Finland and Sweden formally apply for NATO membership
May 18, 2022 5:03 AM   Subscribe

Hell has frozen over. "Finland and Sweden submitted letters Wednesday [today] formally applying to join NATO, a historic moment for two countries that held fast to military nonalignment until Russia’s invasion of Ukraine upended their thinking about security."

"But thinking of themselves as nonaligned militarily has been an important part of their self-conception. Before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a majority of people in both countries said it was safer to be outside NATO. But the past months have seen a dramatic swing in public opinion."
posted by bendy (76 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
 


There's a finnish mappy thread about what that means for:

Part 1) The NATO/Russia border : It's worse than just doubling in length (Twitter / Threadreader)
Part 2) The Russian navy: They have a problem, maybe most importantly swedish Gotland class submarines (Twitter / Threadreader)
Part 3) The Russian nuclear weapons: Basically see Part 1) (Twitter / Threadreader)
posted by flamewise at 5:27 AM on May 18 [10 favorites]






The discussion in Sweden has largely been about the loss of the concept of Swedish exceptionalism and the country's self appointed role as a peace broker, and the decline of the once-dominant Social Democratic party. If you search "alliansfrihet" the first hit is still the party's page on its official stance of non-alliance.
The site used to read (translated):
Freedom from alliance. The freedom from military alliance is an important part of Swedish foreign and security policy. The freedom from military alliance is firm. This is a position that has never meant passivity. On the contrary, it is an active responsibility for security in our part of the world.
But now returns a 404.
posted by St. Oops at 5:33 AM on May 18 [16 favorites]


Is this going to come to anything if Turkey (or really Erdogan I suppose) doesn't reverse position and agree not to oppose their entry?
posted by biogeo at 5:33 AM on May 18 [3 favorites]


How badly have you effed up when the namesake country of the policy of Finlandization decides that enough is enough. Also, Turkey is making making noises about not approving Sweden and Finland's entering NATO because they dare to think that the Kurds are people too.
posted by NoMich at 5:35 AM on May 18 [6 favorites]


I feel like this is an episode of Masha and the Bear except the bear is senile and stupid and murderous and yet Masha is completely fucking him up anyway.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:37 AM on May 18 [4 favorites]


I'm so tired.
posted by allthinky at 5:41 AM on May 18 [11 favorites]


Dad joke, can't resist, sorry:

It figures that Norway is already a NATO member because its Hell freezes over already.
posted by martin q blank at 6:02 AM on May 18 [8 favorites]


I believe(/hope) that Turkey is mostly just being opportunistic and getting some headlines but will fall in line. There's also a question about Orban in Hungary.

Regardless, it's incredible that Putin has singlehandedly turned the people and politicians around in Finland. Not that anti-Russian sentiment ever really died down, I grew up listening to it in the 80s and 90s and when I did my national service, all the operations and training we did was to defend from "an aggressor from the East". Joining NATO just was not the universally agreed solution to the concern.

Even the most ardent appeasers of Russia have had to re-evaluate in recent years and months.

Also, Boris Johnson's promise of support means exactly as much as a slogan on a bus so I'm glad that didn't deter Finland's application.
posted by slimepuppy at 6:04 AM on May 18 [24 favorites]


Direct link so it’s readable on a phone and the writers get paid:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/05/18/finland-sweden-nato-apply/

I’ll probably regret this but I’m somewhat optimistic that this will be remembered as Putin’s folly which puts Europe on a better path for the coming century. We’re going to see more disruption due to climate change and the idea of cooperation really needs reinforcement at the moment.
posted by adamsc at 6:07 AM on May 18 [22 favorites]


NoMich: How badly have you effed up when the namesake country of the policy of Finlandization decides that enough is enough.

The term as it is used in English-language discourse, where it is used for countries that nominal but limited sovereignty, doesn’t really apply to Finland during the Cold War.

The explainer bendy linked to, like most other English-languag articles, says this is a consequence of the Winter War of 1939-40. But that was of secondary important to the Continuation War of 1941-44, when Finland was a co-belligerent of Germany when it invaded the Soviet Union. In the latter stages of the war, while the Red Army was pushing the German army back west at speed, it attempted to do the same to the Finnish army, but the Finns won the decisive battle of Ilomantsi, and then managed to pull back to a more defensible line. The Soviet Union decided that beating Finland wasn’t worth the time and the effort, and agreed an armistice.

Finlandization wasn’t a case of a smaller country agreeing to do a superpower’s bidding in exchange for not being invaded, it was because the superpower had failed miserably in its attempts at conquering its smaller neighbor.

