Non-NATO Countries of Scandinavia
Non-NATO Countries of Scandinavia
written by A. L. Hart Havens on May 15, 2022
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, better known as NATO, has garnered considerable attention in recent weeks due to its continued military support for the Ukrainian government and what appears to be a pursuit of Ukraine as its newest member.
The prospect of such a bold move is one that the Russian government views as a serious national security threat and a breach of NATO’s promise made at the end of the Cold War to refrain from expanding into the former Warsaw Pact countries (although NATO denies having made any such promise).
In light of NATO’s aggressive expansion campaign across the European continent, particularly in Eastern Europe over the past 30 years, the interesting question is no longer who’s in NATO, but rather who’s not in NATO. With this in mind, it is rather astonishing to see that a handful of Western European countries have remained outside of the powerful military alliance — although perhaps not for much longer.
This two-part article will focus on the five major Western European non-NATO countries — Sweden, Finland, Austria, Switzerland, and Ireland. It will explore the origins of their neutrality, their historical relations with Russia and Ukraine with an emphasis on the two world wars, and how they have remarkably managed to stay out of the ever-expanding NATO alliance. To be clear, the term Western European is used here to denote European countries that were not part of the Cold War communist bloc.
The remainder of today’s article will focus on the Scandinavian countries of Sweden and Finland, while Austria, Switzerland, and Ireland will be covered in an upcoming article. By the way, Switzerland is the only one of the five that is also outside of the European Union.
It should be emphasized that the Western European countries of Malta, Cyprus, Northern Cyprus, Andorra, Liechtenstein, San Marino, Monaco, and Vatican City are also outside of the NATO alliance. However, they are not covered here due to their small territories, low populations, and military and geopolitical insignificance.
NATO’s Unquenchable Thirst for Expansion
Founded in 1949 and headquartered in Brussels, Belgium, NATO’s obvious purpose was to serve as a free-world bulwark against a potential Soviet invasion — or so people thought. NATO’s true purpose became clearer upon the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the resulting the collapse of the bulk of the communist world. It would have seemed like the logical decision at that point in time to disband the outrageously expensive US-led military alliance, the entire existence of which was predicated on containing the spread of communism.
Yet not only did NATO remain intact following the disappearance of the communist threat, it aggressively capitalized on the power vacuum left behind and has added 14 formerly communist countries plus the territory of the former East Germany to its bloated repertoire of US client states. The most recent additions include Montenegro (2017) and North Macedonia (2020).
If Turkey is counted as European, then the continent of Europe is home to 28 of NATO’s 30 member countries, which are the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Turkey, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Slovenia, Albania, Montenegro, and North Macedonia.
In fact, NATO has been very clear about its intention to gobble up the few remaining Eastern European countries still lingering outside the bloc, which could soon include Ukraine and Georgia (both of which have extremely pro-western and vehemently anti-Russian governments) as well as Bosnia & Herzegovina, Moldova, and the semi-recognized country of Kosovo. Only four European countries — Belarus, Armenia, Serbia, and of course Russia — appear to be inaccessible to NATO at the moment except in the event of a regime change à la the 2014 Ukrainian coup d'état. (For clarity’s sake, Georgia, Armenia, and Turkey are counted as European countries in this article, but Azerbaijan is not.)
Russia, Belarus, and Armenia are part of a six-country military alliance that is the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), colloquially known as the Warsaw Pact 2.0. The CSTO’s other three members are the non-European countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan (although far-western Kazakhstan is considered the furthest eastern reach of Europe by some definitions). Serbia is a CSTO observer country, and a large segment of its population harbors strong feelings of resentment against NATO resulting from the US-led bloc’s highly destructive bombing of the country in 1998 and 1999.
With each member country contractually committed to earmarking 2% of its annual GDP for military spending alongside the obligation to take up arms in defense of fellow members in the event of a war, the NATO empire is unquestionably a military behemoth equipped with massive resources designed to achieve by brute force and intimidation what deep-state intelligence agencies fail to achieve via subversive action.
