligned countries movement. On the other hand, neutrality was for Finland a matter of survival after losing two wars with the Soviet Union between 1939 and 1944, the later one by being an ally of Nazi Germany.
Ever since, the public support in both countries to remain outside any military alliance had been very strong until Russia invaded Ukraine this year. Just before the start of the war, the government of Putin demanded several times that Sweden and Finland should stop their joint military exercises with Western powers in the Nordic region and if they should join NATO, they would suffer “military-technical consequences”. From all of this, Russia was no longer seen as a reliable neighbor and both Nordic countries decided to be part of the military support guarantees that NATO provides when a country becomes a member.
Now that Finland and Sweden are waiting for the approval of each member country, Turkey, which is part of NATO since 1952 and provides the second-biggest army after the US, is threatening to use its veto right to resolve some conflicting issues with Western countries. These are:
• Finland and Sweden must stop to harbour members separatist groups that fight in Kurdistan, an area that spreads around Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran and Armenia, and other anti-government groups like the so-called Gülen movement, even if by now those persons are fully part of the society and have citizenship in both countries.
• Western countries must stop the provision of arms to Kurdish separatists groups that were fighting ISIS at the beginning and now also are attacking Turkish forces.
• The US and Nordic countries must stop the arms embargo against Turkey that exists since 2019 when it attacked those Kurdish militias and signed also a military deal with Russia.
• The European Union should increase the 6 billion euros in aid it gave to Turkey in 2016 to stop the flow of asylum seekers into Europe.
It is unlikely that Sweden and Finland will give their own citizens to be prosecuted in Turkey as this would be unconstitutional in both countries. Instead, it is expected that the US will compromise with Erdoğan on the arms embargo and that the Nordic countries will stop their official support to Kurdish militias that operate in the Middle East and are classified by Turkey as terrorist organizations. Thus, it seems that Sweden and Finland will indeed become part of NATO.