Following the invasion of Ukraine, Finland and Sweden are preparing to join NATO, and Canada will have to make heart-breaking military choices.
The threat posed by Vladimir Putin’s thirst for victory has fundamentally called into question the semi – neutral policy pursued by Finland and Sweden since the end of World War II. Their application for NATO membership should be confirmed in the coming days.
This will be a signal of what the new strategic agreement means for Europe and the entire Atlantic Alliance, including Canada.
180 degree twist
Finland and Sweden are already co-members of NATO. This situation allowed them to maintain a state of independence, but did not guarantee that allies – especially the Americans – would come to their aid in the event of a Russian invasion.
This position applies to both Nordic countries, until last January, when the majority of their citizens wanted to keep it. Since February, the possibility of a Russian invasion has been theoretically very low. This is especially true in Finland, where NATO membership support was less than 30% in January and now exceeds 75%. In Sweden, this support is low, but it has recently become a majority.
The Social Democrats, who lead both countries, are less interested in abandoning neutrality, but above all, both governments are expected to achieve a turn that is almost imposed by the new strategic agreement.
Welcome with both hands
The entry of these two new members into NATO, and especially to the Baltic states, which will separate Thai Russia from the Kaliningrad region, will be good news. The Swedish and Finnish forces are well manned and armed, and they are openly trained in regional defense against Russian invasion.
Some “realists” fear that Russia will react badly to what it perceives as a new threat, but their critics will respond that they do not see a big difference with the current mood in the Kremlin.
As the two countries are already participating in joint exercises, it should be much easier to coordinate forces militarily. Politically, sanctions should be small because the Finns and Swedes already spend more than 2% of their GDP on defense.
Canada is no exception
The same cannot be said of Canada, which is far from reaching the 2% mark, despite the subtle pressures from its southern neighbors. Another problem: Putin’s finger-pointing around the nuclear button raises the difficult question of participating in missile defense.
More reasonable questions in this matter need to be resolved before Canada can take a strategic turn. In Ottawa, the Conservatives are already ready to comply with Americans’ insistence on contributing to anti-missile armor, but New Democrats are vehemently opposed to it.
Justin Trudeau has to make the decision. The change taking place in Finland and Sweden may set the precedent for what is to come here.