With the risk of the Ukraine-Russia conflict now threatening to spill over into NATO territory — most likely Poland or the Baltics — and several member countries appearing fairly unenthusiastic about the idea of coming to the aid of fellow members engaged in combat with Russia, we may actually find out soon enough whether NATO is the most formidable military alliance in world history or whether it’s essentially all bark and no bite.
Any mention of an attempted invasion of Russia along a broad front will most likely evoke images of the disastrous campaigns undertaken Napoleon’s Grande Armée (1812) and Hitler’s Wehrmacht (1941), both of which were severely hampered by the frigid Russian winter. However, predating Napoleon by more than a century in the ambitious endeavor of conquering Russia was King Charles XII of Sweden, who in 1708 launched an ill-advised wintertime invasion of the Russian Empire (then ruled by Tsar Peter the Great). However, the Swedish Empire’s robust army, which also received support from the Ottoman Turks, was decisively defeated after a year and a half of fighting, and this costly defeat marked the beginning of the end of Sweden as a great power.
At the peak of its territorial expansion, the Swedish Empire was also a colonial power that controlled much of Scandinavia including Finland and a large section of Norway in addition to other smaller territories in northern Europe. Its modest overseas colonial empire remarkably extended into the Caribbean (modern-day Saint Barthélemy and Guadeloupe) and southeastern India and also included the Swedish Gold Coast of Africa (modern-day Ghana) and the colony of New Sweden (covering parts of modern-day Delaware, New Jersey, Maryland, and Pennsylvania in the United States).
And after losing another war to Russia exactly a century later in 1809, as a result of which Finland was transferred from the Swedish Empire to the Russian Empire, and some minor involvement in the later stages of the Napoleonic Wars, Sweden made a firm commitment to pursue a policy of neutrality moving forward. The Swedish government has upheld this commitment to date, as the country has not engaged in any military conflicts for over 200 years and managed to remain neutral throughout both world wars and the Cold War. Sweden was the only Scandinavian country to successfully assert its neutrality in World War 2, as Denmark and Norway were occupied by Germany, Finland battled the Soviet Union, and Iceland was occupied by Britain.
However, Sweden now appears poised to abandon its 200-year tradition of peace, neutrality, and non-interventionism in favor of a reckless policy of military antagonism and US-style neoconservatism, citing the threat of Russian aggression as the reason. The line of argumentation offered by the Swedish government that a NATO accession in the midst of the Ukraine-Russia war would make the country’s population more secure is simply disingenuous. A quick look at the serious safety issues currently facing Poland resulting from the Polish government’s NATO-backed agitation of Belarus and Russia is a prime example of why Sweden would be wise to reconsider its impending NATO bid.
The Swedish government is expected to announce a decision within the coming days and has dubiously declared that the Swedish population will have no say in the country’s future NATO membership. Instead of holding a public referendum, the decision will be a matter solely for the Swedish parliament, which the Swedish government and media have condescendingly explained is an institution that by its very nature represents the will of the people.
As an interesting aside on the cultural origins of Russia and Ukraine, the prevailing theory among historians is that Swedish Vikings established and ruled over the large multiethnic medieval state of Kievan Rus’, which existed from around 900 to 1250 and covered the territories of today’s Ukraine, Belarus, and western Russia. Kievan Rus’ is ascribed great importance by these three countries, and Russia and Belarus derive their names from it. The origin of the Rus’ people is a semi-contentious issue, however, and there are a number of scholars in Slavic countries who reject the prevailing theory. They argue instead that the ruling elite of Kievan Rus’ were not ethnic Swedes or other Norsemen who later assimilated into the region’s majority Slavic population, but rather were originally Slavs themselves.
The territory of today’s Finland, which spent centuries under Swedish and Russian rule, partook in World War 1 as part of the Tsarist Russian Empire before underdoing great turmoil in 1918 when a civil war erupted within the framework of the greater Bolshevik Revolution taking place across the Russian Empire. With German assistance, the Finnish White Army defeated the Finnish Red Army, keeping the country free of communism for the time being and securing Finland’s independence in 1919.
