As President Putin invades Ukraine, a spokeswoman from Russia’s Foreign Ministry says Sweden and Finland could be next if they decide to join NATO…
What is the situation?
Both Sweden and Finland are officially neutral, and are therefore not members of NATO (along with fellow European Union nations Austria and Ireland). Sweden is historically neutral, staying out of the First and Second world wars. Finland’s neutrality, meanwhile, was strategic during the Cold War, when it maintained good relations with the Soviet Union to avoid the threat of invasion (it has been occupied by both Sweden and Russia in the past). This led to the term ‘Finlandisation’, a situation President Putin is believed to have sought in Ukraine. Both countries, however, though not members of NATO, are engaged in peacekeeping engagements across the world with NATO troops, and their large armed forces are frequently trained and stationed with NATO leadership. With Russian submarines detected in Swedish waters, and fears over expansion, in recent years both countries have ramped up discussions on whether to abandon neutrality and formally join the alliance.
What are the developments?
On 25th February 2022, the day after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry held a press conference on Russia’s future plans. Maria Zakharova told journalists from around the world that if Sweden and Finland decided to join NATO, they would face “severe military-political repercussions”. While many have seen this as a direct threat of invasion, few believe (even with Putin’s clear abandonment of diplomatic norms to invade Ukraine), this will be followed through. Both Finland’s president and Sweden’s prime minister have brushed off the comments, with Finland’s foreign minister saying, “we’ve heard this before”. Finland has provided economic assistance to the Ukrainian armed forces, while Sweden has provided military and technological assistance. Both countries have condemned the invasion, its sports teams have withdrawn from games against Russia, and both governments support sanctions against the regime.
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