It would be an epic start. Three strong Scandinavian prime ministers walking towards the press microphones. A marked stage silence ensues until the fictional Danish ruler, Birgitte Nyborg Christensen, the Lady from “Borgen”, the hit Netflix series, takes a half step forward and says: “We will not tolerate what Vladimir Putin is doing.” It could be a great start for the fifth season of this fictional political drama that already had a powerful trailer sneak peek as the royal premieres of Finland, Sanna Marin, and Sweden, Magdalena Andersson, walked to the podium in a deep autumn setting in Stockholm to announce that had asked their countries to join NATOthe Western military alliance, in open defiance of the Kremlin leader.
The process could take just a few weeks, they say at the organization’s headquarters in Brussels. Putin has already shouted to the sky and sent word that, if that happens, he will deploy his nuclear arsenal in the Baltic, off the Swedish and Finnish coasts. The Russian already had several miscalculations in his offense. He attacked Ukraine with the intention of ending democracy on its border and rebuild the Russian Empire of the tsars or the USSR of Stalin. The pretext was Putin’s alleged concern that Ukraine might join NATO and set an example for any other neighbor to refrain from doing so. It was the famous “shot by the cultured”. He ended up being a very effective NATO recruiter. The determination to enter the military alliance of the two Scandinavian countries, until now neutral, demonstrates this.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine completely changed public opinion in these countries, which until recently prided themselves on their equidistance from all powers. The latest surveys show that more than 60 percent of Finns are in favor of giving up their current status of “active neutrality” in favor of a compromise with the Western military alliance. “Our citizens are guided by what, I believe, is a correct fear. If Putin can slaughter his sisters and brothers in the Ukraine, why wouldn’t he do the same to the Finns?”, commented the former Finnish prime minister, Alexander Stubb, in an interview with German television. “The prevailing feeling is that they don’t want to be alone again.” Stubb was referring to the Winter War against the Soviet Union between 1939 and 1940in which Finland was not defeated, but lost about 9 percent of its territory.
In Sweden they are a little less enthusiastic but also determined to protect themselves under the NATO umbrella. The country will have general elections in five months. The ruling party itself had said in November that it wanted to remain neutral, but now everything indicates that he would get the votes in Parliament for a “comprehensive and rapid” entry into NATO. “In Sweden we estimate that we have had peace for 200 years, since Napoleon, because we have always rejected military alliances,” famous defense analyst Jacob Westberg told DW. “But now, this self-image of effective neutrality is in doubt. After what happened in Ukraine, we have to assess our security situation in a completely different way”.
And it is in this context that the two Social Democratic prime ministers appeared to try to change history. Sanna Marin, 36, who took office in December 2019, the youngest leader of a country when she took office. Magdalena Andersson, 54, came to government last November when her predecessor resigned. Both are seasoned in partisan battles and they are clearly distinguished from their predecessors of the “iron lady” type. They stand up to the toughest, in this case the brutal Russian bear, with a friendly smile and the firmness of a sequoia.
Marin was raised primarily by two women. After the separation of his parents, his mother lived with another woman and the relationship with his father was distant. It was a family of modest economic conditions. He had to work from a very young age to pay for college. He graduated in 2012 Administrative Sciences. She was the first to have a college degree in her family. She at the same time she started her political career. She became vice president of the Social Democratic Party in 2010, at age 25; she was elected deputy, at 30, and in 2019 she was appointed Minister of Transport and Communications. In December of the same year she was elected Prime Minister. His partner is the former footballer, Markus Räikkönen, whom he has known since he was 18 years old and whom he married in August 2020 in a very simple ceremony at the official residence in Helsinki. They have a four-year-old son.
Magdalena Andersson was a great athlete, champion swimmer. It is considered an “all-terrain” of politics. The daughter of university professors, she went through the best Swedish business university, Handels, and Harvard. He has been a member of the Social Democrats since he was 16 years old. and held various positions in successive governments, the last one before reaching premiership was that of the Economy portfolio. He has two children and a fondness for heavy metal. He loves those from System of a Dawn. Before taking office, in November, she starred in a rare political novel in the Stockholm parliament. After the first vote of confidence he broke the alliance with the Green Party and had to go to the vote again to lead a single-color government. She was chosen twice in five days.
Together they stood before Putin and changed the balance of power in the northern Baltic. If they finally join NATO, the much-feared border between the alliance countries and Russia would go from 1,300 to 2,600 kilometers. Saint Petersburg would be barely 200 km from the western military unit of Laperrante, until now a quiet Finnish city closely connected with Russia. Although this would mean expanding the eastern flank to be defended, the Finnish army is well armed and trained. “Finland still has compulsory military service and could mobilize an armed force made up of 280,000 soldiers. It’s a pretty big army in a European context,” said Jacob Westberg, a professor at the Swedish Defense University in Stockholm.
Sweden does not have a direct border with Russia, but if it decides to join NATO, would significantly strengthen the alliance’s operations in the Baltic Sea. All the countries with a coastline in that area, except Russia, would belong to the group. Sweden would incorporate the island of Gotland into NATO, from which it would be possible to defend a large part of the Baltic Sea and also Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. “It would be difficult for Russia to operate there. Sweden already has five very modern submarines, which would be complemented by the fleets of Poland and Germany”, adds Westberg. The Swedish Air Force also has 100 modern combat aircraft.
From a military point of view, Finland and Sweden are ready to join immediately and in Brussels they await them with open arms. They already have experience of working together. Finnish and Swedish soldiers were part of the NATO-led operation in Afghanistan. Both countries have also been working with the United States since 2015 on training and equipment.
Now everything goes to the parliaments, the Riksdag and the Eduskunta. Marin and Andersson will lead the political contest in those forums and have already asked NATO to speed up the process for their admission. Fear unites them.
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