If you want to find the hardcore militants of NATO, you have to meet with the elites of Northern Europe, writes Claudio Gallo.
The sun has been rising on the NATO site in the north for some time. Since mid-2009, the chair of the NATO Secretary General has been occupied by Northern European politicians: first with the former Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen and then (since October 2014) with the former Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg. Brussels has extended Stoltenberg’s contract until September 2022. The not-too-long deadline is already leading to initial discussions among the Atlantic partners.
Next year the new secretary could be presented at the NATO summit in Madrid in late spring or early summer. In keeping with the western zeitgeist, it is widely expected that for the first time a woman will reach the highest civilian rank within NATO. To complete the identification, one must consider the shift to the north and northeast of the alliance, which has been gradually positioning its troops on Russia’s borders since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
The first three names in circulation are former presidents Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović of Croatia and Dalia Grybauskaitė of Lithuania, and current Estonian president Kersti Kaljulaid. The game is far from over and many other countries will be nominating their candidates. The UK could give former number 10 Theresa May a try, even if she has little out there and little charisma. At a time of mounting tension with Russia, one thing is certain: the standard of the new incumbent should adopt the same flattening stance on Washington that the last two North Sea ministers have so dutifully taken care of.
As Moscow (and everyone in the world except mainstream European media) knows, the strategic power of the Alliance lies only on the western side of the Atlantic. From a US perspective, one of the most cherished attitudes among Europe’s allies is unconditional obedience. A quality that the northern European countries best embody. Certainly more than the comparatively less trustworthy southern countries such as France, Italy or Spain. Or the Germans. Germany, which has an eternal geopolitical love-hate relationship with Russia, recently blocked the supply of NATO weapons to Kiev despite pressure from Washington. Berlin, which has solid trade ties with Russia, views an economic war with Moscow, not to mention actual military conflict, as a nightmare that is reluctant to endure when American pressures become unbearable.
So if you want to find the militant hardliner NATO, you have to meet with the elites of Northern Europe. It looks different in the population; Although the pools have been moving slightly towards NATO support recently, public opinion is still largely divided and generally tends to be neutral on security issues. Leaving ideology aside, it is difficult to explain why a more aggressive stance by NATO should be in the national interest of these countries. This consideration applies to the entire eastern side of the Atlantic Alliance.
For many years, cooperation between the governments of the Nordic Council (a body responsible for formal inter-parliamentary cooperation between Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Åland) has raised security issues out of consideration for Sweden’s non-aligned status and Finland avoided. But last November, the usual fair play was somehow overridden. Speaking at the 73rd Nordic Council in Copenhagen, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said: “By remaining united and continuing to adapt to a changing world, we will maintain the ‘deep peace’ here in the Nordic region and in Europe “.
In the most aggressive interpretation of the old “Si vis pacem para bellum”, “deep peace” is sought through a constant military advance towards the Russian border. When Russia reacts, as in the case of Ukraine, the Western media are there to cheer the new barbaric aggression.
Although Sweden’s new Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson recently announced that Sweden would not apply for NATO membership, the country is a stable satellite of the Alliance. Last June, Sweden hosted exercise Arctic Challenge 21, one of the largest air force exercises in Europe, and played a key role in it. Fighter jets from the US, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK participated in the Arctic Challenge to train in air defense, close air support, air defense suppression and air-to-ground attacks.
The Swedish government has reintroduced conscription, resolved a staggering 40 percent increase in defense spending (the largest increase in defense spending in the country in 70 years), defined a new security doctrine, “Total Defense,” and started a military build-up on Gotland , a Swedish island in the Baltic Sea with a delightful “view” of the Baltic countries.
Since 2016, Stockholm has been an important partner of the USA in providing flexible global attack options (read: against Russia) for American long-range bombers. The new spending will increase the country’s military by 67 percent, restructure the army into mechanized brigades, equip warships with air defense systems, enlarge the navy and deploy a next-generation fighter-bomber.
In early November, Sweden received its first Patriot missile defense system from the United States. The defense industry of neutral and pacifist Sweden is in full swing: sales rose from $ 172 million in 2019 to $ 286 million in 2020, with Pakistan and the Emirates topping the list. In recent years this trend has stood in ironic contrast to Sweden’s irregularly operated feminist foreign policy (FFP).
Finland is the other regular and irregular participant in the NATO table. Finnish President Sauli Niinistö has just responded to the last Russian appeal not to join the alliance’s shift to the east: “Finland sees NATO as a factor that promotes security and stability in Europe. Maintaining national freedom of action and freedom of choice is the basis of Finnish foreign, security and defense policy. This also includes the possibility of military orientation and the application for NATO membership ”.
In a 2019 poll, half of Finns, 51 percent, were against joining NATO, while those in favor received 26 percent of the vote. At the end of October, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg praised Finland and Sweden’s close partnership with the Atlantic Alliance when he visited the Swedish naval base in Hårsfjärden Fjord near Berga, Haninge, during the joint Swedish-Finnish naval exercise Swenex-21.
“It is important that the NATO allies Finland and Sweden continue to train and practice together. Over the years we’ve worked closer and closer together. We have seen how the security situation in the region has deteriorated as a result of Russia’s aggressive behavior and its military build-up. That makes our cooperation even more important, ”said the Secretary General.
Finland has just chosen the F-35A Block 4 multi-role fighter to replace its fleet of 62 old F / A-18C / D Hornets. Helsinki has confirmed its intention to purchase 64 copies of the Joint Strike Fighter. The price includes armament, training, maintenance and other services. Delivery of the jets is scheduled to begin in 2025. The total estimated cost is 8.3 billion euros. The Swedes with their demanding Saab Gripen E were the big losers. The F35 is a very advanced fighter aircraft, and Helsinki will build a domestic support network that will be among the largest outside the US, probably just behind Israel. Despite this reality, the moral of the story is that when it comes to NATO, Europe loses and America wins, either strategically or economically. The point is not to reverse the unrealistic portrayal of evil Russia against the good Western alliance, but to understand that the national interests of European countries are not the main concern of the US-led alliance.