Chance of the calendar: while the Americans and Russians met in Geneva on Monday January 10 to discuss the situation in Ukraine and European security, before the NATO-Russia Council meeting on January 12 in Brussels, was held in Sweden the national defense conference “Folk och försvar”. Organized since 1946, this annual high mass – which usually takes place in the ski resort of Sälen, but took place by videoconference due to a pandemic – brings together all the country’s political and military leaders, civil defense organizations and security researchers.
Unsurprisingly, it was the sound of Russian boots on the Ukrainian border and the ultimatum presented by Moscow to NATO on December 17, 2021, which dominated discussions this year. “I am not going to take four roads: we are in a serious situation in terms of security policy”, noted Micael Byden, the Swedish army chief of staff. In early December, he confirmed that the kingdom had raised its level of military preparation.
If Sweden, like its Finnish neighbor, maintains close relations with NATO thanks to various cooperation agreements, it is not a member. But Moscow’s demands for a freeze on the enlargement of the transatlantic organization in Europe, as well as the words of the spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, who declared, on December 24, that a membership of the two countries “Would have serious military and political consequences”, relaunched the debate on the advisability of joining the alliance.
“Right to decide on one’s security policy”
In Finland, President Sauli Niinistö devoted much of his New Year’s speech to it on 1er January. Lashing out “The ukases presented by Moscow to the United States and to NATO” and recalling that the concept of “Sphere of influence” was a thing of the past, Mr Niinistö insisted that “Finland’s freedom of maneuver and choice also includes the possibility of military alignment and of applying to become a member of NATO, if we so decide”.
The Finnish president also sent a message to Europeans, arguing that they could no longer be satisfied with being “Observers” or some “Technical coordinators of sanctions”, when “The sovereignty of several member states of the European Union [UE], including Sweden and Finland, [est] challenged outside the Union ‘.
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