NATO membership of Finland and Sweden, an obstacle course… [OPINION]

Finland and Sweden submitted their applications to join NATO on May 18. It is their response to the anxiety aroused in their populations by the war waged by Russia against Ukraine. The Finns no longer believe that their neutrality protects them from the Russian neighbor with whom they share a border of 1 kilometers. Sweden is further away, but its parliamentarians, like those of Finland, are mostly in favor of this membership. Unsurprisingly, France and Germany have already publicly expressed their support for this initiative, as well as the Secretary General of the Atlantic Alliance.

The entire geopolitical map of Northern Europe would thus be redrawn at the risk of antagonizing Moscow even further. Last month, Vladimir Putin threatened to retaliate for the supply of arms to Ukraine with deployments of infantry and anti-aircraft systems in northwestern Russia, and naval forces in the Gulf of Finland, or worse. again, to atomize the main European capitals from the enclave of Kaliningrad with the Sarmat missile. In contrast to these threats, the first reaction of the Russian president to the possible entry of Finland and Sweden into the Atlantic Alliance seems moderate: "Such an enlargement of NATO does not constitute an immediate threat", he said. he declared on May 16, "but the deployment of military infrastructure on the territories of these countries will of course lead to a response". This came on May 20 from the Russian Defense Minister: he announced the creation by the end of the year of twelve new military bases in the west of the country to deal with "the growth of threats soldiers on the Russian borders”. This is to admit in half-words that the offensive against Ukraine leads to the opposite result to that which was intended.

In Finland and Sweden, the wave of enthusiasm aroused by this application for membership of the Atlantic Alliance had barely subsided before people wondered about its conditions. Many are worried about the possible presence of NATO troops and nuclear weapons on their soil. Negotiations will have to establish the level of contribution of their countries to the Atlantic Alliance before the NATO summit which is to be held in Madrid on June 29 and 30. A Finnish preliminary report, intended for MEPs, has already warned that “accession would not oblige Finland to accept nuclear weapons, permanent bases or troops on its territory”.

But another obstacle, this one insurmountable, could come from a veto by one of the thirty member states of NATO whose unanimity is required for any new membership. Last month, the Croatian President, Zoran Milanovic, said he was opposed to the accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO, as long as the electoral law in Bosnia-Herzegovina would not be modified for the benefit of Croatian minorities. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who is already blocking the embargo on Russian oil (Hungary imports 85% of its gas and 65% of its oil from Russia) could also veto the entry of the two countries into the 'NATO. But the most categorical opposition comes from Turkey: on May 13, Turkish President Erdogan declared that the accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO would be “a mistake”. "We will not give in on the NATO membership of those who apply sanctions against Turkey", outbid Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Monday, May 16, after a meeting on May 14 in Berlin between the Turkish ministers, Swedish and Finnish Foreign Office had not made it possible to unblock the situation. Erdogan accuses Stockholm and Helsinki "of harboring terrorists" from the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party), and the YPG (People's Protection Units), the armed wing of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party in Syria. “Scandinavian countries, unfortunately, are almost like guesthouses for terrorist organizations,” Erdogan added. In particular, he criticizes Sweden for not following up on the extradition requests of some thirty suspected terrorists, and the two Nordic countries for having frozen arms exports to Turkey since 2019, in retaliation for the Turkish operation in northern Syria. Moving from declarations to action, Erdogan blocked, on Wednesday May 18, a procedural vote on the application for membership of Finland and Sweden, during a first meeting of the ambassadors of the 30 member countries of NATO. Nevertheless, negotiations are continuing within the Atlantic Council to try to overcome Turkey's opposition. If they do not succeed before the next NATO summit in Madrid, at the end of June, one could expect that the Turkish president will take advantage of the opportunity to put "the feet in the dish" in order to consolidate the " national security” of Turkey.

Philip Oswald

source: La Croix

This article is published from Selection of the day.

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