There were some limitations to Finland’s sovereignty, in terms that Finland didn’t want to give their nuclear-armed neighbor a casus belli, but mostly it was about making sure that the Soviet leadership wouldn’t lose face.
posted by Kattullus at 6:08 AM on May 18 [31 favorites]


Is this going to come to anything if Turkey (or really Erdogan I suppose) doesn't reverse position and agree not to oppose their entry?
posted by biogeo


I feel like the mere announcement and vote has vaporized the fog of calling this conflict 'NATO aggression', and has probably gotten through to Moscow.

Second, I'm sure there can be a secondary agreement outside article 5, but just with nuclear France /UK / USA Germany / Baltic sea NATO that would send the vote home.

Call it the Hanseatic League if you'd like. Russia wanted to conquer the Black Sea, over decades, but seems to have lost the Baltic overnight.
posted by eustatic at 6:20 AM on May 18


There were some limitations to Finland’s sovereignty, in terms that Finland didn’t want to give their nuclear-armed neighbor a casus belli, but mostly it was about making sure that the Soviet leadership wouldn’t lose face.

As a product of US public schools and hence zero world history education I have so much to learn. I'm heading to Wikipedia now.
posted by bendy at 6:21 AM on May 18 [2 favorites]


Is this going to come to anything if Turkey (or really Erdogan I suppose) doesn't reverse position and agree not to oppose their entry?

Just the two just talking about applying accomplished a tremendous amount. Actually applying ratchets up the tension.

Even if Russia picked up and left Ukraine right now and in turn the applications were quietly forgotten, Baltic politics have permanently changed.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 6:57 AM on May 18 [2 favorites]


....So....

Putin was saying stuff about how "oh, if Finland joins NATO then we'll have to put nukes along the border, don'cha know". So....is this going to lead into another Cuban Missile Crisis scenario maybe?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:02 AM on May 18 [1 favorite]


A point about NATO I thought was interesting from the recent Ezra Klein podcast with Anne Applebaum:
Ezra Klein:

...there’s been a line of commentary and analysis, which is argued something like, Vladimir Putin, geostrategically, was afraid of NATO, had always said it would be a real problem if Ukraine joined NATO, and launched this war, on some level, on those grounds. And look what he got. He strengthened NATO, he brought Europe closer together. He has expanded the number of countries who want to, and might join NATO.

So it has all backfired on him.

But I do think another way of looking at it, from this more Arendtian perspective, is that Putin needs, wants, the foil of NATO. And actually, making NATO into more of an anti-Russian force, in some ways, backs up his narratives — actually making the West more directly contributing, or even driving the decline in Russian living standards, the impoverishment of Russia. Actually, making the West more anti-Russian fits his narrative.

And so on the one hand, if you take him geostrategically, this is all a profound failure. If you take him narratively, in some ways, it’s not. He has created something much closer to the world he has told Russians they are living in, and the world he has told them he is the only answer to.

Anne Applebaum:

Yes, I mean, I always thought that his creation of NATO as a big enemy was always fake. I mean, he knew it was fake. The Kremlin knew it was fake. NATO has not been capable of attacking Russia in many years. Until 2014, there weren’t even any American or Western — other Western European troops in the Eastern native states, so yes, it was always fake in that sense. It was always designed for internal consumption.

Unfortunately, some Westerners rather gullibly believed it — while we’re on the subject of gullibility.
posted by ropeladder at 7:03 AM on May 18 [18 favorites]


The term as it is used in English-language discourse, where it is used for countries that nominal but limited sovereignty, doesn’t really apply to Finland during the Cold War.

There were some limitations to Finland’s sovereignty, in terms that Finland didn’t want to give their nuclear-armed neighbor a casus belli, but mostly it was about making sure that the Soviet leadership wouldn’t lose face.


I think that's how I understood the term? But now I'm not so sure, so I'll go read up on it in more depth.
Thanks for the lesson, Kattullus.
posted by NoMich at 7:06 AM on May 18 [2 favorites]


One of my Finnish colleagues has calculated that the addition of Finland will result in a trebling of the number of saunas on NATO-aligned territory.
posted by Wordshore at 7:17 AM on May 18 [54 favorites]


I'm curious to read about how the Swedish turn effects Putin's weirdo racial mythology for global domination as well. And Finland was supposed to be the model for Russian global domination/ proof of Russian superiority definitely a high priority for annexation, next in line to Belarus, and now it seems to be lost.

The racial basis for calling Ukrainians little Russians, and holding that Ukrainians have no right to a nation, might depend on some kind of racial theory that people in Moscow are more like Vikings, or Viking Mongol Islamist warrior dudes.

Since a lot of Moscow foreign policy is about domestic suppression, how is this viewed by the NASHI youth movement, etc.
posted by eustatic at 7:20 AM on May 18


Putin was saying stuff about how "oh, if Finland joins NATO then we'll have to put nukes along the border, don'cha know". So....is this going to lead into another Cuban Missile Crisis scenario maybe?

