Finland and Sweden Joining NATO
The Western alliance is getting stronger in the face of Russian aggression.
In the hoopla over Cassidy Hutchinson’s bombshell testimony yesterday, the news that Turkey has withdrawn its objection and NATO has formally invited Finland and Sweden to join the Alliance was overshadowed.
Reuters (“NATO invites Finland, Sweden to join, says Russia is a ‘direct threat’“):
NATO invited Sweden and Finland on Wednesday to join the military alliance in one of the biggest shifts in European security in decades after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine pushed Helsinki and Stockholm to drop their traditional of neutrality.
NATO’s 30 allies took the decision at their summit in Madrid and also agreed to formally treat Russia as the “most significant and direct threat to the allies’ security”, according to a summit statement.
“Today, we have decided to invite Finland and Sweden to become members of NATO,” NATO leaders said in their declaration, after Turkey lifted a veto on Finland and Sweden joining.
Ratification in allied parliaments is likely to take up to a year, but once it is done, Finland and Sweden will be covered by NATO’s Article 5 collective defence clause, putting them under the United States’ protective nuclear umbrella.
“We will make sure we are able to protect all allies, including Finland and Sweden,” Stoltenberg said.
In the meantime, the allies are set to increase their troop presence in the Nordic region, holding more military exercises and naval patrols in the Baltic Sea to reassure Sweden and Finland.
After four hours of talks in Madrid on Tuesday, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan agreed with his Finnish and Swedish counterparts a series of security measures to allow the two Nordic countries to overcome the Turkish veto that Ankara imposed in May due to its concerns about terrorism.
It’s unclear what concessions Erdogan was able to wrangle. The NATO statement on the matter was anodyne even by diplomatic standards:
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Türkiye, President Sauli Niinistö of Finland and Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson of Sweden met in Madrid on Tuesday (28 June 2022) under the auspices of NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. In that meeting, the leaders agreed a trilateral memorandum to address Türkiye’s legitimate security concerns, paving the way for Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership. The memorandum was signed by the foreign ministers of the three countries – Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu of Türkiye, Pekka Haavisto of Finland, and Ann Linde of Sweden – in the presence of all three national leaders, and the Secretary General.
Regardless, this is a big deal. While Sweden and Finland were part of the European security architecture for year, formally integrating them into the planning apparatus and extending the nuclear umbrellas matters. As does sending a powerful signal to Putin that his aggression has backfired in a big way.
“We are sending a strong message to (Russian President Vladimir) Putin: ‘you will not win’,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said in a speech.
Allies also agreed on NATO’s first new strategic concept – its master planning document – in a decade. Russia, previously classed as a strategic partner of NATO,is now identified as NATO’s main threat.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is “a direct threat to our Western way of life,” Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo added, citing the wider impact of the war, such as rising energy and food prices.
The planning document also cited China as a challenge for the first time, setting the stage for the 30 allies to plan to handle Beijing’s transformation from a benign trading partner to a fast-growing competitor from the Arctic to cyberspace.
Unlike Russia, whose war in Ukraine has raised serious concerns in the Baltics of an attack on NATO territory, China is not an adversary, NATO leaders said. But Stoltenberg has repeatedly called on Beijing to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow says is a “special operation”.
I’m honestly skeptical that NATO would rally around the United States in a shooting war with China, given that the security interests of most members are simply not all that implicated. But formally acknowledging Putin’s increased menace, as well as the necessity to prepare to defend NATO interests in the Arctic, is useful.
Russia is achieving the opposite of what Putin sought when he launched his war in Ukraine in part to counter the expansion of NATO, Western leaders say.
Both Finland, which has a 1,300 km (810 mile) border with Russia, and Sweden, home of the founder of the Nobel Peace Prize, are now set to bring well-trained militaries into the NATO, aimed at giving the alliance Baltic Sea superiority.
“One of the most important messages from President Putin … was that he was against any further NATO enlargement,” Stoltenberg said on Tuesday evening. “He wanted less NATO. Now President Putin is getting more NATO on his borders.”