Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

Sweden and Finland May Be Making a Fatal Blunder

Posted by M. C. on September 7, 2022

by Ted Galen Carpenter

The republic’s public finances were dire, Mexico continued to pose a looming military threat, and major European countries all eyed the infant country as a possible geopolitical pawn. Nevertheless, the decision to join the Union soon proved to be disastrous, since Texas did so just in time to become part of America’s slide into civil war. The Swedes and Finns must now hope that opting for NATO membership does not lead to a similar calamitous outcome.

US and other Western leaders are beaming at the impending addition of Sweden and Finland to NATO, although there still is an outside chance that Turkey might block their admission to the Alliance. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has hinted darkly that he may do so, unless the two candidate countries make certain concessions. He professes to be especially concerned about Sweden’s reluctance to extradite Kurdish “terrorists.” Given Erdogan’s long record of cynical opportunism on other issues, it is more likely that his threat is merely a bargaining tactic to show Ankara’s clout.

In addition to wanting policy concessions from Stockholm and Helsinki, he has sought concessions from the United States as NATO’s leader. His diplomatic hardball has already produced one benefit: Biden’s decision to approve a major sale of F-16 fighters to Turkey, a sale that had been on extended hold. Biden denied that there was any connection to Ankara’s position on NATO’s Nordic expansion, saying that “there was no quid pro quo with that; it was just that we should sell.” The timing of the White House approval, however, suggested otherwise. In any case, once Erdogan finishes with his diplomatic drama, NATO will have two new members.

Both countries bring significant military assets to the Alliance. Sweden, in particular, has a very capable, modern military, including a first-class air force. Finland possesses a smaller, less significant military force, but it has an 830-mile border with Russia. For NATO hawks, that situation is considered a major benefit, rather than another dangerous provocation toward Moscow. One might think that seeing the disastrous results of the West’s policy of making Ukraine a NATO military pawn would inhibit such recklessness with regard to Finland. Clearly, that is not the case, however.

The Kremlin’s reaction to the latest phase of NATO’s expansion has thus far been surprisingly mild. Moscow did inform both countries that if they joined the Alliance, Russia would be compelled to reposition its nuclear forces to focus more on Scandinavia, but there have not yet been any warnings that adding Sweden or even Finland crosses a “red line”—a warning that Vladimir Putin and other officials issued on several occasions with respect to Ukraine. One can hope that such restraint continues.

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