News Analysis

Finland, Sweden NATO Membership: Voices that Matter

After four years, the staccato of guns and booms of cannon ceased giving the world relief from a brutal war, World War 1 between 1914 and 1918, which left some 8.5 million soldiers dead as a result of battle wounds or disease.

 The world would be swarmed by another apocalypse twenty-one years later, World War 2 with far more casualties – 70–85 million or about 3% of the 2.3 billion world figure in 1940.

As usual, Europe was the epicentre of the six years bloodbath, which echoed beyond the continent between 1939 and 1945, sucking in soldiers from colonies under the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Germany.

Of a total of 8,586,000 raised for the war, more than 5 million came from the British Isles: 1,440,500 from India, 629,000 from Canada, 413,000 from Australia, 136,000 from South Africa, 128,500 from New Zealand and more than 134,000 from other colonies.

France, Italy and Belgium also drafted in hands from their colonies to combat the Axis Power.

And when the pestilence abated, East-West poles surfaced in 1947 on ideological divides for a lengthy Cold War, with countries strung to aprons of the major powers, the United States and the Soviet Union, streaking down to 1991 after the collapse of the latter.

Thirty-one years on, the glacier is back with ECHOES of its bergs reverberating again across the world – war again springs up in Europe: Vladimir Putin has invaded Ukraine in angst at the expansion of NATO close to Russia’s borders.

Stephen King, a renowned novelist once said in relation to the horrors of 9/11 “After the 9/11 apocalypse happened in New York City, people, particularly New Yorkers, who breathed in the ash, or saw the results of that, have a tendency to keep seeing ECHOES and having flashbacks to it.”

The current blitz on Ukraine by Putin’s war machines has ECHOED a rethink in Finland and Sweden, countries which erstwhile had neutral posture to the East-West power blocks.

CNN, citing NATO sources, said discussions about Sweden and Finland membership had gotten extremely serious since Russia’s invasion, and US Senior State Department officials said the matter came up at NATO foreign ministerial attended by the foreign ministers from Stockholm and Helsinki.

The move by Stockholm and Helsinki ECHOES the concern of their citizens: one former Finnish Prime Minister in a chat with CNN said the move to join NATO “was pretty much a done deal on the 24th of February when Russia invaded.”

According to the Financial Times, a poll for Finland’s state broadcaster, Yle, showed 53 per cent of Finns supported joining NATO, 28 per cent were against and 19 per cent did not know. The last time Yle conducted such a poll in 2017, only 19 per cent were in favour of joining while 53 per cent were against it.

A poll in Sweden also revealed that six of ten Swedes backed joining NATO if Finland does, The Local reports.

Moscow has threatened retaliatory measures should Washington and some of its allies “drag” Finland and Sweden into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

The development in Finland and Sweden is an example of how respect for public opinion play a role in how leaders steer the ship of state, indicating that the voices of the people matter.

Unfortunately, this is not often the case in most African countries and others in Asia where policies do not reflect the pulse of citizens.

Dissension is also considered criminal with the apparatus of the state set loose to hound ‘recalcitrant’ critics.

Former US president, Barrack Obama, once said “Nothing can stand in the way of the power of millions of voices calling for change.”

There is a need for a change in the status quo in parts of the world where public opinion continued to be stifled, while the public should never allow itself to be cowered into silence.

“Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world…would do this, it would change the earth,” said William Faulkner, a novelist and poet.

Simeon Ugbodovon

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