The Baltic Region

2020 Vol. 12 №2

Back to the list Download an article

A ‘Secret alliance’ or ‘Freedom from any alliances’? NATO accession debate in Sweden and Finland, 1991—2016



The authors analyze the policy of NATO towards Sweden and Finland, the neutral states of Northern Europe, in 1991—2016. The authors emphasize that Finland and Sweden have always been of high strategic importance for NATO and the EU defence policy. The authors investigate the main areas of cooperation between NATO and the non-aligned countries of Northern Europe. The authors describe the prerequisites, prospects and possible consequences of Sweden and Finland’s membership in NATO. Special attention is paid to the evolution of the policy of neutrality of these countries before and after their accession to the European Union. The aim of this research is to assess the evolution of political views of Sweden and Finland on the development and implementation of the policy of neutrality in 1991—2016. To achieve this goal, the authors use a comparative analysis to explore the stance of the governments of Sweden and Finland on the cooperation with NATO or membership in it. The authors reflect on the concepts of “Finlandisation”, “freedom from alliances”, “neutrality” and “secret alliance”, which are often used in academic descriptions of the evolution of the position of both countries towards NATO. The authors hold that Finland and Sweden may become NATO members only if there is a direct threat to their security. Russian politics in the region may provoke them to take such a step. A referendum on joining the bloc seems to be highly unlikely; even though after the Crimean events, the number of NATO supporters in the two countries increased, they remained a minority. The authors conclude that both countries are involved in a “creeping” integration with NATO after they have become actors of the EU defence strategy. There is a minimum probability of Sweden and Finland’s becoming full members of the Alliance. However, the traditional policy of neutrality of both countries is often compromised, particularly towards Russia.