Not really possible. As one of the twitter threads linked above shows, the problem now is that a bunch of Russian nukes that were already on Finland's border in the Kola Peninsula are now supremely vulnerable to being cut off from the rest of Russia because they're at the end of a 400km road through boreal forest the runs parallel to their Finnish border.

And with Finland and Sweden joining NATO, the Baltic Sea becomes a NATO sea that either traps the Russian Baltic fleet in St. Petersburg or drives its dissolution. Strategically this is disastrous for Russia and no amount of nuke shuffling changes that.
posted by fatbird at 7:33 AM on May 18 [14 favorites]


So what happens now if Russia attacks Finland or Sweden? The letter of Article V might not require a NATO response but the spirit surely would...
posted by chavenet at 7:42 AM on May 18 [1 favorite]




So what happens now if Russia attacks Finland or Sweden? The letter of Article V might not require a NATO response but the spirit surely would...

A) With what army?

B) The UK has given security assurances in the interim. If Putin nukes either of them then Russia can expect a hail of Tridents in response.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 8:02 AM on May 18 [8 favorites]


What I find interesting is that Ukraine has clearly shown that Finland or Sweden could crush any Russian invasion with the same amount of NATO logistical support. Ukraine is about the best case for the Russian military (maybe Kazakhstan would be slightly better?), Finland or Sweden would be much harder to invade.

I guess I do have a concern that making small wars less likely makes big wars more likely, but I know that’s an easy opinion to have way over here in the US.
posted by BeeDo at 8:02 AM on May 18 [4 favorites]


Finland alone would make a nice dent in the RuAF.
posted by Harald74 at 8:56 AM on May 18 [4 favorites]


Ezra Klein…
But I do think another way of looking at it, from this more Arendtian perspective, is that Putin needs, wants, the foil of NATO. And actually, making NATO into more of an anti-Russian force, in some ways, backs up his narratives — actually making the West more directly contributing, or even driving the decline in Russian living standards, the impoverishment of Russia. Actually, making the West more anti-Russian fits his narrative.

His narrative for who, exactly? Something that’s been shown abundantly in recent years is that you can make any old crap up and people will go along, and Putin is a master. For example, many Russian people are happily supporting the denazification of Ukraine as we speak.

No, he had no reason to antagonize neutral countries just to add a little zest to his already robust story of foreign threats. It was just a (hopefully) calculated risk that went with the invasion, and like most of those risks it largely relied on the world’s stunned reaction to Russia’s swift, complete domination of Ukraine. Oops.

Externally the whole thing makes Russia look weak. Internally all he’s done is annoyed his navy. If he can use two new NATO members to scrape another five minutes of fearmongering into a speech then good for him.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:02 AM on May 18 [8 favorites]


FWIW the subject of Turkey's ability to meaningfully block the two countries is also being discussed in the current Ukraine thread, starting around this comment by acb or so.
posted by cendawanita at 9:07 AM on May 18 [3 favorites]


FWIW the subject of Turkey's ability to meaningfully block the two countries is also being discussed in the current Ukraine thread, starting around this comment by acb or so.

So, they should move the discussion of that subject to the thread that covers it specifically so as not to derail discussion of things in Ukraine, correct?
posted by LionIndex at 9:10 AM on May 18 [3 favorites]


Oh please don't take my linking to mean otherwise, I'm just sharing since I'm not seeing the usual commenters here so they might not be aware.
posted by cendawanita at 9:12 AM on May 18 [6 favorites]


So what happens now if Russia attacks Finland or Sweden? The letter of Article V might not require a NATO response but the spirit surely would...

The UK and Norway have defense agreements with both and the rest of Europe would be obligated to help under the EU defense articles. So you’d have a war with all of NATO but the US, Canada, Turkey and mighty Iceland. All of which will be supplying weapons in any case even their not directly fighting.

One stray missile hits on one of the other NATO members during this mess and then they join in under Article V if they haven’t joined in already.
posted by jmauro at 9:14 AM on May 18 [2 favorites]


The UK has given security assurances in the interim. If Putin nukes either of them then Russia can expect a hail of Tridents in response.

