“Neutral” Europe retreats as Finns and Swedes approach NATO

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With Finland and Sweden taking steps to join NATO, the list of “neutral” countries in Europe seems to be shrinking. Like the two northern countries, other countries have joined the European Union, promising economic and political unity without taking sides in the east. A division in the West that persisted after the end of the Cold War. But security concerns over Russia’s prolonged invasion of Ukraine have changed the mindset of Finland and Sweden, which have long advocated neutrality and forced other traditionally “neutral” countries to rethink what the term really means for them. Finland has said it will decide to join NATO in the coming days, while Sweden could follow suit as public opinion in both northern countries has grown in favor of membership. While EU members are committed to defending each other in the event of an external attack, the promise has largely remained on paper as NATO’s power overshadows the bloc’s own perceptions of collective defense. However, Turkey can still overwhelm NATO’s ambitions with both Finland and Sweden. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the president of NATO, said his country was “not in favor” of the idea because of Nordic support for Kurdish militants and others whom Turkey considers terrorists. “This is the main thing in neutrality: it means different things to different people,” said historian Samuel Cruising of the University of Amsterdam. Here is a look at some countries that have enshrined “neutrality” in their laws or even considered themselves neutral in the showdown between the United States and Russia and their respective affiliates. Austria, Ireland, Cyprus and Malta are members of the EU that have not joined NATO, and Switzerland has been left out of both. SWITZERLAND is perhaps the most famous neutral country in Europe, Switzerland has enshrined neutrality in its constitution, and Swiss voters decades ago decided to stay away. EU. But in recent weeks, her government has been trying to clarify its concept of neutrality after calling for EU sanctions against Russia – and these days the local media analyzes Switzerland’s neutrality almost daily. There is little chance that Switzerland will move away from its neutrality: its government has already asked Germany not to hand over Swiss military equipment to Ukraine. The populist right-wing party, which occupies the largest bloc of seats in parliament, is hesitant about further action against Russia, and the Swiss strongly defend its role as a mediator for rival states and as a center of humanitarian action and human rights. Neutrality helps hone that reputation. AUSTRIA Austria’s neutrality is a key component of its modern democracy: As a condition for the withdrawal of allied troops from the country and its ability to regain independence in 1955, Austria declared itself militarily neutral. Since the start of Russia’s war in Ukraine, Chancellor Karl Nehammer has found an excellent balance with regard to Austria’s position. He argued that the country had no plans to change its security status, while stating that military neutrality did not necessarily mean moral neutrality – and that Austria strongly condemned Russia’s actions in Ukraine. gray area. Prime Minister Michael Martin summed up the country’s position earlier this year: “We are not politically neutral, but we are neutral in the military.” The war in Ukraine has revived the debate over what Irish neutrality means. In response to the invasion, Ireland imposed sanctions on Russia and sent non-lethal aid to Ukraine. Ireland has participated in European Union battle groups as part of the bloc’s efforts to harmonize its armed forces. Cruising, who contributed to Cambridge’s history of World War I for Neutrality, believed that the more similar the membership of the EU and NATO, the better for the bloc to “express itself as a geopolitical force.” The Maltese constitution states that the small Mediterranean island is officially neutral, adhering to a policy of “non-alignment and non-participation in any military alliance”. A poll commissioned by the Foreign Ministry two weeks before Russia’s invasion found that the vast majority of respondents were neutral – and only 6 percent were against. The Times of Malta reported on Wednesday that Higgins from Ireland had highlighted the idea during a state visit. “Positive” neutrality and joined Maltese President George Valla in condemning the war in Ukraine. Cyprus’ relations with the United States have grown significantly over the past decade, but any idea of ​​NATO membership remains out of the table, at least for now. The president of the ethnically divided island state said on Saturday that it was “too early” to even think of such a move, which will invariably face strong opposition from Turkey. Many Cypriots – especially those on the left political – continue to accuse NATO of de facto partitioning the island after Turkish troops invaded in the mid-1970s. Turkey was a member of NATO at the time – and the alliance has done nothing to deter the military from acting. maintain neutrality and allowed Russian warships to replenish supplies to Cypriot ports, although this privilege was suspended after the start of the war in Ukraine .___ Menelaus Hajikostis in Nicosia, Cyprus; Jill Lawless in London; Emily Schulteis in Vienna; and Francis D’Emilia of Rome contributed to this report.

With Finland and Sweden taking steps to join NATO, the list of “neutral” countries in Europe seems poised to shrink.

