Since Finland and Sweden formally applied to join on May 18, 2022, many questions are up in the air about how this move will play out on a geopolitical level.
The Russo-Ukrainian conflict largely accelerated this move. With the polar regions becoming of greater geoeconomic and geopolitical importance, adding Finland and Sweden into the NATO fold makes sense in an effort to compete with Russia in this new theater of competition. The Russo-Ukrainian war gives NATO a great pretext to add these countries into the fold.
NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg stated that Finland and Sweden’s NATO application was a “historic moment.”
“You are our closest partners, and your membership in NATO will increase our shared security,” Stoltenberg stated during a brief ceremony where Swedish and Finnish ambassadors hand-delivered their NATO application letters.
Despite these lofty prospective additions to NATO, Turkey has thrown a major wrench in this plan by demanding that Sweden and Finland submit to several demands. These include having the two Nordic countries no longer shelter members of the PKK and similar pro-Kurdish organizations, which Turkey has classified as terrorist organizations. In addition, Turkey wants the US to make concessions on a F-16 fighter jet deal.
Historically, Finland and Sweden have remained neutral as far as military affairs are concerned. King Gustav XIV of Sweden established a policy of neutrality in 1834. Finland became neutral in 1948 by signing a treaty with the Soviet Union (the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance) after being involved in a brutal war with the Soviet Union.
Despite these long-standing policies of neutrality, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine changed the whole geopolitical calculus for both Nordic countries. According to The New York Times, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto declared that the Russia–Ukraine conflict “changed everything” for the nation that previously believed “that nonalignment would give us stability.”
It remains to be seen how these NATO additions will play out. As the Arctic becomes a geopolitical hotspot, having Finland and Sweden in the NATO fold would be useful for the alliance.
The future indeed looks quite militarized for Europe as NATO and Russia will be dedicating significant resources towards building up their armed forces and preparing for a Cold War 2.0 scenario.
This does not augur well for the working classes across the West who will have to endure higher energy costs and likely have to put up with reduced social benefits as countries start prioritizing guns over butter. Under these circumstances, it’s clear that governments will be putting militarization, and not social development, as their primary policy focus.