See, I grew up in the Cold War so this is 100% the very reason this is freaking me out right now.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:17 AM on May 18 [16 favorites]


Finland in 2020 devoted 1.54% of GDP to its military; Sweden, 1.2%. NATO expects member nations to devote 2% or more of GDP to the military, an expectation only haphazardly met. Interesting to see if that changes in the coming year.
posted by BWA at 9:30 AM on May 18 [2 favorites]


Turkey has blocked discussions on Finland and Sweden's accession NATO hours after the countries officially launched their bids to join the alliance.
It claims that the two are harboring Kurdish groups such as the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and the Syrian People's Defense Units (YPG) which Turkey has branded as "terrorists." The EU and US also classify the PKK as a terrorist organization.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan repeated his complaints on Wednesday in Ankara, saying that "we cannot say yes" to Finland and Sweden joining NATO until they return "terrorists" to Turkey.
For a country to join the alliance, all 30 members must give their consent.
posted by adamvasco at 10:26 AM on May 18


"Sweden occupies a specific place in the Turkish diaspora. Since the 1980s, the country has taken in many political refugees, many of whom are suspected by Turkey of being PKK militants. This is a long-standing dispute between Stockholm and Ankara," said Élise Massicard, a specialist in the political sociology of contemporary Turkey and a researcher at Sciences Po. "According to a widespread view among Turkish nationalists, the reason the PKK still exists, despite 40 years of a war waged with extraordinary means, is because it has these 'rear bases' outside Turkey,"
Finally, it is very possible that Turkey is sending a message to Russia, which sees Western countries’ expansion of NATO to the East as a betrayal. Since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, Ankara has been trying to maintain good relations with the two opposing countries on which its economy is heavily reliant. "The Turks and the Russians also share the Black Sea and common interests in Syria," said Kempf. "Erdogan supports Ukraine but is careful not to go too far."
posted by adamvasco at 10:30 AM on May 18 [4 favorites]


Is it a serious objection, or is Turkey using this as leverage for other goals?
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 10:31 AM on May 18 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I'm worried that the concessions Turkey is looking for are new and novel ways to oppress the Kurds.
posted by St. Oops at 10:43 AM on May 18 [12 favorites]


in the broader sense, it's been dawning on me lately that a number of 20th century (and older) international organizations are lacking numerous uh... procedural provisions to deal with internally-positioned bad-faith actors that i feel modern reality might have had a fresher chance to perceive the need for, and i must reluctantly take data of evidence that reality/civilization is objectively shittier now in some ways than it used to be

off the top of my head, specific things like not being able to kick Russia off the UN Security Council, or NATO not being able to kick out or censure anyone at all

probably there's brilliant reasons that are 100% still applicable today as to why these things were set up the way they are, those guys are way smarter than me ever is. the stuff i'm talking about are the lessons we should be taking from modern shitheel actions like gamergate and internet griefing culture and realize i do benefit from a modern perspective
posted by glonous keming at 11:03 AM on May 18 [6 favorites]


See, I grew up in the Cold War so this is 100% the very reason this is freaking me out right now.

Thank you EmpressCallipygos. I've been trying to figure out why this is bothering me so much. I feel like this is a milestone that the World can't un-pass.
posted by bendy at 11:35 AM on May 18 [1 favorite]




From my vantage point here in Norway, defence of our country suddenly is easier to plan for. Have a look at the map; we used to have to hope real hard that the Swedes held their line, or that the Soviets/Russians would come straight down Norway anyway. Now we'll be able to coordinate defences in the north with our neighbours.

And I have noticed a couple of things that otherwise informed discussions in Sweden seemed to have missed: a) Nato does not possess any nuclear weapons themselves, only some of the participating nations own them. b) It's possible to opt out of having nuclear weapons on your soil; Norway has had this rule for years. c) It's possible to be a Nato member without having foreign bases on your soil, another police Norway has followed. We have prepositioned equipment stores and our allies exercise here all the time, but no permanent bases.
posted by Harald74 at 12:24 PM on May 18 [19 favorites]


< dad joke incoming >

Really looking forward to Finland and Sweden sharing their innovative submarine barcode technology for when the subs return to harbor. NATO needs to be able to scan the Navy in.

< / end dad joke >
posted by sleeping bear at 12:40 PM on May 18 [14 favorites]


If you had asked me in January if Sweden would apply to join NATO, I would have said that it was unthinkable. My family* that I talked to today were supportive of this move, but everyone seemed to agree that the outside world couldn't possibly understand how much of a sea change this is, and how it will affect how Swedes see themselves.

It's a momentous day.

We'll see how Turkey factors in, but I tend to believe that it's a negotiating tactic more than a genuine issue, although I may be wrong. Haven't had a chance yet to see a readout of what the Swedish/Finnish leaders spoke to President Biden about during their meeting in D.C. today, but it looks like both the UK and the U.S. might offer security guarantees during the accession process.

On a lighter note. This evening Sweden played Finland in the hockey world cup in Tampere, Finland. They are two intense rivals in one of the most important sports in both countries. As this cartoon explains, today and tonight were two separate things... **

Also, the level of coordination between the two was just amazing to watch. The whole thing has been very interesting to follow. They even color coordinated their outfits with their flags today!!

