What does it mean to be neutral in Europe today?

Sweden and Finland are weighing the benefits of joining NATO

The World Today Updated 4 March 2021 Published 31 July 2014 2 minute READ

Thomas Raines

Former Director, Europe Programme

‘Peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliances with none.’ Thomas Jefferson thought neutrality prudent foreign policy, at least for the young American republic amid hostilities in Europe.

Five members of the European Union – Austria, Finland, Ireland, Malta and Sweden – all remain ostensibly neutral or non-aligned, the product of historical conditions, relationships and realpolitik, and that status is now politically and culturally ingrained. In Finland and Sweden in particular the crisis in Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea have prompted discussion of the wisdom of remaining outside NATO in the face of an assertive and revanchist Russia.

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