The February 24 invasion of Ukraine has had enormous unintentional consequences for Russia. NATO, which had been struggling to find a unifying purpose and was denigrated by the Trump administration and Macron’s France, has been revived to confront the threat of Russian aggression. President Macron became a champion of NATO’s resistance to Russia and used it to help defeat an anti-NATO, pro-Vladimir Putin candidate, Marine Le Pen, in the April 24 presidential election. Germany, famous for its light military commitment to NATO as part of its WWII memory, has shifted to much more militant position with a significantly stepped-up budget commitment.
But possibly the most dramatic consequence of the invasion is the consideration of Sweden and Finland to shift from their historical neutral stance to join the alliance. Both countries joined the EU in 1995, but that didn’t require or involve joining NATO. Although the EU’s defense capacity is not comparable to NATO, a threat didn’t seem imminent.
However, circumstances have changed. Russia’s much more aggressive foreign policy since the invasion of Georgia in 2006 and the hybrid military aggression in the Crimea and Ukraine in 2014 began shifting leadership opinion in the two countries toward a need for a stronger alliance. The full-scale invasion of 2022 has now moved public opinion toward joining NATO. Recent polls show 57% of Swedes support joining (up 6 points in a month) and 64 percent if Finland joins. In Finland, 20 to 30 percent support for joining NATO has increased to 60 percent in latest polls.
|Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson (L) welcomes Finnish|
Prime Minister Sanna Marin prior to a meeting on whether to seek
NATO membership in Stockholm, Sweden, April 13, 2022
Photo: Paul Wennerholm/TT News Agency/AFP via Getty Images
Foreign Affairs: NATO’s Nordic expansion