Twenty years later in November 1939, following the joint German-Soviet conquest of Poland, the Soviet Union invaded Finland along the two countries’ 800-mile border in what came to be known as the Winter War. The USSR managed to occupy and annex a number of Finnish territories after three months of combat but was expelled from the League of Nations for this military campaign.
When German-Soviet relations soured in mid-1941, Finland saw an opportunity to reclaim the lost territories and eagerly joined the northern flank of the Axis invasion of the USSR in what is known today as the Continuation War. Fighting alongside the German blitzkrieg, Finnish forces made rapid inroads into Soviet territory and advanced all the way to Leningrad, where they partook in a three-year siege of the city.
In June 1942, a full year after the opening of the eastern front and with the German efforts to capture Leningrad and Moscow stalling, Adolf Hitler visited Finnish head of state Carl Gustav Mannerheim on his 75th birthday and used the occasion to request additional Finnish military support for the upcoming winter, as German forces had shown themselves to be ill-equipped and ill-trained to fight the Red Army in extremely cold temperatures.
Mannerheim, the elder statesman who also spoke fluent German, surprised everyone in the room when he lit up a cigar, as Hitler was known to have zero tolerance for smoking in his presence. This bold yet calculated move by Mannerheim, however, was actually aimed at testing whether Hitler was approaching him from a position of strength or from a position of weakness. And as Hitler gave no indication that he was bothered by the cigar smoke, Mannerheim concluded that, despite the German advances toward Stalingrad taking place at the time, the German high command must be concerned about Germany’s prospects of winning the war. This conversation, alongside an ensuing one-on-one discussion in a private room, was secretly recorded by a Finnish radio technician and has survived to this day. Available on Youtube with English subtitles, it is the only known recording of Hitler speaking in an unofficial and casual manner.
Mannerheim’s decision to decline the request for additional winter-trained troops likely proved beneficial in once again sparing Finland from communist rule, this time in the face of the 1944 westward Soviet offensive that had been imposing communism on every country it swept through (without any regard for a country’s previous affiliation or non-affiliation with the Axis Powers). However, the Soviet Union surprisingly expressed a willingness to negotiate a peace deal with Finland, most likely because an invasion of Finland would have diverted resources away from the push toward Berlin, which Stalin was intent on capturing before US forces could get there.
Negotiations between Mannerheim, who incidentally was voted The Greatest Finn of All Time in a 2004 Finland-wide survey, and Stalin established that the Soviet Union would refrain from invading Finland in return for war reparations, territorial concessions, and Finland’s commitment to geopolitical neutrality and good relations with the USSR moving forward. This was later codified in the Finno-Soviet Treaty of 1948, which effectively prevented Finland from joining NATO. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, a new friendship treaty was signed by Finland and Russia in 1992.
And while it doesn’t appear that Finland is contractually prohibited from joining NATO, doing so would unquestionably constitute an egregious violation of the spirit of the friendship treaty. But it seems that this is precisely what Finland intends to do, citing a sudden security threat posed by Russia after 78 years of peace including 22 years under Vladimir Putin’s stewardship. Finland’s accession to NATO could involve a prompt placement of US military hardware and even nuclear weapons on the Finnish-Russian border, which would swiftly turn the previously non-aligned country into major battleground of this geopolitical struggle.
Like Sweden, Finland is expected to announce a NATO bid in the coming days and has also rejected the idea of a public referendum, effectively declaring that the Finnish population will have no say in the matter. If Sweden and Finland do in fact join NATO, it would place the entirely of Scandinavia under NATO control, as Denmark, Norway, and Iceland are already in the alliance (although Norway and Iceland are not in the European Union).
Now in serious jeopardy of being abolished, the Swedish and Finnish traditions of peace, neutrality, and military non-alignment are among the few redeeming attributes of these two ultra-woke, high-tax, politically correct countries with governments eager to deploy the thought police wherever dissenting opinions may exist. Sweden’s relatively mild response to the coronavirus hysteria does not change this assessment whatsoever.
