Ana sayfa Editörün Seçtikleri Dynamic developments in geopolitics in the Arctic

Dynamic developments in geopolitics in the Arctic

Dynamic developments Arktik jeopolitiğinde dinamik gelişmeler in geopolitics in the Arctic

Sweden and Finland’s applications to NATO have led to intense developments in May, and the issue will certainly be on top of the political agenda until the NATO summit on 29-30 June. Developments concerning membership of the two nations in NATO might lead to processes that might overshadow the war in Ukraine

Geopolitical boiling points
At this stage of events and due to the latest development, the Arctic might be propelled into the critical geopolitical boiling point that is currently Ukraine. Under the given circumstances, three regions of crisis standout: Ukraine, Taiwan and the Arctic. The war in Ukraine is still waging. Following the developments in Ukraine, China seems to have put on the brakes regarding its policies towards Taiwan, following a more cautious policy. The request of Finland and Sweden to join NATO signals the start of a new period where Russia will face pressure from the north.

Our regular readers will be quick to remember that we have long stated that the Arctic will be the site of global rivalry. We have stated several times that the trans-Atlantic bloc led by the US and the United Kingdom will not remain silent before Russia – which in the recent past accelerated activities in the north and acquired significant geopolitical gains – and that tension in the region will certainly climb.

Global faultlines
To phrase it differently, there used to be three strategic faultlines along the lines of global geopolitics that could potentially become active. The first faultline was the Ukrainian line, which has already snapped. The second one is the Taiwanese faultline in the Asia-Pacific and which – at least for the time being – remains calm. The third faultline is the Arctic, where buildup of tension rises with every new day and where some movement has begun with the start of the war in Ukraine. We predict that NATO membership of Sweden and Finland will lead to a major tectonic shift along this faultline, which undoubtedly signals the start of a new era in geopolitics.

Let us now zoom in on the northern regions and take a focused look at the developments that occurred in the month of may.

Finland and Sweden apply to join NATO
The spark of the tension in the north was first triggered by Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde, who said she had received assurances from her American counterpart Antony Blinken that her country would receive support during the period of a potential application to join NATO. Linde said the United States was strongly supportive of Swedish and Finnish membership in NATO, which would increase stability in the Baltic and Arctic regions.

The first opponent of this move was Croatia President Zoran Milanovic, who spoke against NATO membership of Sweden and Finland.

Finland, the other applicant, has been “neutral” militarily since 1917 despite being an EU member. Following Sweden’s move, Finland’s European Affairs Minister Tytti Tuppurainen said she believed a Finnish application was “highly likely”, noting that Finnish society was increasingly positive towards NATO membership. She said Putin’s war in Ukraine was a wake up call to her country. Noting that not a single NATO Member had been the target of a military attack since the founding of the bloc, the minister said this was an important “security” assurance for her country.

Strong UK Support for Swedish and Finnish membership
The UK was quick to express strong support for NATO membership from Finland and Sweden. On 10 May, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited both countries, first meeting with Swedish PM Magdalena Andersson in Stockholm and then with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö. The UK signed security pacts with the two countries, agreeing to come to the aid of Finland and Sweden should either nation come under attack. The security pacts which include cooperation in terms of security, joint military activities and intelligence sharing, aim to deter potential threats that the two countries might face until they become full members in NATO.

“We’ve seen the end of the post-Cold War period and the invasion of Ukraine sadly has opened a new chapter,” Johnson. It should also be noted that the Scandinavian region’s NATO member Norway is also supportive of Sweden and Finland’s membership.

Finland’s President Niinisto said the country’s seeking NATO membership is not a “move against anyone”. He said discussions about NATO membership in Finland aren’t new, adding that the country’s membership will not amount to a drastic change in its policy. Warning Finland against joining the alliance and calling on NATO to close its doors to Finland and Sweden, Russia assumed Finland doesn’t have its “own will” according to Niinisto.

Official decision to apply to NATO
After Finland officially took the decision to apply for NATO membership, Sweden shortly joined its neighbor. Sweden’s Social Democrats backed NATO membership in a historic decision. The ruling party, which for decades has been strong opponents of Swedish membership in any military alliance, has rapidly shifted its stance after Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

Finland and Sweden will be welcomed into NATO with ‘open arms’ and will be able to join rapidly if they ask for membership, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said. “It is up to them to decide if they want to join NATO. We will respect whatever decision they make, because all sovereign nations have the right to choose their own path.”

Might have to take military steps for retaliation
The Russian Foreign Ministry was quick to respond to the developments. In a statement it released, the ministry said that Finland’s NATO membership would lead to military retaliation to stop threats against Russia’s national security. The statement said Finland’s plans of joining NATO constitute a “radical change” in the course of foreign policy.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said Finland’s decades-long policy of military non-alignment had served as the basis for stability in Northern Europe, while also providing a reliable level of security for the Finnish state. That stance was also a solid foundation for building mutually beneficial cooperation and partnership with Russia, it said, adding that the role of the military factor in relations had been reduced to zero.

Putin: Sweden and Finland membership not a threat
President Vladimir Putin also made a statement regarding the two countries’ applications to NATO. Russia has no problems with Finland or Sweden, and therefore Nato’s expansion into these countries is not a direct threat to Russia. Instead, bringing Nato’s military infrastructure to Finland or Sweden would lead to retaliation, the Russian president warned.

