BIRMINGHAM, England: With Finland’s leaders announcing that they want the country to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and all the signs pointing to Sweden doing the same, it is becoming clearer than ever that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attempt to fundamentally restructure the European security order has worked.
But it hasn’t worked the way that the Russian president envisaged when it comes to NATO-Russia or Russia-United States relations.
Neutrality, as a status in international law and a foreign policy stance, is no longer seen as a viable way for smaller countries to navigate the danger zones of great power rivalries. A longstanding constitutional imperative to be neutral has not protected Moldova from Russian threats that it might be next on the list of territories that the Kremlin wants to conquer in its attempts to restore a Soviet-style Russian sphere of influence.
Russia’s aggression against Ukraine – and the way in which Putin has justified it again in his Victory Day speech on Red Square – offers no confidence that fundamental principles of the established European security order matter to Moscow.
This has been the case at least since the Russia-Georgia war in 2008 and should have been patently obvious with the Russian annexation of Crimea and occupation of Donbas in 2014.
NEUTRALITY ONLY IN THEORY
But the brutality of the war in Ukraine, its proximity to European Union and NATO’s borders, and the danger that Russia’s expansionism will not stop there make it critical for the survival of nearby states to reth...