Together With Sweden and Finland: How likely is Austria to Join NATO?

PeoplePoliticians ♦ Published: May 16, 2022; 17:06 ♦ (Vindobona)

Finland and Sweden have decided to make an official application to join NATO. Stimulated by the ambitions of Finland and Sweden, the question arises: Will Austria also consider this step soon? Probably not if you ask Austrian politicians and people. A brief analysis.

Austria is expected to remain neutral in the coming years. / Picture: © NATO North Atlantic Treaty Organization

Now it is official. Both Finland and Sweden will apply for NATO membership. Finland's President Niinistö spoke in this context of a "historic day" and the beginning of a new era. Internationally, the news is being received with great interest, but not everywhere with goodwill. Russia's leadership is fuming and talking about countermeasures.

Gloomy words from Russia

Sergei Ryabkov, Russia's deputy foreign minister, described the ambitions of the two Scandinavian countries as a "serious mistake with far-reaching consequences". Sweden and Finland should have "no illusions whatsoever that we will simply resign ourselves to this", he added. President Putin was also not enthusiastic about the decision, stating that the expansion of NATO was a problem and that Russia would react by expanding its military infrastructure, according to Handelsblatt.

Already on Saturday, Russia stopped all gas deliveries to the neighbouring country due to circulating rumours that Finland might join NATO. The official reason given by the Russian energy company InterRAO was that Finland had defaulted on its payments and would therefore not allow any more deliveries

Turkey threatens to block accession

Mixed reactions also came from Turkey. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced last Friday that Turkey was monitoring the current developments regarding Sweden and Finland, but did not have a positive opinion. A large part of the population is against the entry of the Scandinavian countries, according to Standard, and as a NATO member state, Turkey would have the possibility to veto it, as all 30 participating states would have to agree to a new admission.

Positive feedback from NATO leadership

NATO foreign ministers met on Sunday to discuss the possible accessions of Finland and Sweden to the military alliance. Addressing the media via video link together with German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Sweden and Finland were NATO's closest partners and that it would be "historic" if they decided to join. "Their membership in NATO would enhance our common security and show that NATO's door is open and that aggression does not pay," Stoltenberg said, reiterating that all sovereign nations have the right to choose their own path.

Is Austria's NATO accession realistic?

Surprisingly, joining NATO has not been a topic that has attracted much attention for Austria to date. Apart from a brief public debate when Russia invaded Ukraine, it became much quieter again around the important question of accession. At the time, Austria's Federal Chancellor Nehammer said that Austrian neutrality was not up for debate, thus drawing a premature line under the issue. But why is that?

On the one hand, the Austrian population identifies enormously with the principle of neutrality. It has existed since the end of the Second World War and for many people it is indispensable. People see themselves more in the role of mediator and want to maintain this status.

On the other hand, Austria benefits from its geographical location. As a central European state, it benefits enormously from its surrounding countries, all of which, with two exceptions, are NATO member states. Thus, Austria enjoys the luxury of passive protection by the military alliance according to IPG.