Neutral countries ready to join Nato?

After Russia's invasion of Ukraine, European non-Nato members are increasingly concerned about their own security. In Finland and Sweden in particular, support for proposals to join the Western defence alliance is growing. Finland's President Sauli Niinistö expects a large parliamentary majority to vote in favour of applying for membership. Commentators stress that security is not just a military issue.

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Dserkalo Tyschnja (UA) /

Out of the comfortable niche

Commenting in in Dzerkalo Tyzhnya, Alina Grizenko, chief advisor of the National Institute for Strategic Studies, argues that the time has come for Finland to join Nato:

“In the past, two factors limited the room for manoeuvre of Finnish politicians in Euro-Atlantic integration. Firstly, public opinion: for many years, the Finns consistently spoke out against Nato membership. Secondly, the Russian factor: Finnish politicians didn't want to upset the delicate balance of power in the Baltic and incur the Kremlin's wrath. ... But the Russian-Ukrainian war has made the Finns rethink their attitude towards Nato. ... While neutrality has long been a comfortable niche for Finland, the time has now come for a change.”

Ilta-Sanomat (FI) /

Security guarantees needed during talks

Finland needs protection guarantees during talks on Nato accession negotiations, Ilta-Sanomat stresses:

“In future Finland's security system will be based on a strong, independent defence and full Nato membership. ... Only Nato can provide the necessary military security guarantees for Finland, which shares a 1,300-kilometre-long border with Russia. ... There will inevitably be countermeasures on Russia's part, which will have military and political consequences. The accession process could be lengthy, so there should be security guarantees from individual Nato states for the duration of the talks so that the threshold for Russian interference in Finland remains high.”

Aamulehti (FI) /

Finland must remain attractive for investors

The security policy debate in Finland must go beyond the military aspect, Aamulehti demands:

“Finland must play its cards right so that we remain an attractive investment location for international companies. ... Finland must make every effort to ensure that we are perceived abroad as a sovereign, liberal, free and prosperous democracy with good prospects and stable conditions for business. In other words, a low-risk country. ... It is important to understand that Finland's security policy decisions affect not only our ability to respond to the Russian military threat. Security also means political and economic stability, and stability is key to economic success.”

Jyllands-Posten (DK) /

Closing ranks against Russia

Putin may have miscalculated his attack, Jyllands-Posten observes:

“Finland is debating formally joining Nato. ... Sweden is supplying weapons once more [for the first time in decades], and to Ukraine. ... Both Sweden and Finland should be more than welcome to join Nato. Both countries already fulfil all the requirements and would cover an important flank in the north. ... The fact that Finland and Sweden have changed their positions so quickly once again reinforces the impression that Putin has achieved exactly the opposite of what he originally intended. The democracies of the West are closing ranks against the totalitarian threat.”

Lapin Kansa (FI) /

Process will end with accession

Only Nato can provide Finland with sufficient protection, Lapin Kansa insists:

“Finland has few alternatives. With its brutal policy of war, Russia has ensured that there can be no going back to the times of 'pact neutrality'. Staying on its own with such an unpredictable neighbour would be too great a risk in this situation. And a clear majority of citizens seem to understand this as well. So it's hard to imagine that the end of this 'process' will bring anything other than Nato membership for Finland. Only this can offer our country military guarantees and at the same time the deterrence that Russia has respected so far.”

Irish Independent (IE) /

No one is threatening us

In view of the lack of real threats it is pointless for Ireland to join a military alliance, says The Irish Independent:

“Elements of our ruling class find [the freedom of alliance] somewhat limiting. They like the notion of an EU army. They’d love to be members of Nato with access to our very own shiny rockets and killer drones. We have amongst us politicians and civil servants who have visions of the day they get to represent us on some Nato task force. ... Who has militarily attacked us, ever, over what issue? Who is likely to attack us? ... Every country needs defences based on credible threats. We are lucky to be among a fairly safe assortment of neighbours.”

The Irish Times (IE) /

Let's not leave our friends in the lurch

The changed geopolitical situation in Europe means Ireland should give up its neutrality, argues columnist Seamus Murphy in The Irish Times:

“We claim that neutrality necessitates rebuff of the cry of a desperate nation. But if neutral Sweden and Finland, themselves in the danger zone, can send military equipment, what strange notion of neutrality have we? ... We quiet our uneasy conscience with the claim that we are militarily but not politically neutral. That is a distinction without a difference. Ireland's stance says to our friends: 'If you are attacked, we will not help you.'”

Die Presse (AT) /

Enough of free-riding

Austria's reliance on the protection of neighbouring countries amounts to negligence in the current situation, writes Die Presse:

“The security environment in Europe has changed dramatically. ... Neutrality no longer makes sense for an EU member state in 2022, and above all it offers no protection. Austria would not be able to withstand an attack. ... For decades the Republic has relied on the protective umbrella of the surrounding Nato states. But it doesn't want to pay for it. This free rider mentality has become so ingrained that it is barely noticed anymore. ... All that remains of our neutrality is a shell that doesn't protect us. Austria should cast it off and show solidarity in Europe's common defence.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Neutrality not an end in itself

Switzerland's neutrality policy must take geopolitical circumstances into account, writes the Neue Zürcher Zeitung:

“Neutrality is always a question of standpoint and the extent to which one is affected. ... In accepting the EU sanctions, the Federal Council has done what the old Confederates did. It has decided to defend the values of the free, democratic West together with its European neighbours. ... Neutrality is not an end in itself, but a foreign policy instrument that serves to manoeuvre Switzerland through world history as unscathed as possible. If the country is to agree on a more modern understanding of the term, the Federal Council will have no choice but to explain what neutrality still means to Switzerland today.”