The War in Ukraine and the New Situation in Northern Europe – Youth

The war in Ukraine and the new situation in Northern Europe - Photo 1.

Source: BBC, IISS, Military Balance 2022 – Data: BAO ANH – Graphics: T.DAT

Earlier on May 12, Finnish President Sauli Väinämö Niinistö and Prime Minister Sanna Marin issued a statement reaffirming their support for joining NATO.

Waiting for action from Sweden

In the Nordic region, Finland follows the policy of neutrality, similar to Sweden, and is not a NATO member like Norway and Denmark. However, as one of the few European countries that spends 2% of GDP on defense budgets and continues to work closely with NATO, Finland remains security-conscious.

However, Russia’s attack on Ukraine has changed the security policies of Finland and Sweden because these two countries do not trust Russia and President Putin to respect their neutrality.

On the Swedish side, the government’s Foreign and Security Policy Committee will meet on May 15 to decide on an application to join NATO and present its conclusions to the National Assembly.

Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson’s Social Democrats, who previously opposed NATO membership, are now likely to change their stance. Prime Minister Andersson has asked the Swedish parliament to meet on May 16 to debate the issue. The government can then decide without a vote.

Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist said joining NATO will strengthen the Nordic region’s overall defenses and will reduce the risk of attack for the three Baltic states – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – as well as the island of Gotland in Sweden.

On May 17, Finnish President Niinistö will pay an official state visit to Sweden and meet King Gustav XVI. and Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson. Observers assume that the two countries will make a joint declaration on cooperation and NATO accession on this occasion.

The Russian side reacted strongly to Finland’s announcement that it would join NATO. Deputy Chairman of the Russian Security Council Dmitry Medvedev, also a former president and prime minister, said Russia would be “forced to strengthen the (security) borders” if Finland and Sweden joined NATO. Medvedev also warned of the possibility of nuclear weapons being stationed in the Baltics because Russia “could be compelled by circumstances.”

After Finland’s move, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated that “Finland’s plan to join NATO poses a threat and will call our security into question” and that “Russia must take both military and other countermeasures when national security is threatened.” Peskov did not forget to warn that “the world will not be more stable and safer” after Finland joins NATO.

Weakness become a strong point

The Baltic Sea region – the weakest point in NATO – is a strategic area for 9 countries: Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Russia.

On the Baltic Sea, Russia has also laid two Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines to bring gas to Europe instead of the pipeline through Ukraine. NATO currently has more than 1,600 troops stationed in each of the Baltic States. The Estonian prime minister had previously called for a 25,000-strong force if NATO really wanted to defend the region.

On May 6, the Danish Ministry of Defense handed over a 750-strong battalion to NATO headquarters in Latvia to work with the Latvian Infantry Brigade within six months. During the handover ceremony, Brigadier General Egils Lescinskis – the head of the Latvian National Guard – told the Danish press it was naïve to think Latvia’s NATO entry provoked Russia because “if there is no reason for an attack, they will do it themselves.” come up with something.”

Since the start of the Russo-Ukrainian war, 2,570 Latvians have joined the National Guard – a very significant number compared to a country of less than 2 million people and a guard force of 8,000 people.

NATO expansion in the Baltics – something Russia and Putin do not want – is perhaps one of the biggest consequences of the Russian attack on Ukraine.

The war has led the countries of the Baltic Sea and the Nordic countries in general to form alliances to ensure collective defense and, as Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen put it, “to strengthen the reputation of Northern Europe” to speak louder in security policy in Europe “.

The problem now is that Russia will react, but no one can say for sure what Putin will do.

“The Baltic Sea becomes the NATO Sea”

After Finland announced that it would apply to join NATO, the foreign ministers of the Baltic States welcomed the move and said they would endeavor to bring Finland into NATO as soon as possible.

The Baltic States are three countries next to each other, including Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania (Lithuania). These three countries are neighbors of Russia and Finland.

“The Baltic Sea has become a NATO sea,” the Financial Times quoted Latvian Foreign Minister Edgar Rinkevics as saying.

The three Baltic states and NATO would benefit from Finland’s strong military, particularly its US fighter jet fleet, the foreign ministers said. However, all three countries want NATO to further increase its presence in the region and improve its air defense capabilities to counter potential threats from airspace incursions from Russia.


NATO engagement

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has pledged that Sweden and Finland will be considered members from the moment they apply for membership and that security will be guaranteed during the review period (roughly 1 month to 2 years).

Article 5 – the basis of the NATO treaty and often referred to as the “Oath of the Musketeers” – stipulates that an attack on a NATO member state is an attack on the Alliance as a whole. Therefore, other states are obliged to cooperate in the defense of the attacked state, including through the use of force.