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Tags: nato | scandanavia | denmark | norway

Would a NATO Expansion Into Scandinavia Leave Ukraine Behind?

map of scandanavian countries

(Sjankauskas | Dreamstime)

Marek Jan Chodakiewicz By Tuesday, 05 April 2022 09:37 AM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

Compliments of Vladimir Putin’s belligerence in Ukraine, NATO’s Denmark and Norway may soon welcome two more Nordic nations as our military alliance members: Sweden and Finland have been seriously considering joining up.

This is not a given. Bot nations have long cherished their neutrality. Sweden sat out both World Wars. Afterward, it officially stayed aloof of Western defense arrangements.

During the Cold War Finland was, well, Finlandized. It enjoyed internal autonomy but it pursued no foreign policy of its own. It essentially followed the USSR’s diktat in all respect.

After the implosion of the Soviet Union Finland has maintained close ties to the post-Soviet zone. It heavily invested in the Baltics. So did Sweden.

Both have done brisk business with Russia. They took advantage of their Cold War contacts and experiences for mutual economic benefit.

This cozy relationship has come under fire both in Sweden and Finland because of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. There is talk of disinvestment; the Finns have even now suspended their rail travel to St. Petersburg.

And, to Russia’s fury, there is talk about joining NATO. There has always been a segment in both Sweden and Finland favoring closer ties with the West, and even membership in the U.S.-led military alliance. The Russian aggression against Ukraine boosted the numbers in favor significantly.

In early March a clear majority of Swedes favored putting their nation’s fate in NATO’s hands. In 2021 only 34% of Finns wanted NATO membership. However, the support for NATO membership grew exponentially in Finland. It has climbed from 48% to 51% and 53% to reach 60% in a matter of days.

This is unprecedented because the taciturn Finns hitherto have mostly relied on bilateral arrangements with Russia to maintain their national security and integrity. The Kremlin has broken the seal of Finnish isolationism.

The Russians have not been helping themselves at all. Threats abound. Routine cases of border violations are on the rise: both maritime and airborne. Most of them occur in the Baltics, but Scandinavia is not immune either.

In a most recent egregious case of incursion, the Russians sent drones to photograph Sweden’s nuclear facilities and the Drottningholm Castle, a royal residence. Swedish security services caught a Russian man red-handed. He claimed to be a tourist.

Further, after three Russian landing craft entered the area of the Swedish island of Gotland in the Baltic, the Swedes dispatched their military there.

Earlier, for similar reasons, Norway not only beefed up its own defense capabilities, but also invited the U.S. to re-occupy some of its Cold War fiord redoubts as well as stepped up joint NATO exercises in the north. Oslo further cooperates with Copenhagen and Warsaw to finalize the Baltic Pipe which is designed to counter Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline and provide energy security for Europe by substituting Norwegian for Russian gas.

In addition, Denmark has bumped up its defense budget and warned against Russian and other espionage activities. It reflexively strengthened its maritime perimeter as well. The Russians have preemptively warned the Danes against allowing the U.S. to deploy to Bornholm.

The Finns meanwhile ordered their new F-35s from America and implemented other defense measures.

All this predates the invasion of Ukraine. Now, the tensions have only escalated.

Is NATO membership for Sweden and Finland in the cards? Perhaps. For now, however, the two Nordic countries have been coordinating cooperation with their neighbors and the United States.

There is pushback, naturally. Some of it smacks of Russian active measures, like the timing of the revelations about the CIA’s psychological experiments on Danish orphans in the 1960s or the high profile spy scandal in Copenhagen leading to the arrest of some of the top spooks.

However, it is mostly Swedish and Finnish (and European Union) politicians that are very cautious of NATO.

An EU commissioner cautioned against allowing a referendum to join the alliance. Obviously, the argument goes, the people are too excited by Putin’s actions in Ukraine to make the right choice.

Sweden’s left-wing prime minister crows about destabilization of the region should Sweden’s access to the alliance occur. Finland’s president also slows things down, while exploring options. For now, increased cooperation with the Alliance should be enough. Perhaps that may be the case.

A larger question looms, however: if we allow for NATO expansion in Scandinavia, what is the Biden administration going to do about the hopes of Ukraine and Georgia? What will Putin do?

Marek Jan Chodakiewicz is Professor of History at the Institute of World Politics, a graduate school of statecraft in Washington D.C.; expert on East-Central Europe's Three Seas region; author, among others, of "Intermarium: The Land Between The Baltic and Black Seas." Read Marek Jan Chodakiewicz's Reports — More Here.

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Compliments of Vladimir Putin's belligerence in Ukraine, NATO's Denmark and Norway may soon welcome two more Nordic nations as our military alliance members: Sweden and Finland have been seriously considering joining up.
nato, scandanavia, denmark, norway
Tuesday, 05 April 2022 09:37 AM
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