*I grew up in Sweden during the Cold War, but I haven't lived there for a long while.
**Well done, Sweden! They won 3-2 after penalty shots. Grattis, pojkar!
posted by gemmy at 1:03 PM on May 18 [13 favorites]


I think this was a brave move on the part of both Sweden and Finland, but especially Finland given their long shared border.

That said, I have nothing but questions, and I'm not sure which belong here, and which belong in the Ukraine thread:
  • Does anyone have any thoughts on poor fearful Moldova?
  • Will this have any bearing on Ukraine's own bid for NATO membership?
  • What do folks think about the rumor going around that Putin has blood cancer and, according to one source I saw, that a slow-moving coup is already under way there?
posted by Violet Blue at 1:13 PM on May 18 [1 favorite]


If you had asked me in January if Sweden would apply to join NATO, I would have said that it was unthinkable. My family* that I talked to today were supportive of this move, but everyone seemed to agree that the outside world couldn't possibly understand how much of a sea change this is, and how it will affect how Swedes see themselves. It's a momentous day.

Just for the record - since my earlier comment may have sounded disparaging - I think that all things being equal it's great. My inner 13-year-old is just also going to be a little nervous as long as Putin is still in power, is all.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:19 PM on May 18 [2 favorites]


specific things like not being able to kick Russia off the UN Security Council

The Security Council and the UN more broadly are set up to solve the problems that existed with the League of Nations. Which basically included flouncing and militarily important powers having an incentive not to take part. If you were going to revise the permanent members, perhaps India and Pakistan would be included. Clearly the weakest existing members are Britain and France, but both retain powerful navies, independent-ish nuclear capabilities and can project considerable force a long way.
posted by plonkee at 1:39 PM on May 18 [1 favorite]




NATO expects member nations to devote 2% or more of GDP to the military, an expectation only haphazardly met. Interesting to see if that changes in the coming year.

By some accounts, an independent Sweden would have to spend 4.5% of its GDP on defence to match the capabilities afforded by 2% of GDP plus NATO membership.
posted by acb at 2:35 PM on May 18 [1 favorite]


FWIW the subject of Turkey's ability to meaningfully block the two countries is also being discussed in the current Ukraine thread, starting around this comment by acb or so.


If Finland and Sweden get enough security guarantees from enough NATO members, then they become de facto NATO members, and Turkey gains nothing from keeping them in this particular limbo.

Seems a good way to lever Erdogan into not extracting too much out of this deal.
posted by ocschwar at 3:21 PM on May 18 [3 favorites]


Turkey doesn't give a shit about Scandinavian Kurds mocking Erdoğan. They want their fighter jets that the US took away from them after the S-400 purchase.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 3:39 PM on May 18 [1 favorite]


My inner 13-year-old is just also going to be a little nervous as long as Putin is still in power, is all.

I am personally very skeptical, in that the way I see it is a Western power structure like NATO itself is premised on defining an in-group and an out-group. So if Putin didn't exist it would just be some other 2nd or 3rd world country causing the same global problems. There was a very relevant NYTimes Ezra Klein interview an establishment political elite (Anne Applebaum, the article sells her as an Arendt expert but she's not a philosopher, historian, or any kind of actual professor in academia and instead has political connections with D.C. and European countries) linked above which goes into this, but intellectually they kind of failed because they mostly wave their hands using Hanah Arendt to claim how liberalism creates a kind of hollowness that explains essentialized phenomena such as Trumpianism and Putinism, and I guess unlike Arendt yet they uncritically believe that better liberalism is the way to fix it.

Nevertheless keeping with Arendt's point, the analogy I might use is urban sprawl. If you grew up in a car culture, you might accept that it is rational and even morally necessary to learn to get around by driving a car. But the totality of individual acts of car driving creates pollution. On a structural level, the military and control power dynamic of NATO maintains the socioeconomic world order which results the continued existence of 2nd and 3rd world countries. The fact that countries individually choose to join this circle has nothing to do with the underlying structural issues, e.g. that car culture is highly problematic, or in this case one might try to critically question NATO geopolitics and its impact on the world.
posted by polymodus at 4:05 PM on May 18 [8 favorites]


love it when I can tell who wrote a comment by the first sentence.
posted by sagc at 4:26 PM on May 18 [10 favorites]


I am personally very skeptical, in that the way I see it is a Western power structure like NATO itself is premised on defining an in-group and an out-group. So if Putin didn't exist it would just be some other 2nd or 3rd world country causing the same global problems.

Holy survivorship bias, Batman. Look at the circumstances from which NATO had emerged. A crazed dictator had just finished waging the bloodiest war in Europe and Stalin was making off handed comments about Tsar Alexander getting to Paris before heading into Yalta. Like, is there any perspective you can put yourself in where that might be even a little bit of a reason to have a mutual defense pact? Benelux tried neutrality. Hitler rolled over them like they weren't there.

