Sweden and Finland Won’t Pursue NATO Membership
The Swedish government is ruling out making a bid to join NATO:
Sweden will not make a formal bid to join NATO for fear of escalating further the already tense situation that exists between the West and Russia over the annexation of Crimea and the continued crisis in Ukraine, the country’s defence minister said on 17 May.
That’s the right move for Sweden to make, and it does remove a potential cause of friction between Russia and NATO. Pursuing membership in the alliance would have caused the Swedish government nothing but headaches in exchange for a guarantee that it doesn’t need and wouldn’t receive for many years. Formal neutrality has worked very well for Sweden over the last century, and it would be strange for them to abandon that tradition after all this time. The Finnish government recently endorsed much the same position:
“My personal attitude toward NATO membership is negative,” noted [Finnish Prime Minister] Sipilä. “It is precisely the zone of unincorporated countries made up by Finland and Sweden which supports the stability of the Baltic Sea region.”
And so Finland will not be moving any closer to joining the alliance anytime soon, despite the report published in Finland on the possible effects of NATO membership, which, without outright suggesting it, considered membership likely.
One obstacle is public opinion, and Finns who would be supportive of possible Finnish membership remain very much the minority. And Sipilä, at least, intends to take public opinion into account.
Expanding the alliance into more of northern Europe doesn’t make sense for these countries, and their governments are smart to recognize that. The good news for the alliance in this is that this closes the door on one path to further expansion that the alliance doesn’t need and shouldn’t be seeking.