The Value of Second Citizenship in Times of Uncertainty
Assertions that the world has never been closer to nuclear war than it is right now may strike those old enough to have experienced the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis as arrogant or misinformed, but the reality is that the US and Soviet governments were actually speaking with one another throughout the two-week scare 60 years ago. The ongoing negotiations and open lines of communication eventually resulted in the Soviet withdrawal of missiles from Cuba as well as the US withdrawal of missiles from Turkey, with each side subsequently claiming a political victory. The positioning of American missiles near the Soviet border in Turkey was not widely known among the US population.
The conflict currently taking place in Ukraine arguably poses a much greater risk of a nuclear weapon actually being used than was the case in 1962, in particular because diplomatic lines of communication appear to have been severed and the two sides’ demands are utterly irreconcilable with one another. While we can’t know for sure what’s going on behind the scenes, it does not appear that the US and Russian governments are seeking to negotiate a peace deal or even speaking at all.
To make things worse, the Ukrainian government audaciously asserted earlier this month that it won’t be signing any peace agreement unless it involves Russia’s surrender (yes, Russia’s surrender). In view of such an unrealistic demand, it is difficult to see the conflict ending any time soon. And if NATO begins stationing nuclear weapons in Ukraine, the Russian government may then see an all-out war as the only way forward.
How the situation would develop from there is anyone’s guess, but NATO member countries on or near Russia’s western borders could become prime targets for one of the Russian military’s much-touted Satan 2 hypersonic missiles, which reportedly can carry up to 15 nuclear warheads and obliterate an area the size of France in a single strike.
At first glance, it appears quite odd that western mainstream media has not covered the extremely bellicose rhetoric coming from the Russian government and Russian media outlets, which have repeatedly warned of a coming nuclear war with the United States and NATO.
The lack of reporting on these dire warnings and threats issued in Russia is especially peculiar given that western media has the habit of exaggerating the severity of situations abroad in order to create a pretext for US intervention. And in this case, simply honestly reporting what the Russian media has been saying would mark an excellent opportunity to further the narrative of a Russian government ruled by diabolical madmen.
Presumably, the lack of western media coverage is due to a fear that drawing attention to the Russian rhetoric would instill a great sense of fear into the populations of the NATO countries that could in turn undermine NATO’s apparent plans to raise the stakes in Ukraine by bringing in the heavy weapons.
In any case, the Russian population is undergoing rigorous mental preparation for the threat of a nuclear exchange with the United States and NATO, and this has gone largely unnoticed among people in the west. And with Sweden and Finland set to pour fuel on the fire by submitting NATO membership bids during a time of war, the Swedish and Finnish populations have ample reason to be concerned about their physical wellbeing. Even if the war takes a less dramatic turn and devolves into a protracted slow-burning conflict like in Syria, this could lead to citizens and residents of NATO countries, particularly those situated on or near the Russian border, being subjected to the suspension of civil liberties, martial law, and mandatory military conscription.
One method of achieving a degree of protection against this risk is to obtain citizenship or a residency permit in a genuinely neutral country far removed from the borders of Russia and Ukraine. After all, it is not inconceivable that an escalation toward nuclear war would become apparent days ahead of time, leaving a small window of opportunity for Swedes and Finns to flee the country.
However, it would be a big mistake to rely on the strong international visa-free access afforded by the Swedish and Finnish passports, as countries will almost certainly close their borders to tourists in the event of an impending emergency. In fact, this is exactly what happened in mid-2020 during the early stages of the coronavirus hysteria, which saw most countries allowing entry solely to their own citizens and legal residents and denying entry to everyone else, including citizens of countries who normally enjoy visa-free access as tourists.
And although holding a second citizenship or residency permit should not be viewed as an absolute guarantee of safe passageway in the event of a major war, it should be emphasized that the establishment of civic ties abroad creates valuable options which people beholden to only one single country will not have at their disposal.
Make sure to read part two of this article in the upcoming article, which will cover the non-NATO Western European countries of Austria, Switzerland, and Ireland.