Opinion: As our Nordic neighbours prepare to enter NATO, what does this mean for Norway?

Finland Sweden Norway flagsPhoto: Jussi Nukari Lehtikuva / NTB

Sweden and Finland’s recent application to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is seen as the biggest geopolitical paradigm shift in the Nordic region for years. However, both Turkey (a member) and Russia (a strategic adversary) are less than thrilled with the two Nordic countries’ desire to join. What could Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership mean for their closest neighbor and ally, Norway?

Russian invasion of Ukraine forces Finnish and Swedish hand

When Russian soldiers illegally stormed over the border and invaded eastern Ukraine, back in March, many knew that the geopolitical map of Europe was to change. Few, however, would have predicted that this Russian invasion of Ukraine would end decades of official Swedish and Finnish neutrality. Yet this illegal act of Russian aggression was cited as the main reason for both Sweden and Finland finally casting off their coats of neutrality and slipping into the application process of NATO. Entering this alliance would position both Nordic countries firmly in a military bloc that was first created to counter (Soviet) Russian aggression.

Both Sweden and Finland have been partners of NATO for years now and this close working association will, in theory, make it easier for them to join the military bloc. Sweden’s NATO Ambassador Axel Wernhoff and his Finnish colleague Klaus Korhoen delivered the applications, in person, in Brussels to what NATO Secretary-General (Norway’s own and former Prime Minister) Jens Stoltenberg said “is a good day at a critical time for our security.

NATO enlargement is Putin’s worst nightmare

In what must be Vladimir Putin’s worst nightmare, his “special military operation” in Ukraine (an illegal invasion of a sovereign country) has actually worsened his geopolitical position. Putin has been, for years, bemoaning the enlargement of NATO – especially following the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. By the middle of that decade, a huge swathe of former Soviet republics joined NATO essentially, in Putin’s view, bringing the Western military juggernaut to the borders of Russia. His invasion, sparking Sweden and Finland’s NATO application, will now lengthen NATO’s northern border with Russia from the 196 kilometers it was with Norway to over 1,300 kilometers. The Baltic Sea will essentially become a NATO pond making it increasingly hard for Russia’s prestigious Baltic Fleet to throw around its muscle.

In the “High North” – that is the land beyond the Arctic Circle – full of natural resources and becoming an increasingly important economic and geopolitical theatre – Russia had, until its invasion of Ukraine, only one Western NATO member on its border. It could now have two, along with Sweden nearby. All these 3 countries have a significant military that has the institutional and practical knowledge of operating in one of the coldest parts of the earth. Norway already hosts significant NATO forces in the country and the same will likely apply shortly to its two Nordic neighbors.

The invasion of Ukraine, it can be assumed now with some hindsight, was clearly not the best decision for an increasingly paranoid dictator like Putin. What makes it worse is the fact that two more countries have joined NATO (one with a long border with Russia) as a direct result of the said invasion is a complete catastrophe for Russia’s geopolitical position.

border Russian Russia
The Swedish and Finnish application to join NATO will, if approved, lengthen NATO’s border with Russia by approximately 1400 kilometers. Shown here is the Norwegian-Russia border crossing at Kirkenes (NOR) Storskog (RUS). Photo: Vidar Ruud / NTB scanpix

Strong Russian reaction to Nordic neighbors’ NATO applications

The reaction to the joint Swedish and Finnish application to join NATO has been met with widespread scorn by Russia. Russia has come out swinging saying that this enlargement will, according to Russian Government spokesperson Dmitry Peskov, “will not contribute to European stability” and that “…the NATO alliance remains a tool for confrontation.” Many Western governments have found it somewhat laughable that Russia would lecture others about the current insecure nature of European security and stability having launched an illegal invasion of a sovereign European country.

Russia has warned, both diplomatically and publically, Sweden and Finland of “consequences” if they do indeed join NATO. Just what these consequences are remains to be seen but former Russian President (and Putin ally) Dmitry Medvedev has previously suggested that nuclear weapons may be deployed in the Baltic region should these two Nordic neighbors join NATO. Would Russia be willing to put Europe in the center of a new nuclear weapon crisis unseen since the Cuban Missile Crisis of the early 1960s?

