Many countries such as Sweden, Austria, Ireland, Cyprus and Malta will join NATO if Russia intervenes militarily in Ukraine, according to Bloomberg.

The article was prompted by the annual New Years speech by Finnish President Sauli Niinisto.

The article signed by Andreas Kluth entitledEurope to Russia: invade Ukraine and well all become NATO memberswas published under the same title in the Washington Post, according to

The author notes that Sauli Niinisto said some remarkable things:

His speech should give the European Union an idea that will be discussed not only in Brussels but especially in the capitals of Sweden, Austria, Ireland, Cyprus and Malta.

These six countries are all part of the EU, but otherwise they are officially non-aligned, which means they are not members of NATO, the transatlantic alliance that kept the peace during the Cold War and currently has to figure out how it would react to a possible new Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The idea inspired by Ninistos comments is this: all six neutral countries, militarily linked to the EU and NATO, should reverse the ultimatum given by Russian President Vladimir Putin to the West.

If attacked, they will join NATO

Basically, (Putin) is demanding that NATO stop expanding forever, otherwise it will attack. On the contrary, the Finns, the Swedes, the Austrians, the Austrians, the Irish, the Maltese and the Cypriots will have to explain that if he attacks, they will join NATO.

Ninisto, of course, didnt go that far. In his diplomatic way, he simply reminded the Finns thatthe room for manoeuvre and freedom of choice also includes the possibility of military alignment and applying for NATO membership, if we ourselves decide to do so.

This freedom of choice is exactly what Putin wants to deny countries like Ukraine, Moldova or Georgia.

A new and welcome sense of Finnish self-confidence and destiny peeks through Ninistos words.

After the Second World War, Finland declared itself uncommitted to a bilateral agreement with the Soviet Union.


This was a pragmatic but somewhat desperate attempt to keep her dominance next to this huge communist bully.

The West Germans and others applied the pejorative termFinlandizationto this process of interception in exchange for nominal independence.

The other five neutral EU countries have a different story. Austrias history is closer to Finlands: it declared non-alignment in the 1950s to end the occupation of the Allied victors of World War II, including the Soviet Union, which had made Austrian neutrality a condition.

That said, Austrias implicit business model these days is based on being comparatively friendly to Moscow. If Putin becomes a threat, this can no longer be supported.

This dynamic is even more pronounced in Cyprus. It has attracted so much money from Russias oligarchs that it is sometimes called a Russian bank account within the EU.

But apart from that, nothing will stand in the way of Cyprus joining NATO. The island is contested between the Greek-speaking south (which is in the EU) and the ethnically Turkish north (recognised only by Turkey).

The accession of Cyprus

But Greece and Turkey are already in NATO. The accession of Cyprus to the alliance could indeed stabilise the conflict on the boiling island.

The same logic applies to the other divided island. The part of Ireland belonging to the UK is no longer in the EU but is still in NATO. The situation of democracy is reversed.

But no one doubts that Irelands sympathy in a conflict with Russia would be with the West. And the country no longer needs to prove that its foreign policy is independent of the British, and that was one reason why it didnt join the club a long time ago.

Among the six EU countries, the tradition of neutrality is strongest in Sweden, which is steeped in notions of national identity as in Switzerland (which is not in the EU).

After losing a war with Russia more than two centuries ago, Sweden ceded Finland to the Tsars. Since then she has seen destiny as an unattached person, feeling relatively safe behind thesafe zoneof Finland.

And yet the two Scandinavian nations see the world today in similar ways. If Russia becomes more aggressive in the Baltic, they would both be on the front line.

Message to Putin

Above all, both are interested as is the whole EU in sending a message to Putin: we do not accept your attempt to return to spheres of influence and power.

We will never again allow the great powers to decide among themselves the fate of smaller nations.

In 21st century Europe, neutrality is no longer a viable reason for existence (with the possible exception of Switzerland, but thats another story).

A strategy of non-alignment implies that potentially hostile actors abide by rules, the first of which is that they will not attack neutral nations. Putin seems intent on proving once again that he disregards such rules.

Ninisto made reference to Henry Kissinger at this point. As that arch-realist former US Secretary of State put it in his doctoral thesis:

When peace seen as the avoidance of war was the primary objective [. . . ], the international system was at the mercy of the most unscrupulous members of the international community. “

The frustrated EU

In todays context: if you put neutrality above all else, you put us all at the mercy of Putin.

If Putin takes the hint and retreats (for now) in Ukraine, neutral countries can always wait. But in the long run, their membership of NATO makes sense anyway.

The EU has long been frustrated at having so little weight in geopolitics. And it has long been at odds with the US on whether and how to build aEuropean armywithout confusing or compromising NATOs command structures.

The accession of all EU countries to NATO could partly address both problems. The Europeans would become a single, more or less coherent bloc within the Western alliance. Both the EU and the West would be stronger as a result.

In fact, this path may be the only way in which Europe can keep its place at the table of the great powers and be taken seriously even by ruthless tyrants like Putin. “