Not only that, having the protection of the nuclear umbrella of NATO meant that the continent didn't immediately devolve into every country plowing cash into making a nuke of their own and probably forestalled a nuclear arms race within Europe.

On a structural level, the military and control power dynamic of NATO maintains the socioeconomic world order which results the continued existence of 2nd and 3rd world countries. The fact that countries individually choose to join this circle has nothing to do with the underlying structural issues, e.g. that car culture is highly problematic, or in this case one might try to critically question NATO geopolitics and its impact on the world.

NATO hasn't ever been relevant in the socioeconomic order other than "you nuke us, we nuke you back". Sweden, Finland, Ireland, Switzerland, Malta, Austria? These are all technically unaligned and *gasp* third world countries. Unless one's idea of diplomacy involves a hearty round of waging war, the threat of being in or out of NATO doesn't really impose itself on unfair treaties and bullshit imperialist liberal economic insanity like the mass privatization of public services in developing nations as a condition of issuing loans in lieu of vital economic aid.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 4:27 PM on May 18 [26 favorites]


I really thought we left the 1st/2nd/3rd world trichotomy behind us a long time ago.
posted by mollweide at 5:34 PM on May 18 [6 favorites]


specific things like not being able to kick Russia off the UN Security Council,

The security coucil would never have existed if Russia or the USA hadn't been granted permanent membership.
posted by Mitheral at 5:34 PM on May 18 [3 favorites]


On a structural level, the military and control power dynamic of NATO maintains the socioeconomic world order which results the continued existence of 2nd and 3rd world countries.

which of course explains various problems in africa, s e asia, s asia and the middle east

in spite of whatever meddling nato might be guilty of, the fact remains that much of the world is a mess and would continue to be a mess if nato magically disappeared - look, this whole leftie bro thing of placing blame on western countries for everything is gettnig tiresome and doesn't really suggest any kind of a solution to the world's current problems
posted by pyramid termite at 6:36 PM on May 18 [11 favorites]


Folks. Did any of you happen to notice that polymodus was saying that Sweden and Finland joining NATO was a rational individual choice for each of those nations at this time? It can simultaneously be true that NATO didn’t cause Putin to invade Ukraine (or anywhere else he’s previously invaded) and also that there have been problems with some NATO actions in the past. The fact that Russia is unambiguously in the wrong in this current moment, for proximal reasons all of their/Putin’s very own, doesn’t magically mean that everyone else has always been a hero making impeccable anti-colonial or anti-imperialist foreign policy choices.

There is also a heck of a lot more detail that I could go into around how prisoner’s dilemma reasoning such as polymodus alluded to with the driving analogy is tied up with Cold War history - mostly that overly-simplistic single-game models rather than iterated prisoner’s dilemma models led to some pretty poor outcomes overall, and is part of why the armies on both sides are so large to begin with (that’s not solely a NATO issue but definitely the structure and ideological orientation through the Cold War was a 50% contributing factor), which arguably led to the conditions under which the current war of Russian aggression/imperialism was possible, as well as fed a global arms trade as well as proxy conflicts that are much more directly responsible for the current fact that “much of the world is a mess”. But this is perhaps quite the derail already. So I’ll leave it at: don’t start doing the same mindless nationalism as Putin has been encouraging in Russia. That we reflect and question and second-guess ourselves instead of being fully certain of our righteousness at all times is part of what makes the pro-Ukraine side so clearly morally in the right here.
posted by eviemath at 7:30 PM on May 18 [8 favorites]


a Western power structure like NATO itself is premised on defining an in-group and an out-group. So if Putin didn't exist it would just be some other 2nd or 3rd world country causing the same global problems.

Yes, but "some other 2nd or 3rd world country" doesn't have the Tsar Bomba in its arsenal.

I don't think you're quite grasping exactly what it is I am saying I am afraid of - I am afraid of that specific person deciding to use those specific weapons, because not only has he flat-out said he would consider it, he is just crazy enough to actually do it.

If some other dude was the leader of Russia and was the dude with access to Russia's arsenal, I wouldn't be this scared.

If some other non-nuke-having country was doing the sabre-rattling, I wouldn't be this scared.

But it is THAT dude with access to THOSE weapons that has me spooked. And it isn't even because of NATO either - it's because Putin said "if X happens then i will do Y", and X has just happened. I'd be this scared if the X Putin was warning against was something about the Johnny Depp/Amber Heard trial, for god's sake.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:36 PM on May 18 [19 favorites]


There is absolutely nothing whatsoever problematic about NATO's expansion. Because every single bit of it was because of Russia's actions and history. Polandball of all things very precisely explains this. Every single expansion of NATO is because the countries near it suspected, correctly, that they would be eventually be a victim of the same bullshit Russia has pulled for centuries, and that entering NATO was the surest way of preventing the slaughter of their people and the crippling or total disappearance of their countries. And the existing NATO group knew that it would be the best way of preventing wars that would impact the rest of Europe.

