With the admission of Sweden and Finland, the number of NATO members will increase to 32. It is an ironic point of Putin’s paranoia that his fantasy of a NATO “encirclement” has meant that Russia’s direct border with NATO countries will soon be more than twice as long as before.
Since 1999, six former Warsaw Pact states, three former Soviet republics and four republics of the former Yugoslavia have joined the defense alliance. Bosnia-Herzegovina has a Membership Action Plan and Georgia and Ukraine would rather join today than tomorrow. All of these countries share one lesson: beware of Russia.
The Swedes gave up 200 years and the Finns at least 80 years of non-alignment because their Scandinavian sober analysis of the Russian threat potential showed that they would be safer inside NATO than outside. A look at the map of Europe reveals only a few white spots: islands like Ireland, Malta and Cyprus. Russophile Serbia, still bombed by NATO in 1999, stands out, as does Switzerland, which has been neutral for 507 or 207 years, depending on how you look at it.
And then there is Austria, which committed itself to neutrality in 1955 against the withdrawal of the occupying powers. According to current surveys, three quarters of all Austrians want to stick to this. They consider non-alignment and the Alpine topography to be a more reliable security guarantee than the obligation to provide assistance under NATO Article 5. Weeks ago, Chancellor Karl Nehammer tried to end the burgeoning debate with the sentence that Austria “was neutral, is neutral and will remain neutral”.
Nevertheless, 50 intellectuals have just asked Federal President van der Bellen to have experts examine whether Austria’s neutrality is still “up-to-date”. In the opinion of the signatories, it is no longer that, but on the contrary “dangerous for our country”.
52 percent of Austrians are still of the opinion that neutrality protects them. But at least 40 percent are no longer convinced that neutrality will permanently protect them from military threats. Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine has ensured that many a conviction in Europe that seemed to have been carved in alpine granite is beginning to crumble.