Finland & Sweden: Why Aren't They in NATO?

with Russia's invasion of Ukraine continuing talk has turned to Nato the organization that Putin so clearly dislikes it's the alliance where an attack on one state is considered an attack on all resulting in retaliation from all members while Putin has not yet attacked a Nato member state directly even the prospect of a major escalation has led to some attention being drawn to the two major western nations who aren't in Nato Sweden and Finland in fact so much so that both countries were invited to join Nato leaders in their recent emergency summit since then though Russia has repeated its long-standing position that the accession of Finland and Sweden to Nato would have serious military and political consequences regardless this all raises the question as to why Sweden and Finland weren't already Nato members so in this blog let's try and explain exactly that and why Putin might have inadvertently pushed them closer to the Nato door than ever before to properly understand the reasons why Sweden and Finland haven't joined Nato as of yet, we have to embark on a little bit of history for Finland that means going back to the second world war during which Finland managed to successfully repel a full-scale soviet invasion but was forced to cede large swathes of territory and legalize the communist party of Finland however despite this success the lack of immediate connection or support from either the west or the soviets left Finland in a unique position they didn't have any real allies so to keep everyone happy Finland signed a treaty in 1948 with the Ussr declaring absolute neutrality the treaty of friendship cooperation and mutual assistance this treaty forbade either party from joining a military alliance against the other all in all, meaning that they couldn't join Nato or the Warsaw pact however this neutrality was more on paper than anything else with Finland and some of its politicians leaning towards keeping the soviets happy throughout the cold war this all changed after the war came to an end though with Finland joining NATO's partnership for peace something which Russia also did but they did remain determinedly non-aligned for much of the post-World War ii era in a model known as Finlandization that was until relatively recently though because after joining NATO's partnership for peace in 1994 Finland joined the European union immediately orienting itself more closely with the west than the east let's turn to Sweden now though the Swedish opposition to Nato also rests on a long-standing commitment to neutrality but this time not one based on an international treaty but rather based on tradition ever since the proclamation of the king in 1834 Sweden has remained doggedly neutral even allowing German forces during World War ii to transit through Sweden and Finland if we fast forward both countries to the present day we'll see that in January of this year the finish prime minister still said that it would be very unlikely that Finland would seek to join Nato during her current term at the time a poll by Finland's largest newspaper showed the public backed this decision with support for joining Nato at just 28 with 42 percent against and the rest unsure obviously, things have changed since then though and changed substantially more recent polling over in Sweden shows that for the first time ever Nato membership is favored with 41 in favor 35 against and 25 undecided over on the finish side alexander Stubb the former Finnish prime minister has stressed that Russia is pushing Finland closer to Nato membership closer than ever before our security has partially been based on an option to join at this rate we'll have no option but to join essentially what he's saying here is the permanent offer of Nato membership has previously acted as a deterrent if Russia got too close then Finland would join the opposition however, Russia has consistently hit back against this position using the threat that either country joining Nato would have serious military and political consequences that would require an adequate response from the Russian side from the Nato side of things the door is very much open to both Sweden and Finland while neither country are particularly close to hitting the 2-spending target very very few Nato members actually do hit the target so that's clearly not a disqualifying factor add to that much of Swedish and finish military hardware is deemed to be Nato compatible and politically NATO's secretary-general has also consistently remarked that Sweden and Finland are our closest partners however, part of this discussion is slightly redundant while NATO's mutual defense clause article 5 is widely known the EU itself has a less known defense clause too article 42.7 of the Lisbon treaty introduced following the train attacks in Spain back in 2004 article 42.7 states that if a member state is the victim of armed aggression on its territory the other member states shall have towards it an obligation of aid and assistance by all means in their power this is complemented by the so-called solidarity clause of article 222 of the treaty of Rome that being said neither article 42.7 nor article 222 carry the same security commitment that comes with NATO's article 5. NATO's mutual defense clause explicitly stresses that an armed attack against one or more shall be considered an attack against them all and that if such attack occurs each of them will assist the party attacked by taking such actions as is deemed necessary including the use of armed force the EU one by contrast merely refers to aid and assistance and whether assistance includes military force is a constitutional rabbit hole and one we just don't want to fall into today all in all though joining Nato for Sweden and Finland isn't really about the mutual defense clause it's about optics as the former finish prime minister alexander stubs stressed Finland and by association Sweden has consistently had the option to join Nato and having membership on the table acted or ought to have acted as a deterrent by joining Nato now when to be honest it isn't strictly necessary this sends a clear political sign we're with them the west economically politically and militarily and and who knows if that's a message that normally neutral Finland and Sweden are ready to send.