What changes will Nato's northern expansion bring?

Sweden and Finland have submitted their applications to join Nato. The ratification process could now take up to a year. Moscow has called the plans a "grave mistake" and threatened consequences. Turkey has also voiced objections. Europe's press discusses the implications of the decision.

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Diena (LV) /

A more secure future

Finland's and Sweden's future Nato membership will also bolster Baltic security, Diena stresses:

“Above all, the accession of Finland and Sweden would end the Baltic states' strategic position as vulnerable Nato outposts. The Baltic Sea would become Nato's internal sea, bisecting Russia's Baltic Navy and the Kaliningrad enclave, turning it into a besieged fortress. And, of course, Finland would extend Russia's north-west [Nato] front by 1,300 kilometres and decisively reduce its ability to deliver a concentrated blow to the Baltic states.”

Jutarnji list (HR) /

Accession will also strengthen the EU

The EU will also be strengthened if Finland and Sweden join Nato, Jutarnji list believes:

“Finland and Sweden joining Nato is a historic change in this global realignment. They will be better protected, which will also strengthen the security of the EU. ... Most EU members now agree that Nato is the mainstay of Euro-Atlantic collective security. Finland and Sweden will make a decent contribution because although they are not populous countries they have modern armies and a well-developed defence industry. Considering the large territories of these states, Nato membership will pay off for them too, as it did with Norway.”

Radio Kommersant FM (RU) /

At least one small consolation

The dangers posed by Nato's northern expansion must not be exaggerated, Kommersant stresses:

“It looks very much as if the two new recruits will insist on two points when defining their duties in the bloc: neither the Finns nor the Swedes will allow nuclear weapons on their territory, nor will they permit the establishment of foreign military bases. ... If Russia's leadership does not want to hype the problem and stir up emotions, these restrictions will allow it to reassure the people with the explanation: Nato's military infrastructure is not moving closer to Russia's borders, so there is no need to worry. Besides, unlike Ukraine, Sweden and Finland have no territorial claims vis-à-vis Moscow. Of course, all this is small consolation, but it's better than nothing.”

Dagens Nyheter (SE) /

Sceptics being steamrolled

Just last autumn, Defence Minister Hultqvist said that Sweden would never join Nato under a Social Democratic government. Columnist Alex Schulman feels caught off guard by the change of stance in Dagens Nyheter:

“We who ask ourselves if this is really the right decision are still wondering why it is so incredibly urgent. We would like to have a reasonable discussion, whereas the decision makers are already in talks with Turkey in Berlin. We who might say no are trying to understand just what is happening, even though by the time we understand it will no doubt be too late. Many of us feel that we are being steamrolled - and quickly at that. If we join Nato, we do it in a flash.”

Lapin Kansa (FI) /

Cooperation still possible

For Lapin Kansa, the political freeze on Finland's eastern border is only temporary:

“Nato's presence in the north raises the threshold for Russian aggression or other attacks. ... Nevertheless, it must be stressed that the Nato border does not prevent contacts between neighbours. Norway is a good example of this. It has been a member of Nato for more than 70 years but has nonetheless managed to build good relations with Russia on its northern border. The fact that the relations are now on ice is not due to Nato but to Vladimir Putin. ... Lapland's eastern border is now practically closed, but the time will come when it will be reopened for cooperation - irrespective of Finland's Nato membership.”

Profil (AT) /

Neutrality is no guarantee of peace

Profil calls for a serious discussion about neutrality in Austria:

“So far Austria has not initiated a discussion about whether the argument that is persuading Finland and Sweden to join Nato is valid. Is it? Basically it boils down to this: Russia has become an unpredictable power under Vladimir Putin's rule. The invasion of Ukraine shows that Putin is prepared to go to war against European countries. ... If Putin wants to launch a military strike against the Western alliance without triggering Nato's mutual defence clause, who would make a suitable target? States that are not members of Nato. Right now that includes Finland, Sweden, Austria. ... . Finland and Sweden will soon be removed from that list.”

Delfi (LT) /

Bolstering the Baltic perspective

The new situation Nato and Europe find themselves in also offers opportunities for the Baltic States, Delfi points out:

“The widespread recognition that Western Europe has misjudged Russia, and that the Baltic States have always been in the right opens a window of opportunity. This can be compared with the window of opportunity now open for Finland and Sweden to join Nato. In our case, however, it is not a matter of joining but of requesting that our position be understood and followed. Lithuania and the other Baltic states could play a decisive role in a reassessment of Russia - and this could form the basis of the new political agenda.”

Expressen (SE) /

Enough of hypocritical double-dealing

Sweden's left will have to finally get used to the fact that the country belongs to the West, Expressen stresses:

“Sweden will never again take a third position between East and West. We will no longer be able to engage in a duplicious game of secretly cooperating militarily with the US while opening the floodgates to anti-Americanist rhetoric. We are becoming a Western country like others. All this will be mourned by the left this spring, whereas for many of us it is a source of unconcealed delight.”

De Standaard (BE) /

Don't corner Putin

For Russia, Nato enlargement will be seen as a further provocation, De Standaard warns:

“What if Putin uses his nuclear arsenal? In that case Nato membership will offer little protection. Bowing to his blackmail would be a bad idea. ... But driving him too much into a corner could also have terrible consequences. In the best case, Russia and Ukraine will negotiate and come to a diplomatic solution. But in that case Putin must be able to order a withdrawal without losing face. He has so often threatened to intervene if Finland or Sweden become Nato members that according to his logic he will have no other option if they do. But that will only make a withdrawal without loss of face all the more difficult.”

Iswestija (RU) /

The tensions can be limited

Moscow has announced a military restructuring in response to the two Nordic countries joining Nato. Izvestia hopes that both sides will exercise restraint nonetheless:

“It is possible that [Finland and Sweden] will not immediately station foreign troops on their territory and that they will refrain from taking demonstratively escalating steps vis-à-vis Russia. Examples of such 'special relations' do exist. Think of France, which is very jealous of foreign military presence on its territory and participates less actively in Nato military structures. Or the special stance of Turkey, with whom we still maintain military-technical cooperation despite the developments. In such a scenario, Russia's response will be softer.”

Ilta-Sanomat (FI) /

Seek dialogue with Ankara

With talks, Turkey could be persuaded to give up its resistance, Ilta-Sanomat hopes:

“Ratification by the Nato states as quickly as possible would be in Finland's interest. The main concern now is Turkey, whose president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has not welcomed Finland and Sweden into Nato. ... Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg assured the Finns on Sunday that Turkey had made it clear that it would not block membership. If there are still obstacles, a peaceful, substantive and uninhibited dialogue should be conducted with the Turkish leadership, if necessary with the help of the US.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

An agreement will be reached

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu's reservations about the countries' accession will not block the move, Corriere della Sera suspects:

“Çavuşoğlu's criticism was aimed above all at Sweden, where an international meeting of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which is classified as a terrorist organisation by both the EU and the US, was to take place on the weekend. ... However, Turkey's top diplomat stressed that Turkey supported Nato's open-door policy and hinted that a solution could be found. Erdoğan's spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, also said that Turkey was not closing the door, although it does regard the issue as a 'matter of national security'.”