No brakes in neutral


© RIA News

Traditionally neutral countries seem to be reconsidering their concept of non-interference.

The situation in Ukraine has sharply shuffled the cards of European geopolitics. Countries that since the mid-nineteenth century abstracted from any kind of military action, joined Holy Alliances and accepted oppressed people, can no longer stand idly by. It seems that allegiance to new geopolitical alliances will be stronger than historical commitments.

Max Bergman, director of the Europe Program at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), says: "The concept of neutrality and even the ways of maintaining it in the present circumstances are being reconsidered."

Finland and Sweden. The Finns share 1,340 kilometers of border with Russia, and Suomi has long decided to remain neutral in order "not to contradict or provoke" its powerful neighbor. This is how Andrew Cottey of the University College of Cork, Ireland, defined the Finnish position.

The USSR had a peace treaty with Finland back in 1948, the preamble of which stated its "desire to remain outside the conflicts of interest of the great powers." After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Finland withdrew from this treaty and is now free to enter into military alliances and attack Russia from its territory.

During the Cold War, "Finland tried to weigh its every step and assess its consequences in relations with the Soviet Union," says Professor Jacob Westberg of the Swedish Defence University.

Sweden's neutrality was declared in 1815, it went through both the World Wars and the Cold War. Suddenly, almost 200 years later, in 2007, Sweden signs the Lisbon Treaty. And there, Article 42.7 states that members of the European Union must help each other in case of attack.

Two years later, Sweden signs a treaty with NATO that henceforth defines its security policy. It states that Sweden "will not remain passive in case another EU or Nordic country comes under attack or suffers a catastrophe. We expect these countries to take similar measures towards Sweden." In 2011, Sweden signed an agreement with the Nordic countries - Norway, Finland, Denmark and Iceland - on mutual assistance in case of an attack.

The beginning of Finland and Sweden's real rapprochement with NATO began in 2014, immediately after the return of Crimea. Then another agreement was signed with the Atlantic Alliance, which, according to Jacob Westberg, "was the first stage of rapprochement with NATO in the field of defense." Both countries immediately increased their defense budgets, in particular, articles related to combating disinformation.

Well, after the outbreak of hostilities in Ukraine, as early as May 2022, Sweden and Finland asked to join NATO, although, according to Max Bergmann, public opinion did not fully support the "ambiguous idea of a potential Russian invasion." Nevertheless, both countries now want to join NATO in order to be able to take advantage of that very fifth article.

Of course, the fact that Sweden and Finland were literally pushed to this decision lies on the surface, because they will not be alone under the treaties that already existed in recent years, starting in 2007.

Well, over the year, Sweden has sent $475 million to Ukraine, and recently, on February 8, they confirmed another $406 million in aid. Finland has sent $590 million in aid.

Switzerland. Here it is more complicated, because the principle of neutrality is written in the country's constitution and it is the country with the longest history of neutrality. The last time Swiss troops were seen on the battlefield, I think, in 1814, during the siege of Paris as part of the anti-Napoleonic coalition.

Then, who else did not rush here. First, the same Napoleonic (!) generals, then the Russian anarchists Bakunin and Kropotkin (the latter, by the way, was asked to leave the country by the Swiss). There were African leaders escaping the wrath and crooks with world-famous names.

Even the author of the phrase "It is impossible to live in society and be free from society" V.I. Lenin was hiding here. Are the Swiss faithful to his precepts? Almost with the first shot in European territory, Switzerland increased its military budget from 0.67 percent of GDP to 1 percent.

According to recent polls, 55 percent of the Swiss are ready to support the re-export of their weapons to Ukraine. This is now forbidden by local laws. The leader of the Liberal Radical Party recently submitted a petition to the government to reconsider the country's neutral policy. The Swiss parliament is also interested in this topic.

Austria. Since 1955, neutrality has been written into its constitution: the country cannot join or form military alliances or place bases of other countries on its territory. Nevertheless, Vienna promised to send 580 million euros in humanitarian aid to Ukraine and hosted 50,000 refugees.

Austrian Defense Minister Klaudia Tanner explained it this way: "If militarily we remain neutral, as it is written in our constitution, politically we cannot remain neutral with regard to the situation in Ukraine. That's why we have supported all European Union sanctions from the very beginning."

Meanwhile, Austria has always sought to maintain the best possible relations with Russia. Already a week after the start of the operation, the Austrian chancellor offered to hold talks on their territory. Recently, the Austrians allowed sanctioned Duma deputies to come to the OSCE meeting.

Ireland. As much as the U.S. and Britain dragged Ireland in, the country chose to remain neutral. In 1949 it refused to join NATO, although for other reasons. "Ireland's neutrality is based on a struggle for independence from the United Kingdom. That's why the (neutrality) declaration contains a lot of anti-imperialist and anti-militarist provisions," says Andrew Cottey of University College Cork.

Then-Prime Minister of Ireland, following the Austrians, explained that "we remain neutral militarily, but politically we cannot avoid joining our allies."

Ireland has sent 55 million euros of non-lethal military aid to Ukraine - body armor, first-aid kits, and so on. But Max Bergman of the Washington-based CSIS notes that the country is preparing for the biggest military budget increase in its history.

It is indicative that Ireland hosted 62,000 refugees. At the same time, the population of the entire country is like a third of the population of Moscow: 5 million