Giving up world domination in favor of prosperity
The road to Sweden's neutrality was painful, and imperial ambitions had to be abandoned. The Northern War (1700 – 1721), during which the Kingdom of Sweden tried to conquer the territories around the Baltic Sea, in fact turning it into an inland one, ended in defeat. The Russo-Swedish war of 1808-1809 left the Scandinavians without Finland and finally put an end to imperial ambitions.
After that, the idea of state neutrality began to emerge. The Swedes decided: why do we need these foreign lands, they seem to have enough of their own. They marked the final borders and began to build the country according to a new principle. It turned out quickly and sensibly.
Democratic institutions began to develop, political parties appeared, the parliament was constantly reformed, and suffrage was improved. In addition, cities grew, industry developed, the people grew rich, and the death rate fell. Largely thanks to this strategy (and for more than 200 years Sweden has not entered into a single military alliance and has never fought with anyone), today it is one of the most developed, wealthy and democratic countries in Europe.
Officially, during the Second World War, Sweden continued to adhere to neutrality, but some citizens still fought. Photo: By Pressens Bild//commons.wikimedia.org/
The situation changed somewhat during the Cold War. Adhering to the general paradigm, Stockholm nevertheless leaned towards a pro-American position. Yes, here they still declared non-participation in any armed conflicts, but little by little they began to cooperate with NATO. In 1994, an agreement was signed with the Alliance within the framework of the program for the protection of peace. In addition, Sweden actively improved and developed the army. She was even going to become a nuclear country, although in the end she abandoned this idea, investing the money allocated for it in improving the army. Swedish peacekeepers have actively participated in many UN missions. Congo, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan – not all the hot spots where you could meet her soldiers.
Sweden, although it was twice on the verge of participating in major wars (World War I and World War II), nevertheless, thanks to the policy of neutrality, was able to avoid destruction, reparations, and military restrictions. That allowed the state to build a “country of general welfare.” Today it has modern production facilities, attracts and develops high technologies, increases capital and, most importantly, creates one of the best armies in Europe, based on NATO standards and provided with weapons of its own production.
Today, Sweden has a quite modern and powerful army. Photo: Annika Gustafsson/Försvarsmakten
Neutrality by necessity
A completely different scenario was adopted by the strategy of neutrality in Finland. It was rather a forced measure, because two wars with one world superpower (1939 – the Soviet-Finnish and World War II) reasonably assumed the occupation of the country by Soviet troops after the victory over the Reich. But the Finnish units initially participated in the battles on the territory of the USSR, in particular near Leningrad. Nevertheless, after the defeat at Stalingrad in Helsinki, they began to curtail the presence of their units in the German coalition.
Posters about “Greater Finland” were removed from the parliament, separate negotiations with the USSR began, and Germany was denied the conclusion of another friendly alliance. As a result, in 1944, a peace treaty was signed with the Kremlin. In it, the Finnish side had to make concessions – part of the territories remained under the control of the USSR, but the sovereignty and state independence of most of the country was guaranteed. Immediately after the signing of this document, Finnish troops attacked the former allies – the Germans, who did not want to voluntarily leave the northern part of the country.
Finnish skiers during the Soviet-Finnish war (which has already been renamed the conflict in Russian Wikipedia). Photo: Gummerus – Paavo Talvela//commons.wikimedia.org
After the end of hostilities, politicians began to formulate their strategy of neutrality, in which the term “isolated war” was even introduced – meaning that the country did not participate in the aggressive actions of any of the coalitions, but fought for its own independence. To some extent, this is true. The Finns emphasized the separate nature of the war, not linking it to World War II.
This gave a result, the USSR did not include Finland in the zone of countries of its influence, and even in 1948 a friendship agreement was signed between the countries.
But the Finns themselves, until the collapse of the Union, had to maneuver between the interests of their close relatives. the mentality of the West and the unpredictably aggressive eastern neighbor.
After the collapse of the Union, when the risks of a military invasion faded away, Helsinki did not begin to change the country's foreign policy orientation. Neutrality has become part of her national identity. In addition, such a strategy of the northern state suited the whole world, as well as Finland itself.
The Finns also knew a lot about propaganda and offered tempting conditions to red pilots for surrendering along with the aircraft. Photo: en.wikipedia.org
However, disputes over whether or not to join NATO have been going on here since the early 2000s. As in any other truly democratic country, politicians relied on the opinion of citizens, regularly conducting polls on this topic. The data has always fluctuated plus or minus 5-10 percent in one direction or another. The catalyst when public opinion became decisive was Russia's aggression towards Ukraine.
“In the weeks before the start of the war, 50% of Finns were against joining NATO, and 20% were in favor. That changed overnight: 50% are in favor and 20% are against, former Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb says in an interview with DW, who believes this support will increase to 80% in the coming days.
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Finnish reservists during exercises. March 9, 2022. Photo: Lehtikuva/Lauri Heino via REUTERS