Prime Minister Sanna Marin met the Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson in Helsinki (Dec 2021) Prime Minister Sanna Marin met the Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson in Helsinki (Dec 2021). Photo: Fanni Uusitalo - Prime Minister’s Office - Finnish Government - Wikicommons, cropped from original, shared under CC BY 2.0, license linked below)

The expansion of NATO will only escalate a new Cold War, argues Vladimir Unkovski-Korica

On 12 May, Finland’s leaders announced the country to seek NATO membership, increasing pressure on Sweden to follow suit.

There is great media hype claiming that these traditionally neutral states are ditching their peaceful ways in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

That is only partly true. Russia’s aggression against Ukraine has certainly accelerated these countries’ westward drift.

But Sweden and Finland have in fact been leaning westwards for decades, and their commitment to peace is questionable.

During the Second World War, Sweden remained theoretically neutral but it supplied raw materials for the Nazi war machine and was a transit route for German troops to the Soviet Union via Finland.

Given their pro-Nazi record, these states remained neutral after the Second World War, but their elites still preferred the West over the East in the Cold War.

In fact, Sweden was part of the ‘Five Eyes’, a top-secret intelligence-sharing network with the US, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada from 1954 – spying on the USSR.

Both Sweden and Finland joined the Partnership for Peace in the 1990s, allowing their militaries to develop cooperation with NATO.

Swedish armed forces took part in the occupation of Afghanistan in 2002 and NATO’s bombing of Libya in 2011.

Then in 2015, after the Russian annexation of Crimea, Sweden and Finland joined a military pact with three Nordic states, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland, which were already members of NATO.

In the last year, both states have participated in military exercises with NATO and Finland made a significant purchase of military aircraft from the US.

Thus, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has not caused but accelerated and made politically more palatable a long-held predisposition in ruling circles in Sweden and Finland.

The move to join NATO, if it does indeed go ahead, will undoubtedly increase pressure on Moscow, which has already threatened Finland with retaliation. The rumour is that Russia will imminently cut off the gas supply to Finland.

This will therefore prove to be another in a long list of moves that has escalated East-West tensions over the last few days and weeks as the proxy war between NATO and Russia in Ukraine turns ever more deadly, with some invoking the threat of nuclear war.

This is why it is imperative for anti-war movements to redouble their efforts to achieve peace in Ukraine. Russian troops must leave Ukraine and NATO should be dismantled, not expanded.

Otherwise, ordinary people, above all in Ukraine, but across Europe, will increasingly feel the brunt of the heating up of the new Cold War.

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Vladimir Unkovski-Korica

Vladimir Unkovski-Korica is a member of Marks21 in Serbia and a supporter of Counterfire. He is on the editorial board of LeftEast and teaches at the University of Glasgow.