Why do Finland and Sweden abandon neutrality?

Helsinki, June 4, 2022, military parade on the occasion of National Flag Day. Photo Takimoto Marina/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

In view of the proclaimed end of history the Swedish decided to economize on national defense. Thus they abolished conscription and de-militarized Gotland. But the annexation of Crimea already sobered them up. Finland has never succumbed to such illusions. It would buy the most up-to-date equipment and invest in training. As of today, the Finnish army has 280 thousand soldiers and together with the reserve – as many as 900 thousand.

It’s a pity that there are no séance tables and that we cannot learn what marshal Gustaf Mannerheim thinks about Sweden and Finland’s plans concerning NATO. Does he approve of them? We won’t probably be mistaken, if we say he would welcome them with recognition. After all, both countries wouldn’t strive after NATO membership if it wasn’t for the sense of threat from Russia – a country, against which Mannerheim fought several times for the liberty of Finland.

But there is something that adds taste to these deliberations. Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim (he didn’t use the first name, he hated the third) is a national hero of Finland; in its history and in Finns’ feeling he enjoys the same place as marshal Józef Piłsudski in Poland. He wasn’t, however, a native or, as it is said nowadays, an ethnic Finn. He originated from a Swedish minority, from an aristocratic family which settled in Finland in the 18th Century when it remained under the rule of Sweden; he held the title of Baron. The fact that Sweden and Finland co-operate in the field of security would surely be taken by the marshal with satisfaction. Just as surveys which show that the Swedish community in Finland is the group that endorses accession to NATO the strongest.

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By Teresa Stylińska
Translated by Dominik Szczęsny-Kostanecki

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