Norway and Russia’s relationship could change

Norway’s relationship with Russia is one of careful management. Though it is part of NATO, Norway has taken a more pragmatic approach to relations with its larger neighbor. Before the invasion, the economic relationship between the two countries was becoming increasingly important. Norway had a significant trade deficit with Russia and had seen imported goods increase by 58.9% in 2021 to a total of NOK 21.8 billion. However, since the invasion, the economic relationship is almost non-existent due to the economic sanctions placed upon Russia by many major Western and European countries, including Norway. Norway’s backing of the Finnish and Swedish NATO applications could see Russia essentially stop what little economic activity is left between the two countries, especially the export of oil and gas.

From a strategic point of view, Norway will look on with both a sense of security and possible fear if Sweden and Finland’s application is approved and they start to host major NATO forces. It places Norway in military sync with its two closest neighbors and helps sure up NATO’s northern flank – safety in numbers is never a bad idea. However, it could also make the “High North” the next battleground – metaphorically or physically – for further geopolitical competition between NATO and Russia. If there is a military build-up in the area, this would mean Norway would have to increase its national security and defense budgets.

Sweden and Finland’s application to join NATO may well have economic and geopolitical consequences for Norway. The longer the Russian invasion of Ukraine drags on – and many experts believe it will not be resolved soon – Norway and Russia may well be forced to change their once pragmatic relationship into something more adversarial. As George W. Bush famously once said “You are either with us or against us.” Norway knows it can’t perform this delicate diplomatic balancing act for much longer.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Turkish President Erdogan has issued a list of demands for Sweden and Finland to meet before Turkey signs off on their NATO membership. Photo: Turkish Presidency Pool via AP

President Erdogan throws a spanner in the works

For Sweden and Finland to join NATO all 30 member countries of the alliance must be in agreement. All but 29 are with Turkey the exception. The Turkish administration has presented a list of demands to Sweden and Finland to meet before it can sign off on their NATO membership. These demands involve distancing themselves from what the Turkish Government calls a “terrorist group,” the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistanê, PKK), and being more flexible in the extradition of wanted Turkish nationals opposed to the current Erdogan regime.

It was only in late 2019 that it emerged that a report from an institute with close links to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan named more than 120 Norwegians as supporters of PKK and thus liable to imprisonment if they visited Turkey. On this list were several prominent politicians as well as academics and activists. As Norway has so publicly backed Swedish and Finnish NATO membership, could this list be added to by the Erdogan regime as all three Nordic countries have often met with members of the PKK for peace talks?

What lengths will Norway, and other NATO countries, go to ensure that Turkish demands are met? If they are not met and Turkish President Erdogan is not satisfied, will this see a change in Norway’s relationship with Turkey? Swedish and Finnish NATO membership offers Norway a sense of further security in the “High North,” so will President Erdogan be held personally responsible if the Finnish and Swedish applications are not approved?

If NATO members don’t appease Turkish President Erdogan soon, and if Sweden and Finland’s NATO bid is thwarted, Norway may well cool in its relationship with Turkey.

NATO bid affects Norway either way

The Swedish and Finnish bid to join NATO is seen as a huge strategic geopolitical move not seen in the Nordic region for years. On the one hand, it will enlarge NATO’s land border with Russia much to the chagrin of Russian President Putin. This will sure up NATO’s (and Norway’s) military presence beyond the Arctic Circle. On the other hand, should the membership be thwarted by Turkish demands, Norway will remain the only Western NATO country with a border to an increasingly aggressive Russia.

The United States has publicly announced that any Turkish obstacles to Sweden and Finland’s membership in NATO will be overcome quickly. A NATO summit will be held in Madrid at the end of next month where it is expected that all NATO countries give their full backing to the Nordic countries’ application. Should this happen as expected, many in Norway will breathe a sigh of relief and welcome their Nordic neighbors into this important military alliance.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Norway Today unless specifically stated.

