Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has pushed Nordic nations toward NATO

The security framework in Europe has been drastically changing as the perception rapidly spreads that a policy of neutrality cannot protect a country. This change has been caused by Russia’s barbaric invasion of Ukraine.

Finland and Sweden, both northern European nations that have maintained neutrality so far, have begun to seriously consider joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Finland will reportedly decide whether to apply for membership within weeks.

NATO is a military alliance with 30 member countries, including the United States, Canada and European nations such as Britain, France and Germany.

Its treaty stipulates the exercise of collective self-defense in the event of an attack on a NATO member state, with the alliance regarding this as an attack on all member states and launching a counteroffensive. Since the Cold War era, NATO has functioned as a deterrent against the former Soviet Union and Russia.

Finland shares a border of about 1,300 kilometers with Russia. Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin has said, “Everything changed when Russia invaded Ukraine.” Finland’s move apparently indicates that the Nordic country is uneasy about its policy of neutrality and has realized the value of being defended by NATO.

According to a public opinion survey, the percentage of Finns who support joining NATO jumped from less than 30% last autumn to more than 60% in March this year. In Sweden, 51% of respondents were also in favor of joining NATO. More than half the respondents in both Nordic countries approved of joining the military alliance.

NATO is also positively considering the wishes of the two Nordic countries, but it usually takes more than a year to become a full member, including the ratification procedure by all member states.

Finland and Sweden have so far participated in NATO meetings to exchange information on the Ukraine crisis. To prevent them from being swayed by Russia until they join NATO officially, the two nations need to further deepen their practical cooperation with the alliance.

Russia has threatened to strengthen its military readiness in areas around Finland if the two countries join NATO. It seems that Russia has in fact been confused by a situation Moscow did not expect.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has claimed that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was to protect the safety of Russia from NATO’s eastward expansion. However, it has become obvious that this was only a pretext and the aim is to bring Ukraine under Russia’s control.

Having seen Russia’s real actions, it is quite natural that the two Nordic nations are attempting to change their policy of neutrality and join NATO. It is Russia itself that has boosted moves to strengthen and expand NATO.

If Putin claims that the expansion of NATO would negatively affect Russia’s security environment, Russia should stop the invasion immediately and withdraw all its troops from Ukraine.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 20, 2022)