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A woman walks past tanks of the Donetsk People’s Republic militia in Mariupol, on territory under the government of the Donetsk People’s Republic, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, May 4, 2022. [AP Photo]

Several years ago I read a delightful article in Reader’s Digest set in an idyllic Danish farmland, which created in me a deep determination to one day visit the countryside of Scandinavia. Most of the ingredients resonated with my own circumstances in rural Africa.

Especially etched in my memory was the image of a pretty young girl walking up grassy steppes with some buckets. She went on to spend several days alone milking her family’s heirloom cows, whose udders would otherwise have burst with milk.

I found it so reassuring that in an increasingly insecure world there was a peaceful society where young girls could camp alone in the woods without fear of abuse. The typical snowy, blissful Christmas scenes, complete with reindeer, must have been copied from this region.

Later I came to realize that the unique Nordic concept of peace and security extended across local communities. In the international arena, Sweden and Finland in particular have had a hundred-year policy of neutrality.

No wonder then that the Nordic countries have often been veritable human rights havens, and the first destinations for African dissidents fleeing persecution at home. The trial of Koigi wa Wamwere, a famous Kenyan refusenik from the 1990s immediately springs to mind. It is quite fitting that Sweden, Finland and Norway are perennial participants in the list of the five happiest countries in the world.

Moreover, the inherent attraction of political neutrality for all cadres has made these countries, along with Switzerland, magnets for external investment. Many nations consider them stable and reliable trading partners. Even Russia, the pre-eminent belligerent of modern times, has significant investments in Finland, which in turn has added $12 billion to the Russian economy.

It is not difficult to understand the motive for Sweden and Finland’s recent reversal in trying to abolish neutrality in order to join NATO. What happens to the millions of Ukrainians who continue to endure Putin’s unrelenting cruelty and grind their teeth through an unforgiving winter without any heating after Russia’s well-coordinated strikes wipe out crucial power plants?

It doesn’t help that Russia, according to multiple intelligence reports, is gearing up for another round of even more brutal assaults. And this is while the rest of the world wallows nonchalantly in a facade of peaceful and harmonious cultural coexistence, complete with a highly successful FIFA World Cup fiesta in Qatar!

Therefore, the lessons of Putin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine are crystal clear, especially for the European countries in its immediate neighborhood. You might be next in line, and you might have to endure the hassle alone! Finland’s case is particularly precarious. The country not only shares a 1,340 km long border with Russia but also has a history of bitter hostilities.

Too much water has passed under the bridge, and Sweden and Finland have already applied to join NATO (despite the stumbling block of Turkey’s insistence). Nevertheless, I believe that it is more beneficial for both countries and humanity to maintain Nordic neutrality a little longer.

First, there is real hope that Russia, which has publicly and without tangible results spent vast resources in Ukraine, will have neither the means, the will, nor the support to try to conquer another country any time soon. The shame and negative effects of the international sanctions on the economy are enough to make Russian citizens themselves oppose further war.

Second, joining NATO will metaphorically weaken these nations, whose main distinction and allure has been to stay outside the box and sit outside the rat race. Finland and Sweden will needlessly suffer a serious loss of moral authority, leave their place of honor as potential mediators, and worst of all, share the collective responsibility for NATO’s past, present and future mishaps. It feels eerily contradictory to even imagine Finland and Sweden as guilty of the destruction of Libya, or the killing of innocents in Iraq.

Third, NATO’s security umbrella which has time and again been shown to be conveniently leaky (so to speak), appears to have extreme accuracy in assuming kinetic defense of a member state. Even the famous Article 5 that talks about collective sacrifice has fine print that makes it easy to avoid going to war with a fearsome entity like Russia.

Try the loud silence after a new one New York Times the headline screamed “Russian missile attack kills two in NATO member Poland”. I doubt there will be any special treatment for any new NATO members.

Finally, a famous children’s story teaches us that sometimes there is much strength in apparent weakness. Cat is said to have followed Hunter home after he had killed its former heroes, Lion and Buffalo. But in the end it stayed in the kitchen with Hunter’s wife who thought she was the ultimate conqueror. Cat has seen the wife “exorcise” Hunter from his trophies and weapons!

When you think about it seriously, there may be less protection for Sweden and Finland in NATO than in neutrality. It is unbearable to see these two long-time role models for developing countries succumbing to the fear of the Russian bully.

Why should Sweden, Finland reconsider plans to join NATO

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