The issue of NATO enlargement is largely artificial, and is being used by the United States as a foreign policy tool, Putin said, further pointing out that the situation has a deteriorating effect on international security.

Finland and Sweden submit applications to join NATO
The actual move along the dynamically progressing process was made on 18 May when Finland and Sweden simultaneously handed in their official letters of application to join NATO. The letters were conveyed by the Finnish Ambassador to NATO Klaus Korhonen and respectively, the Swedish Ambassador to NATO Axel Wernhoff, to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the Alliance’s Brussels headquarters.

Stoltenberg warmly welcomed the requests, saying every country has the right to choose their own path. “The applications you have made today are an historic step. Allies will now consider the next steps on your path to NATO. The security interests of all Allies have to be taken into account. And we are determined to work through all issues and reach rapid conclusions.” He also said the allies were supportive of NATO’s further expansion.

Russia’s response to Finland’s membership will be a surprise’
Moscow’s response to Helsinki’s decision to join NATO will be a “surprise” and will be taken primarily by the military after taking into account the entire set of factors and specifics that will be typical of Finland’s membership in the North Atlantic Alliance, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said after the country submitted its application.

Speaking about the military-technical measures and the timeframe Russia plans to take against Finland due to its application for NATO membership, the diplomat said that “it will be a surprise.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry said of Sweden’s NATO membership decision that the Russian reaction will depend on the deployment of foreign military bases and weapons.

A critical threshold: the NATO summit
Official applications filed by the two countries will be decided at the NATO summit to be held on 29-30 June. All 30 members of the alliance should approve the applications for Sweden and Finland to join NATO.

If the countries unanimously vote for the membership of Finland and Sweden, the negations process will start. Following the completion of negotiations for membership, the membership decision will have to be ratified in the parliaments of the 30 allies.

Kaliningrad: The Trojan Horse in the Baltic region
Although Russia opposes Finland and Sweden’s membership in NATO, it doesn’t view it as a “red line”, unlike it does with Ukraine. Putin stating that membership of the two nations does not constitute a direct threat to Russia can be taken as confirmation of this. Certainly, of the two countries, membership of Finland weighs more heavily in terms of a threat evaluation and Russia is responding more aggressively towards Finnish membership.

If the two countries complete the process to become NATO members, a potential response Russia might give would be to increase deployment of weapons at its border with Finland and in Kaliningrad. The country will certainly accelerate its military activities in the region, consolidating and diversifying its military presence near the borders.

Weapons deployment in these areas will undoubtedly have direct implications in the Arctic Region. Over the short term, the Baltic region will become the epicenter of tension. As a matter of fact, Kaliningrad will be more important for Russia, which will be isolated from the Baltic Region after Finland and Sweden’s membership in NATO and it may even deploy nuclear weapons in the city depending on the intensity of the tension. The “surprise” that Zaharova talked about as a response to the countries’ NATO membership might as well be the deployment of nuclear weapons in the area. As such, Russia, which will end isolated in the Baltic Region, might take steps to keep the geopolitics of the region under control.

Grasp all, lose all
Putting aside the physical losses occurring at the scene of the war, the actual irreparable damage for Russia from its invasion in Ukraine will most likely occur in the north. Russia has made a huge strategic mistake. Moscow’s occupation of Ukraine has led Sweden and Finland to change their security strategies. The paradigm shift up in the north undoubtedly signals the start of a new era in the Arctic.

After the end of the war, Russia, will have secured its border to the east and prevented Ukraine’s membership in NATO but with two primary countries of the north joining NATO, it will be surrounded in the north and risk being isolated from the Baltic and Arctic regions, both areas which it attaches great

Turkey should engage in quiet diplomacy
Finally, let’s talk about Turkey’s approach towards Finland and Sweden’s membership applications. As of 20 May, when this article was being written, the entire world was speaking about Turkey’s announcement that it would veto the membership of the two nations. Essentially, Turkey is justified in negatively reacting to the membreship application of these two countries that are unconditionally and unabashedly supporting terrorism. However, it is a mistake for Turkey to express this objection publicly and apply populist discourse. Turkey should engage in quiet diplomacy, and implement strategies that will bring on multi-dimensional gains and that will strengthen its justified position. If not, Turkey will be perceived as indirectly supporting Russia and will risk being alienated and isolated within NATO.

Don’t put Finland and Sweden in one basket
At the same time, a distinction should be made between Finland and Sweden. Showing the same harsh level of reaction towards both countries would be a mistake. Up until today, the approach Sweden and Finland has taken towards the PKK/YPG organization has been in parallel with the EU. However, Finland has assumed a more moderate policy, and has made a point to maintain dialogue and cooperation with our country, finding parallels between Turkey – NATO’s southeastern wing – and its own security concerns.

On the other hand, Sweden, under the influence of the Kurdish diaspora, has employed unfounded and provocative discourse towards Turkey; and has also backed its discourse with actions, denying extradition of terrorists within its borders to Turkey, blocked weapons sales licenses and not prevented terrorists from entering the parliament. The last drop was Sweden’s openly supporting the PYD financially and through donating weapons.

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