When there’s a big bully on the playground, it helps to have strong friends. But what if that bully is an entire country? What if that playground is the whole world?
In February, Russia invaded the neighboring nation of Ukraine. Now two historically neutral nations have taken a side. Finland and Sweden have asked to join NATO.
Geography time! Ukraine isn’t Russia’s only European neighbor. Finland sits along Russia’s northwest border. West of Finland, you’ll find Sweden: not quite a next-door neighbor, but just one country away from Europe’s biggest bully.
Historically, Finland and Sweden have stayed neutral. When the Cold War (1947-1991) simmered between Russia’s Soviet Union and the United States, much of Europe allied with America. Finland and Sweden refused to pick a side.
But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine changed everything. Finland and Sweden’s corner of Europe doesn’t look so safe anymore. The two nations decided it’s time to make powerful allies. So both applied for NATO membership.
NATO stands for “North Atlantic Treaty Organization.” This alliance formed after World War II. The nations of Western Europe had seen the devastation caused by Nazi Germany. They saw a similar threat rising in Soviet Russia. They decided to band together, along with the United States, to defend each other. If you attack one NATO nation, you attack them all.
Originally, 12 nations signed the North Atlantic Treaty. Now NATO boasts 30 members. If Finland and Sweden have their way, that number will grow to 32.
But not if Turkey has something to say about it.
Most countries expected NATO to quickly accept Finland and Sweden. But the nation of Turkey objected.
The world has changed since NATO formed. Some nations—like Turkey—have become less democratic since joining the alliance. They put authority in the hands of powerful rulers instead of the citizens.
Turkey claims Finland and Sweden are protecting terrorists. Sweden offered to send diplomats to Turkey to talk things over. “Don’t wear yourselves out,” said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
That could be bad news for Finland and Sweden. For them to join NATO, all 30 NATO members must agree. Several NATO countries have entered into talks to try to persuade Erdogan to cast a vote in favor of inclusion.
Meanwhile, U.S. President Joe Biden has applauded Finland and Sweden’s move to join NATO. He even offered to defend the nations while they remain in the joining process.
Whatever happens, the signal is clear: The world sees what Russia has done. Once-neutral nations are ready to make a stand.
See Turkey Agrees to NATO Expansion for an update on this story.
Why? In the face of injustice, even peaceful nations must sometimes make a stand, and this petition for NATO inclusion may change the landscape of the world’s alliances.