All Russia had to do was to stop the bullshit, stop trying to destroy the countries around them. NATO had no fucking desire to invade them, NATO had no fucking desire to do anything but keep the peace in Europe so that that their members could go on being independent and making money. The best way of preventing this war would have been Russia growing the fuck up and stop fantasizing about an empire. The second-best way, and the only one the West themselves could do, would have been letting Ukraine join NATO. The great tragedy here is not that NATO expanded, it is that NATO did not expand *enough*.
posted by tavella at 9:45 AM on May 19 [27 favorites]


I cannot help but fear that it's not Putin, or Putinism that makes Russia uniquely dangerous at this point, buy rather the fact that its state infrastructure and geopolitical power are fundamentally dependent on fossil fuel revenue that cannot last more than a few decades at most. Russia has only two options as far as I can see: expand or collapse. You cannot expect an empire of nearly a thousand years to do anything but try the former. The Putin madness narrative seems, to me, to be an example of how leaders are typically seen by their enemies. Assad, Putin, Trump, Hitler, Mugabe, Castro...I could go on, but the thing is that none of these men, even if they are or were whatever "crazy" means, are dangerous because of madness. There are lots of things that make history's monsters monstrous, but very few have anything to do with mental illness.

It seems to me that Russia had a plan with regards Ukraine which was clear, purposeful, rational and also very bad. Things went badly and now it is flailing. I don't think this is due to anyone being unwell, or even so wantonly malevolent as to warrant a more colloquial "crazy". I think it's an example of why organisational dysfunction is the cause of most of the world's awful bullshit.
posted by howfar at 11:06 AM on May 19 [2 favorites]




... its state infrastructure and geopolitical power are fundamentally dependent on fossil fuel revenue that cannot last more than a few decades at most. Russia has only two options as far as I can see: expand or collapse.

Or, you know, invest in diversifying its economy, export its culture and build soft power, build partnerships with countries instead of protection rackets...
At least, those were options until very recently.
posted by trig at 7:06 PM on May 19 [2 favorites]


clavdivs! Wow, thanks!
posted by bendy at 7:45 PM on May 19


Interview in the London-based anarchist newspaper Freedom News with a Antti Rautiainen, member of the Finnish anarchist organization A-Ryhmä, who oppose Finland joining NATO. Excerpt:
Also what was so far your stance regarding the war in Ukraine (solidarity, support etc.)?

We are supporting Ukrainian anarchists who have organised themselves into the Resistance Committee, and fight alongside Ukraine’s regional defense forces and other army units. In addition, we support Russian anarchists’ nonviolent and violent actions against the war. There is very little sympathy for Russian politics in Finnish society, and also very little sympathy to claims that war is provoked by Nato. Even most of the traditional communists are not claiming this line.
Interestingly, one main reason he gives for why A-Ryhmä is opposing Finland joining NATO is the same reason many others are supporting it, that Finland is already functionally in a military alliance, i.e. the EU.

There are still around 10-15 percent of people in Finland who are opposed to joining NATO, and their voices don’t get much attention in English language media, so I was glad to see Freedom News interviewing someone who’s against it.
posted by Kattullus at 1:57 AM on May 20 [3 favorites]


At least, those were options until very recently.

Not politically. Russia's economy is dominated by fossil fuels because (as Kamil Galeev pointed out) they are simple extractive industries that don't require subtlety and can be managed by the sorts of goons who are close to power in Putin-era Russia; anything requiring more subtlety and less brute force gets no respect and ends up getting crushed or coopted and run down by mismanagement. Also, it is a commonly observed phenomenon that, where one player or sector dominates the economy of an area, they will make efforts to prevent upstarts (such as new industries) from gaining any traction and usurping their importance and power, So if someone built, say, a Russian Apple or Tesla, and didn't have the foresight to relocate it to Berlin or Dubai beforehand, the powers that be would either crush it or take it over and hollow it out, wearing its shell as a trophy as they sell cheap Chinese Android gadgets under its marque.
posted by acb at 2:08 AM on May 20 [3 favorites]


Finland is already functionally in a military alliance, i.e. the EU.

Does the EU have any equivalent of NATO Article V? Or would any invader mostly have to contend with the threat of stern tutting and economic sanctions?
posted by acb at 2:10 AM on May 20 [2 favorites]


I live in a smallish city in central Sweden. I saw posters up near the local college for a protest tomorrow against joining NATO. It’s totally going to happen (whatever that turd in Turkey says) but that doesn’t mean everyone in Sweden is happy about it. The Vänster (Left) party in Sweden pushed for a vote by the people on joining NATO, an idea that went nowhere. One argument about slowing down the process of applying to NATO was the fear that Trump might be reelected as president in the US, and then fucking what?

