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Guest: Mika Sinuhe Wallinheimo, Finnish Member of Parliament

Finland broke 100 years of neutrality and joined NATO; a major shift both in the country’s domestic politics and for the balance of power in Europe. Sweden is next in line to join the Alliance.  Why did these Nordic countries decide to break with decades of neutrality? What does it mean for the global balance of power?

The answer to the first question is simple – Russia. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine eroded the concept of neutrality. That’s especially true for countries in close geographic proximity to Russia. With 830 miles of border between Russia and Finland, NATO’s newest addition changes the strategic balance in Europe. These major geopolitical shifts will have repercussions far beyond Russia’s current war in Ukraine. What does that mean for the global world order? Sinuhe Wallinheimo, Finnish Member of Parliament, joins us to tell us firsthand about the political changes in his country. 

Finland joined NATO, and in subsequent elections, voters quickly ousted the ruling party. How will Finland change with the government led by our guest’s National Coalition Party? Wallinheimo said, “I don’t think that foreign policy will change a lot. That’s the bottom line there. The previous government did a very good job [on foreign policy]. On the other hand, they didn’t do very well on domestic issues. So, the key issues were not in favor of the past government. That was why they lost the election.”

What about the risks of angering Putin and blowback from Russia? Wallinheimo said, [In] joining NATO, we don’t want to irritate Russia or Putin. We just want to defend our country with the highest priority. We have a very good defensive force and we could have fought against Russia just by ourselves, but now with NATO, we feel more secure.”

The question on everyone’s mind is – will Sweden be next? Wallinheimo said, “In the end, it’s going to happen…, There shouldn’t be any big issues on the table but for some reason in Ankara and Budapest, they’re not happy yet with the Swedish process. But I hope they will be members in [July’s upcoming] NATO summit in Vilnius. That’s my bet.”

How will power in Europe change with a non-neutral Finland and Sweden? Find out more by listening to the latest Altamar episode, available wherever you get your podcasts. You can download the episode here.

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Episode 151