Wednesday, March 19, 2014

3rd Order Effects from Crimea Start to Form ... Your Silver Lining

Russia has demonstrated, again for those who wish to see, that history belongs to those who make it. Russia is Russia, and hard power trumps soft power.

If the diplomatic, information, and economic levers of power that NATO is lamely pressing on to counter Russia's military efforts win out in time, we will all see eventually. What we do see now, thankfully, is to many nations in Europe this has been a wake up call. Time to leave Cold War habits behind.

First über-neutral Sweden:
Sweden’s government is examining a proposal to boost military spending to defend its own territories and the strategic Baltic Sea area in the face of renewed Russian aggression in Ukraine. There is also a movement among high government officials to re-examine the long-running issue of joining NATO.

The Swedish Cabinet will discuss, in coming weeks, a cross-party coalition proposal to signifi­cantly increase capital spending on the Navy’s submarine fleet.

In a direct response to Russia’s military actions in the Crimean Peninsula, Jan Björklund, the Liberal Peoples’ Party leader and Sweden’s deputy prime minister, is pushing for a “comprehensive strategic military re-think on capability.” Björklund also wants Sweden to “set the wheels in motion” to join NATO.
Once submissive Finland next:
...Finland's defence and security policy is under the spotlight again.

In an interview published on Sunday in the German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel, Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen reiterated the country's stance that Finland is not a neutral country, even though it is not part of any military alliances.The premier stressed that Finland has always kept NATO membership open as a option. Katainen denied that the decision to stay out of the alliance is based on a desire to maintain good relations with Russia.
It is easy to understand the connection west to Denmark and Norway, and to a lessor extent south to Germany - but there are strong bonds to the Baltic republics as well.

For those not up to speed with their Baltic trivia, there are more than just the Baltic Sea that can draw Sweden and Finland closer to NATO, and all you have to do is look at one of Salamander's favorite nations; Estonia.

Estonians still remember the "good old Swedish times" when they were under the Swedish Crown, and after the fall of the Soviet Union, Sweden was one of the first nations the newly freed Estonia reached out to.

Estonians are also close ethnically and linguistically to Finland. For those who have had the chance to visit Finland, Russia, and Estonia will easily not just see this - but feel it. The Baltic nations are Western, not Russian. Latvia and Lithuania more like Poland than Scandinavian, but Western nonetheless.

There is a lot of institutional inertia keeping FIN and SWE out of NATO, but the one good byproduct of the Crimea crisis is this; it shows that as irritation it can be to be in an alliance, when facing the Russians - it is a lot better than being outside it. It will be interesting to see how the numbers move.
The idea of joining NATO has also gained traction among Swedes in recent years. A 2013 poll found that popular support for becoming a member had jumped 9 percent in two years, even though it still falls short of a plurality. "Sweden must realize that we can no longer defend ourselves alone. NATO membership must be debated seriously. It is the best long-term option for our defense and security," said Christian Democratic spokesman Mikael Oscarsson last January after the coalition government to which his party belongs announced a formal review of Swedish military capabilities. "With significantly higher spending on defense and material acquisitions, we will see better equipped and trained Russian troops in this region. This strengthening requires a credible response by Sweden," Oscarsson added.

Swedish membership in NATO would leave Finland as the last non-aligned Scandinavian state, but the Finnish people are warier about picking sides. A February 24 Helsinki News poll, conducted prior to Russia's occupation of Crimea, found that 64 percent of Finns oppose NATO membership, 60 percent oppose forming an EU common-defense policy, and 60 percent oppose a proposed defense alliance between Finland and Sweden. Given Finland's proximity to the Russian border, one can hardly blame them for embracing non-alignment. Henry Kissinger opined in The Washington Post that the new Ukrainian government should follow Finland's example. "That nation leaves no doubt about its fierce independence and cooperates with the West in most fields but carefully avoids institutional hostility toward Russia," he wrote approvingly.
On a personal note, I had the pleasure last decade to spend a lot of time with Swedish and Finnish field-grade officers. Culturally, professionally, and by any other measure - those nations are turn-key members of NATO. It would be a great addition to their nations', NATO's, and be extension - our safety if they were to join.

Or ... this could be just silly fearmongering.

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