About the author:

Jonathan is a lover of the written word. He believes the best way to combat this polarization of news and politics, in our time, is by having a balanced view. Both sides of the story are equally important. He also enjoys traveling and live music.

Source : #Norway Today / #NorwayTodayNews

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5 Comments on "Opinion: As our Nordic neighbours prepare to enter NATO, what does this mean for Norway?"

  1. Jonathan may originally be from Australia, but this looks like something written by the British Foreign Office – eager to militarize the North for war – and it imparts many fallacies with misleading omissions.

    First, Russia’s “illegal aggression” was preceded by the West itself backing the coup overthrow of the legal Ukraine government’s sovereignty – and The Atlantic Charter – in 2014, which is thus our own illegal aggression which started this tragedy in the first place. A more accurate and truthful – objective – description of the Russian invasion would thus be a dangerously provoked (by us) counter-aggression … a “pre-emptive war,” like we popularized with our bogus War On Terror for far less justification.
    (My listing of the 4 reasons Kyiv 2014 was a coup, not a revolution, is in my comment below the 12Jan22 Norway Today article “Stoltenberg Comments on Meeting with Russia.”)

    And all the Russians wanted from Ukraine was the same kind of neutrality they had from Scandinavia – but in a signed treaty after all our past broken security promises and then the Kyiv coup.
    And the Russians – Foreign Minister Lavrov ca. 26Apr22 – have said NATO is waging a proxy war against it. And now, Lavrov has far more seriously stated the West is now waging Total War against Russia.
    With all the weapons shipments from NATO countries and with us Americans (and we can assume the British) helping the Ukrainians target Russian ships, generals, and other personnel – if not remotely flying the missiles and drones ourselves – his statements are entirely understandable and, objectively, accurate.

    That is, Finland and Sweden would be joining a military alliance already actively at war against Russia, creating a confrontation immediately on the verge of militarily (and thermonuclearly) exploding. That is the exact OPPOSITE of increasing security for them or for us in Norway! And these permanent UK and US bases in Norway guarantee they will drag us into World War 3.
    (In 1941, the Finns joined the Nazis in an active war against Soviet Russia – their Continuation War – and that turned out badly for them then too.)

    It has now long been clear that aggressive, “neoconservative”/”interventionist” Western countries – like Britain and now America, with Biden having appointed neocons like Blinken and Nuland back into power – have have long wanted to wage proxy and/or sideshow wars against Russia in Ukraine and the North, NAIVELY thinking any nuclear weapons would only be used there and here, sparing heavily invested Central and Western Europe and Britain. (And there is still contamination just from Chernobyl 1986 in the Dovrefjell.)
    In the 1Mar21 News in English, Forsvarets høyskoles Lt. Col Tormod Heier was quoted confirming this: “He has publicly stated that Norway risks becoming “a battlefield in a steadily more escalating rivalry between the superpowers.””

    The Russians have instead made it clear that a nuclear war with the West/NATO will immediately be direct, and unlike us they have civil defense for their people generally – not just their elites – giving them some chance of survival.
    With The Nordic Balance – the North de-militarized and neutral on land with no foreign permanent bases – the Nordic countries HAD real security and no threat of Russian attack, and any such threat is now non-existent anyway after the Russian Army’s Tannenberg-1914-like incompetence it has displayed in Ukraine. But again, all the Russians have wanted is the same kind of border security we – America – has in our own hemisphere.
    Why are Finland and Sweden throwing away their security by joining a NATO at war?

    The Russians wanted commerce – business deals – not war, until we the West forced them into this one, and here again, I ask readers to carefully consider my column posted by Yahoo! News and Yahoo! Finance, “Lou Coatney: Russia now has no choice but nuclear war.”

    And something to add there, regarding nuclear war: If we think it can’t happen, it can. And if we think it won’t happen, it will.

    As well, I have have now identified 9 motives for Biden and Blinkendecisively opposing a fair treaty and wanting and getting this Ukraine War holocaust, and I’ll list them below.

