After many months of deliberations from Sweden and Finland and initial opposition from Turkey, NATO has officially invited the two countries to join the largest military alliances in the world. This marks an enormous shift in European security prompted by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

All of NATO’s members formally invited Sweden and Finland to join the alliance during the NATO summit in Madrid after discussing several security threats of today’s time. One of the threats was Russia and its primarily aggressive expansionist rhetoric in Europe. The organization, founded in 1949, was created to defend against the Soviet Union. However, this threat has now gone online as it waged war on Ukraine last February 24 based on pretenses of Ukrainians being “neo-Nazis” and that there was a need to “de-Nazify” the country.

It is widely understood that Russia invaded Ukraine as it opposed Kyiv’s leaning toward the West, specifically about joining the European Union and NATO. In a classic example of a backfire, Russia has forced Sweden and Finland, historically neutral countries, to rescind their neutrality in favor of joining NATO. In simple terms, because of their fears that NATO would expand in admitting Ukraine as a member, their plan backfired as NATO now invites two countries to join their alliance.

Historical Background

Many of our casual readers are probably wondering why the move is significant. For some historical context, Sweden was initially proclaimed neutral by King Gustav XIV in 1834, maintaining this neural status throughout the military conflicts until today. In World War II, they preserved being neutral by allowing the Germans to pass through Swedish territory. In the same light, they also took in refugees that the Nazis persecuted. They would also trade with the Allies and Nazi Germany during this time.

On the other hand, Finland declared itself neutral in 1948, signing the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance with the USSR. Technically they did not declare neutrality but were forced to be neutral by the USSR.

Since those declarations of neutrality, it is only today that the two countries are shifting away from their non-aligned status and choosing a side. 

However, there were many signs that the two countries would eventually join NATO and side with the West during the initial phase of the war. In addition, the two countries would vote against Russia in various UN General Assembly resolutions. The two Nordic countries have also agreed to adopt the EU’s economic sanctions on Russia, with many companies from these countries pulling out from Russia following the invasion.

Sweden has also sent offensive weapons to Ukraine, albeit limited to anti-tank weapons and armor. Finland has also donated military aid to Ukraine, sending assault rifles, anti-tank weapons, and combat rations.

Sweden and Finland’s Turkey Barrier

Turkey was the primary hurdle the two countries needed to get across as Ankara opposed the membership of Sweden and NATO. Initially, Turkey accused Finland and Sweden of funding the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). This party opposed the Turkish government, fighting an armed struggle against the authorities for decades.

“We are following the developments regarding Sweden and Finland, but we don’t hold positive views,” Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said. “As Turkey, we don’t want to repeat similar mistakes. Furthermore, Scandinavian countries are guesthouses for terrorist organizations.”

Upon discussion and dialogue, Turkey eventually dropped their opposition to Sweden and Finland’s membership in NATO upon signing a memorandum last Tuesday while in Madrid. 

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“I am pleased to announce that we have an agreement that paves the way for Sweden and Finland to join NATO,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said during a news conference.

According to a statement released by the Office of the President of Finland, all three countries have decided to support each other’s security fully, ridding Turkey’s accusation that Sweden and Finland were supporting the PKK. Furthermore, Turkey stated that the two Nordic nations agreed not to impose embargoes on the defense industry and that it would take “concrete steps” in the extradition of “terrorist criminals.” Specifically, Ankara also demanded that Sweden and Finland extradite wanted individuals and life arms restrictions imposed on their country after their military incursion into Syria last 2019.

“Over the past weeks, Türkiye has raised its concerns over the threat of terrorism. Finland has constantly taken these concerns seriously. Finland condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. As a NATO member, Finland will commit fully to the counterterrorism documents and policies of NATO,” the statement read.

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson stated that the agreement between Turkey was “good for Finland and Sweden. And it’s good for NATO.” She also expressed that the completion of the membership should be done at the soonest possible time amidst the Russian threat to European security.