Speculation about Finland’s and Sweden’s departure from the NATO paths is one step in the major change in security policy between Finland and Sweden. Doubt is part of the search for a new identity and frustration at being a pawn.
Although Finland and Sweden know each other well, they got to know each other again on the joint trip to NATO.
At the NATO summit held in Madrid last summer, Finland and Sweden were forced to choose at which point the NATO membership process would collapse. The agreement with Turkey opened the way for other NATO countries to ratify the membership of Finland and Sweden. It turned out exactly as feared: the ratifications got stuck in Turkey. Waiting for Turkey and also Hungary became a game of nerves.
At the turn of the year, frustration surfaced in Finland. A discussion began about what would be done if Turkey only ratified the membership of Finland but not Sweden. Although the what-if discussion does not speak well of crisis resistance, it reminds us of what the political organization NATO is basically like.
Finland has gotten into the hands of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan more easily than Sweden. Finland watches Sweden’s balancing act from the side as it defends common values.
Conflict with Turkey is difficult to avoid, because Erdoğan wants it. Turkey’s perception of terrorism differs from that of others. Turkey also considers restrictions on freedom of speech and that Finland and Sweden return their citizens to Turkey as a condition for NATO membership.
On top of this, there is a different kind of hassle. Burning the Koran in front of the Turkish embassy was provocative and brought Sweden not only reputational damage in the Islamic world but also a terrorist threat. However, it does not prevent NATO membership.
The real jostling lasted only a moment.
In Finland, along with the parliamentary elections, impatience is increased by the fact that nothing seems to be happening. One has to guess how much of Turkey’s claims are a show and how much the actual target of pressure is, for example, the United States. The public does not see the diplomacy of other NATO countries or the cooperation of the security police of Finland, Sweden and Turkey. Nor does it come to the surface that Finland and Sweden are already treated as members in NATO.
Everyone wants Finland and Sweden to join NATO at the same time. The scenario where the synchronicity is broken is undesirable, but it can be discussed.
Politicians joined the what-if discussion. In recent days, the buzzwords have changed. Finland and Sweden will no longer join NATO hand in hand, but in agreement. If Finland joined NATO before Sweden, it would have Sweden’s approval. Differences are forming between the parties as to whether Sweden should be waited for or not. Paavo Lipponen also shared his opinion (Hbl 6.2.): the responsibility for the situation lies with the United States.
The Swedes observe the Finnish conversation without getting emotional, which speaks well of the relationship between Finland and Sweden. Mutual solidarity is still suspected in both countries.
It is part of Finland’s EU story to tell that Sweden sneaked into the Union secretly from Finland. Sweden also has experiences of Finland’s selfishness. Sweden got the most recent example at the time of the coronavirus pandemic, when a fence was erected at Victoriantori, located on the border of Tornio and Haaparanna.
Hand in hand or in agreement – the discussion is one stage in the great security policy translation of Finland and Sweden. Doubt is part of the search for a new identity and frustration at being a pawn. Jostling is also possible because the so-called gray period between applying for NATO membership and getting into NATO did not turn out to be as dangerous as feared.
The real jostling lasted only a moment. When Russia broke away from the European security order a year ago and attacked Ukraine, Finland and Sweden realized that their own security depends on European solidarity and NATO’s nuclear deterrent.
Sweden cannot be blamed for disappointing Finland’s expectations, but should be thanked for taking Finland’s security concerns seriously. The relationship between Finland and Sweden during the NATO trip has been much more multidimensional than why it is reduced in the media.
Understanding Finland’s position played a decisive role in the astonishingly quick NATO decision compared to Sweden’s history. If NATO’s two real reinforcements against Russia were to remain outside NATO, NATO would probably fall apart.
The author is the editor-in-chief of HS.
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