    Meanwhile, Earth continues to start boiling and this/our war is wrecking the international unity required for saving the environment. Our “environmental czar” John Kerry has even had the gall to be going around the world trying to blame the war and stopped environmental progress on the Russians, when the Kyiv coup was when he was Secretary of State!

    Bored-with-peace war-rabid (neocon) Western lemmings! At least lemmings’ mass suicides don’t wreck the environment.

  2. Here are the now 9 motives I have identified for Biden&Blinken wanting and getting the Ukraine War:

    1. To return the world to an economically and politically (and militarily) SEGREGATED bipolar Cold War state, to safeguard Western economic and political hegemony. The old New World Order agenda which Joe actually gaffed he wants disinterred!
    2. To pursue the World War 2 strategy of knocking off the European opponent before the Asian opponent, to regain for the U.S. and West strategic military hegemony.
    3. To have a major war to finally get that Democrat war powers dictatorship Joe Biden, John McCain, and Joe Lieberman tried to get in 1999 just using our Kosovo war as the pretext, and the Washington Post has already eagerly hailed Joe Biden to be a “wartime president.”
    4. Consistent with the Democrat line that Trump and the Republicans were and are pro-Russian to the point of treasonous, to politically polarize Americans into “pro-war patriots” vs. “anti-war traitors” – the latter like myself being rational, realist dissidents opposing the holocaust their pro-superpower-war policy is propelling us into.
    5. To have a neocon “major war” to spur the economy. [Tyler Cowen, 14Jun14, NY Times]
    6. To “re-unite” the Country with – what else? – a war, except there won’t be anything left of it/us to re-unite.
    7. Regime change, as Joe himself recently indiscreetly confirmed, hoping that the Russian people will rebel politically, especially if the war appears to be going badly as it appears it is. Except Russia has now declared martial law.
    8. To deflect public attention away from charges that Joe and Hunter Biden were themselves involved in corrupt Ukraine machinations.
    9. To deflect public attention away from the Ukraine government’s illegitimacy – being a coup government – and its neo-Nazi backers.

    And Joe Biden was actually talking up the war happening – “Prepare for impact!” – to Volodymyr Zelensky’s great nervousness, boasting to China’s Xi that he Xi would be “embarrassed” by a Russian disaster, and after the war started has gloated he has Putin in a “quagmire.”
    Well, the Ukrainian PEOPLE … and the rest of the world … are in his quagmire too.

    But even more indictingly, in his 26May22 Wash. Post column David Ignatius glowingly (and indiscreetly) describes Biden et al “secretly planning” the war!

    I’ll add that meanwhile Biden&Blinken have so wrecked our Asia Pacific relations trying and spectacularly failing to drag the Asians into the Ukraine War (as I’ve previously described on NT) that yesterday the Washington Post even came out saying we should lower or discard the Trump tariffs on Chinese goods! … because of the out of control worldwide inflation thanks to B&B’s Ukraine War.

    And here were our East Coast intellectuals/neocons, the British, and the Europeans so delighted Biden won the 2020 election, because he was supposed to be so experienced and savvy in international relations! … which he has made a COMPLEAT mess of

    … except for finally getting us out of Afghanistan which the British (and ISIS) didn’t like, of course.

  3. In sum, the Swedes and Finns might instead show Erdogan and the Turks a little *gratitude* for so far keeping them out of NATO and this terminally dangerous war.

  4. John Steppling | 1. June 2022 at 10:35 | Reply

    this is the most politically immature bit of US/UK propaganda Ive seen written here. Russia has legitmate concerns about NATO expansion. The US orchestrated the coup in 2014 (as well as interfering in russian elections in 96) and has helped create this problem. On top of which the government in Kiev has shelled Donbass for seven years. 14 thousand civilians died. Russia asked the UN for help, for peacekeepers in 2015. This author needs to learn history and stop parroting the state dept line.

  5. Vernon Childers | 1. June 2022 at 16:19 | Reply

    I agree completely with your post, as well as Lou’s, and this is going to turn out badly. The west is committing suicide.

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