By publicly countenancing the scenario of decoupling his country’s NATO bid from Sweden’s despite backtracking under pressure just a day later, Finland’s top diplomat was very strongly signaling that he doesn’t expect the Swedish-Turkish deadlock to be resolved anytime soon. The cat is already out of the bag and Finland probably does indeed have this “plan B”, however, the strategic motivation and soft power consequences of which will now be analyzed.
Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto revealed on Monday that his country might consider decoupling its NATO bid from Sweden’s in light of Ankara’s anger at Stockholm’s anti-Turkish and Islamophobic “protests”. Turkiye demanded that the Nordic nation comply with its anti-terrorist requests against the Fethullah Gulen Terrorist Organization and Kurdish groups like the PKK-YPG, only for this NATO applicant to blatantly defy its will by hosting their “protests” and even a Quran burning.
That last-mentioned provocation took place this weekend outside the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm and prompted President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to declare that “Sweden should not expect support from us for NATO. It is clear that those who caused such a disgrace in front of our country’s embassy can no longer expect any benevolence from us regarding their application.” “It’s Not A Big Deal If Turkiye Indefinitely Delays Sweden’s NATO Bid”, but it still looks bad for that bloc and the West more broadly.
After all, the US-led West’s Golden Billion prematurely trumpeted Finland and Sweden’s joint membership bid as a fait accompli when both were first officially tabled last May. Now, however, this de facto New Cold War bloc embarrassingly has egg on its face after the second of them failed to comply with the anti-terrorist requests of this anti-Russian alliance’s second-largest military power. Quite clearly, NATO/Western truly unity isn’t all that it was cracked up to be last spring.
It was likely in response to these predictable soft power consequences that Haavisto backtracked a day after his original statement, almost certainly under pressure from NATO. He now claims that Finland “does not have a plan B” as “at the moment there is no need for that” since he insists that both countries “meet NATO’s criteria and it would seem that both should join.” Nevertheless, the cat is already out of the bag and Finland probably does indeed have this “plan B”, which will now be analyzed.
By publicly countenancing the scenario of decoupling his country’s NATO bid from Sweden’s, Finland’s top diplomat was very strongly signaling that he doesn’t expect the Swedish-Turkish deadlock to be resolved anytime soon. It’s also a further break not only in NATO/Western unity, but also Nordic-Scandinavian unity as well (for those who regard Finland as part of that larger society, which is admittedly disputable), or at least Northern European unity.
It’s not a big deal if Finland indefinitely remains outside of NATO alongside Sweden since both are already shadow members of that anti-Russian alliance due to their close military cooperation with it. In fact, with that in mind, it can even be said that Finland snubbed Sweden in a sense by threatening to decouple their bids. It doesn’t have to rush to join NATO, yet publicly countenancing the scenario of doing so by dumping Sweden and doing this unilaterally makes one wonder about its larger intentions.
It could very well be that Finland hopes to take full advantage of what would in that case be its newfound role as NATO’s number one frontline state against Russia seeing as how it’ll then have the bloc’s longest border with Russia. Although Sweden isn’t contiguous to that alliance’s targeted Great Power, its economic and military capabilities are generally considered to be much more developed than Finland’s, though that’s not to say that the latter’s aren’t already impressive in and of themselves either.
Rather, it’s simply to point out that Finland could hoard whatever economic-military benefits its leadership envisages (irrespective of whether they’re really double-edged swords like many non-Western observers would argue) without having to share any of them with Sweden. That’s why Finland’s potential decoupling of its NATO bid from Sweden’s bodes badly for Stockholm since it suggests that Helsinki has larger ambitions in mind related to finally getting fully ahead of its neighbor in all respects.