Like the two northern countries, other countries have joined the European Union in promising economic and political unity, not accepting either side in the East-West divide that has survived the Cold War.

But security concerns over Russia’s prolonged invasion of Ukraine have changed the way for Finland and Sweden, which have long advocated neutrality, and forced other traditionally “neutral” countries to rethink what the term really means to them. Finland has said it will decide to join NATO in the coming days, while Sweden may follow suit as public opinion in both Nordic countries grows in favor of membership.

While EU members are committed to defending each other in the event of an external attack, the promise has largely remained on paper as NATO’s power overshadows the bloc’s own perceptions of collective defense.

However, Turkey can still overwhelm NATO’s ambitions with both Finland and Sweden. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the president of NATO, said his country was “not in favor” of the idea because of Nordic support for Kurdish militants and others whom Turkey considers terrorists.

“This is the key to neutrality: it means different things to different people,” said historian Samuel Cruising of the University of Amsterdam.

Here’s a look at some countries that have enshrined “neutrality” in their laws or even considered themselves neutral in the showdown between the United States and Russia and their respective affiliates. Austria, Ireland, Cyprus and Malta are members of the EU that have not joined NATO, while Switzerland has been left out of both.

SWITZERLAND

Perhaps the most famous neutral country in Europe, Switzerland has enshrined neutrality in its constitution, and Swiss voters a few decades ago decided to stay out of the EU. But her government has in recent weeks tried to explain its concept of neutrality after advocating EU sanctions against Russia, and Swiss neutrality is being analyzed almost daily in local media these days.

There is little chance that Switzerland will move away from its neutrality: its government has already asked Germany not to hand over Swiss military equipment to Ukraine.

The populist right-wing party, which occupies the largest bloc of seats in parliament, is hesitant about further action against Russia, and the Swiss are fiercely defending their role as mediators for rival states and the center of humanitarian action and human rights. Neutrality helps hone that reputation.

AUSTRIA

Austria’s neutrality is a key component of its modern democracy: as a condition for the withdrawal of allied troops from the country and its ability to regain independence in 1955, Austria declared itself militarily neutral.

Since the beginning of Russia’s war in Ukraine, Chancellor Karl Nechamer has achieved a good balance with regard to Austria’s position. He argued that the country had no plans to change its security status, while stating that military neutrality did not necessarily mean moral neutrality – and that Austria strongly condemned Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

IRELAND

Ireland’s neutrality has long been a bit of a gray area. Earlier this year, Prime Minister Michael Martin summed up the country’s position: “We are not politically neutral, but we are neutral in the military sphere.”

The war in Ukraine has reopened the debate over what Irish neutrality means. In response to the invasion, Ireland imposed sanctions on Russia and sent non-lethal aid to Ukraine.

Ireland participates in European Union battle groups as part of the bloc’s efforts to harmonize its military.

Cruising, who contributed to Cambridge’s history of World War I neutrality, suggested that the more similar the membership in the EU and NATO, the better for the bloc to “portray itself as a geopolitical force.”

MALTA

The Maltese constitution states that the small Mediterranean island is officially neutral, pursuing a policy of “non-alignment and refusal to participate in any military alliance”. A poll commissioned by the Foreign Ministry, published two weeks before Russia’s invasion, found that the vast majority of respondents were neutral – and only 6 percent were against.

On Wednesday, the Times of Malta reported that Higgins emphasized the idea of ​​”positive” neutrality during a state visit and joined Maltese President George W. Bell in condemning the war in Ukraine.

CYPRUS

Cyprus’s relations with the United States have grown significantly over the past decade, but any idea of ​​NATO membership remains out of the table – at least for now.

The president of the ethnically divided island state said on Saturday that it was “too early” to even consider such a move, which will invariably face strong opposition from rival Turkey.

Many Cypriots – especially the left – continue to accuse NATO of de facto partitioning the island after the Turkish invasion in the mid-1970s. Turkey was a member of NATO at the time – and the alliance did nothing to prevent hostilities.

A staunch NATO member, the UK has two sovereign military bases in Cyprus, on the east coast of which there is a perfect wiretapping post that cooperates with US personnel.

Cyprus also wants to maintain neutrality and has allowed Russian warships to replenish supplies to Cypriot ports, although this privilege was suspended after the start of the war in Ukraine.

___

Menelaus Hajikostis in Nicosia, Cyprus; Jill Lawless in London; Emily Schulteis in Vienna; and Francis D’Emilia of Rome contributed to this report.

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