The list of “neutral” countries in Europe appears to be shrinking, given the moves by Finland and Sweden to join NATO.
Like the two Nordic countries, other nations joined the European Union by his promise of political and economic unity without taking sides in the divisions between East and West that lasted beyond the Cold War.
But security concerns over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine changed priorities for Finland and Sweden, who had advocated neutrality for years, and have caused other countries with a neutral tradition to review what the term means to them.
Finland has already applied to join NATO, while Sweden could follow suit after a change of heart in public opinion in both countries.
Although EU members undertake to come to the defense of their partners in the event of external attack, the promise has largely been limited to the role as the NATO force overshadows the concept of collective defense in the bloc.
British soldiers in a military exercise in North Macedonia. Reuters Photo
However, Turkey could still freeze the ambitions of Finland and Sweden to enter the alliance. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, president of the NATO member country, said his country “does not have a favorable view” of the idea because of the Nordic countries’ alleged support for Kurdish militiamen and other groups Turkey regards as terrorists.
“That’s the key to neutrality: It means different things to different people,” said University of Amsterdam historian Samuel Kruizinga.
Here’s a look at some countries that have embraced “neutrality” in their legislation or generally consider themselves neutral in the dispute between the United States and Russia and their respective allies. Austria, Ireland, Cyprus and Malta are members of the EU that have not joined NATO, while Switzerland has remained outside the two organizations.
Perhaps the best-known neutral country in Europe, Switzerland has enshrined neutrality in its constitution, and Swiss voters decided decades ago stay out of the EU. But in recent weeks, his government has struggled to explain its concept of neutrality after supporting EU sanctions against Russia, and local media now discuss Swiss neutrality almost daily.
There is little chance that Switzerland will stray further from its neutrality. His government has already asked Germany not to deliver Swiss military equipment to Ukraine.
The conservative populist party with the largest parliamentary group has been reluctant to take further action against Russia, and the Swiss are highly protective of its role as a mediator between rival states and as a hub for humanitarian and human rights action. Neutrality helps reinforce that reputation.
Austrian neutrality is a key component of its modern democracy. As a condition for the Allied forces to leave the country and for it to regain its independence in 1955, Austria declared itself militarily neutral.
Since the Russian war in Ukraine began, Foreign Minister Karl Nehammer has sought a delicate balance regarding the position of Austria. He reiterates that the country has no plans to change its security status, while at the same time stating that military neutrality does not necessarily mean moral neutrality, and that Austria strongly condemns Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
Irish neutrality has long had nuances. Prime Minister Micheal Martin this year summed up the country’s position as “we are not politically neutral, but we are militarily neutral.”
The war in Ukraine has reopened the debate on what does neutrality mean irish Dublin has imposed sanctions on Russia and sent non-lethal aid to Ukraine in response to the invasion.
Ireland has participated in battlegroups of the European Unionwhich are part of the bloc’s efforts to harmonize its armies.
Kruizinga, who has contributed to a Cambridge History of World War I on neutrality, suggested that the more similar the EU and NATO memberships are, the better it is for the bloc. “to show itself as a geopolitical power.”
The Maltese constitution states that the small Mediterranean island is officially neutral, leading to a policy of “non-alignment and rejection of participation in any military alliance.” A Foreign Ministry poll released two weeks before the Russian invasion indicated that a large majority of those polled supported neutrality. and only 6% were against it.
The Times of Malta newspaper published on Wednesday that Irish President Michael Higgins had highlighted during a state visit the idea of ’positive’ neutrality‘ and had joined Maltese President George Vella in condemning the war in Ukraine.
Cyprus’ relations with the United States have increased considerably in the last decadebut for now there is no plan to join NATO.
The president of the ethnically divided island nation said on Saturday that “It’s too soon” to even contemplate such a possibility, which would undoubtedly meet with strong opposition from Turkey, its rival country.
Many Cypriots, especially on the left of the political spectrum, they still blame NATO for the division of the island following a Turkish invasion in the mid-1970s. Turkey was a member of NATO at the time and the alliance did nothing to prevent the military operation.
Great Britain, a leading member of NATO, has two sovereign military bases in Cypruswhere there is a sophisticated spy post on the east coast run in cooperation with US personnel.
Cyprus also wants to maintain a veneer of neutrality and has allowed Russian military ships to refuel in Cypriot ports, although that privilege was suspended after the start of the war in Ukraine.