This is not meant as a derail, merely a note that it’s not all glitter and rainbows over here. Applying to join NATO is not universally applauded. The creepiest thing for me has been watching the racist right-wing (but I repeat myself) parties falling all over themselves to support and promote Sweden becoming a part of NATO. (These are parties, for example, working to create a new law that will deport not only immigrants guilty of certain crimes but also their entire families.) There is pushback by some politicians who want to pass the kind of law that Norway has to ensure that no nuclear weapons are ever placed on Swedish soil by NATO.
posted by Bella Donna at 2:29 AM on May 20 [6 favorites]


acb: Does the EU have any equivalent of NATO Article V?

Kind of, article 42.7 of the Lisbon treaty does say 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 the means in their power, in accordance with article 51 of the United Nations charter” (article 51 says that members of the UN can act in collective self-defense). However, there’s an exception carved out for neutral countries (e.g. Ireland).

It’s generally referred to as the “mutual assistance clause”. It’s only been invoked once, in 2015 after the terrorist attacks in Paris, and then mostly involved various other countries taking over various military duties for France.

In practice, it’s not settled what the article means, and has been subject of debate. It’s not as clear cut as NATO’s article 5, but it’s not a dead letter by any means.
posted by Kattullus at 5:12 AM on May 20 [4 favorites]


One argument about slowing down the process of applying to NATO was the fear that Trump might be reelected as president in the US, and then fucking what?

This worry could also be an argument for joining NATO (or something like it). If Europeans can't count on the US for protection, maybe it would be wise to up their defense spending and make sure they have their own ability to defend themselves.
posted by Bee'sWing at 6:02 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]


Some far right Trump successor could potentially not pull the US out of NATO, but instead try to get NATO involved in shady or contentious military exploits that other member countries would not actually support. Think Turkey attacking Rojava after asserting the PKK connection, with the PKK having been declared a terrorist organization, except with more bully power within NATO than latecomer Turkey has. Recall that NATO got roped into involvement in the US war in Afghanistan, for example, which was certainly not super popular in many European countries. The Article 5 protections would be looking mighty helpful to me right now were I living in Finland or Sweden, but a number of NATO military actions in the past have certainly stretched the notion of “defence”. And then there’s the philosophy of the Albert Einstein quite, that “you cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war”. Currently war is ongoing, so prevention is not on the table. But whither NATO after the present moment? So I find hesitancy about joining NATO also quite understandable.
posted by eviemath at 6:59 AM on May 20 [2 favorites]


This worry could also be an argument for joining NATO (or something like it). If Europeans can't count on the US for protection, maybe it would be wise to up their defense spending and make sure they have their own ability to defend themselves.

At this point Poland could do most of the heavy lifting of conventional warfare when it comes to defending Eastern Europe. The more important aspect of NATO, and why it remains relevant in this day and age, is that any NATO member is now a de facto nuclear power.

Would the US being pulled out of NATO by MAGA nuts be a geopolitical catastrophe? Yes. Could Europe defend itself without the US? Hell yes. Would NATO still have a nuclear deterrent? Also yes.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 7:02 AM on May 20


I don't think the Western European states would be willing to defend Eastern Europe if the US wasn't there to act as the umbrella.
posted by riruro at 7:45 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]


e.g. Poland didn't want to transfer of those planes without going through the US.
posted by ryanrs at 8:29 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]


Sweden is conducting excercise Våreld now, and of particular note is that they have started practicing mobilizing the reserves (machine translation). Sweden discontinued their draft after the Cold War, but has re-introduced it as things have been heating up. Conscripts have traditionally been the bulk of the land forces in the Nordic countries, and it seems to have been working quite well, provided a) the logistics part of it is running smoothly and b) the called-out conscripts get a few weeks refresher training with their old/new units before being sent into action.

Both Norway's and Sweden's armies are quite small at the moment, but are bulking up. At this time most of the land power comes from light infantry territorial units, Heimevernet in Norway and Hemvärnet in Sweden. Personally I think Ukrainian experience indicates that territorial defence units can serve a useful function in a nation resisting an invader, but I'm biased. They being provided a steady supply of anti-armour and anti-air defences will keep the invader slogging along while the regular army gets their ducks in a row.
posted by Harald74 at 11:01 PM on May 21 [3 favorites]


If you want to get a bit into the weeds on possible Finnish/Swedish military cooperation, Finnish defence blogger Corporal Frisk has a piece out in Swedish in Militär Debatt (machine translation).
posted by Harald74 at 6:53 AM on May 24 [2 favorites]


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