From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : NATO
Mains level : Expansion of NATO
After nearly three months of debate within the two countries, Finland and Sweden have formally applied for membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
What is NATO?
- NATO is a military alliance established by the North Atlantic Treaty (also called the Washington Treaty) of April 4, 1949.
- It sought to create a counterweight to Soviet armies stationed in Central and Eastern Europe after World War II.
- Its original members were Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
- NATO has spread a web of partners, namely Egypt, Israel, Sweden, Austria, Switzerland and Finland.
Expansion of NATO: Transforming Europe
- The war in Ukraine has already changed the geopolitics of Europe and the world.
- The admission of Finland and Sweden to NATO would bring about a transformation in the continent’s security map by giving NATO a contiguous long frontier in western Russia.
- Finland and Russia share a 1,300-km border — and doubling it from the present 1,200 km, parts of it in northern Norway, Latvia and Estonia, and Poland and Lithuania.
- In addition, Sweden’s island of Gotland in the middle of the Baltic Sea would give NATO a strategic advantage.
- Furthermore, when Sweden and Finland join NATO, the Baltic Sea — Russia’s gateway to the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean — would be ringed entirely by NATO members.
Why Nordic countries are willing to join NATO?
- Although the debate over joining NATO was ongoing in both countries for nearly three decades, Russia’s annexation of Crimea pushed both towards NATO’s “open door” policy.
- Still, there was little political consensus in either country, especially in Sweden where the Social Democrats have long been against the idea.
- However, February 24 changed everything the date on which Russia invaded Ukraine.
A knee jerk reaction?
- If Putin’s invasion of Ukraine was meant to deter NATO’s eastward expansion, the war has had the opposite effect.
- If admitted, Sweden and Finland will become its 31st and 32nd members.
- Back in March, Russia had evoked a threatening response to take retaliatory measures by stationing its nuclear and hypersonic weapons close to the Baltic Sea.
- Russia denounced the problems with Finland and Sweden but the NATO’s expansion at the expense of these countries does not pose a direct threat to us.
- But the expansion of military infrastructure into this territory will certainly provoke their response, warned Mr Putin.
- Sweden had already said it would not allow NATO bases or nuclear weapons on its territory.
Hurdles for Finland, Sweden
- At the moment the main obstacle to their applications in Turkey, a member since 1952 and which has NATO’s second-largest army after the US.
- Turkish president Erdogan has objected to their applications on the ground that the two countries had provided safe haven to the leaders of the Kurdish group PKK.
- Many Kurdish and other exiles have found refuge in Sweden over the past decades.
- PKK is an armed movement fighting for a separate Kurdistan, comprising Kurdish areas in Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria.
- Neither of these countries have a clear, open attitude towards terrorist organisation.
What could Turkey gain?
- Turkey is expected to seek to negotiate a compromise deal to seek action on Kurdish groups.
- Erdogan could also seek to use Sweden and Finland’s membership to wrest concessions from the United States and other allies.
- Turkey wants to return to the US-led F-35 fighter jet program — a project it was kicked out of following its purchase of Russian S-400 missile defense systems.
- Alternatively, Turkey is looking to purchase a new batch of F-16 fighter jets and upgrade its existing fleet.
How does this affect Turkey’s image in the West?
- Turkey is reinforcing an image that is blocking the alliance’s expansion for its own profit.
- It also risks damaging the credit it had earned by supplying Ukraine with the Bayraktar TB2 armed drones that became an effective weapon against Russian forces.
Is Turkey trying to appease Russia?
- Turkey has built close relations with both Russia and Ukraine and has been trying to balance its ties with both.
- It has refused to join sanctions against Russia — while supporting Ukraine with the drones that helped deny Russia air superiority.