One of the many unexpected changes triggered by the invasion of Ukraine has been the decision of both Finland and Sweden to apply for membership of NATO.
This has a bearing on debates about security and foreign policy in the few west European countries, including Ireland, still remaining outside the alliance.
Is neutrality now an endangered species in this part of the world? Indeed, what do we mean by “neutrality”? It is perhaps natural to answer this question by looking at the experience of our own state. In its first hundred years neutrality was initially denied by the existence of foreign bases (the “Treaty ports”); from 1938 we were then able to adopt it during World War II, continuing the policy by staying out of NATO on the grounds of partition, and even carrying it through the several stages of European integration.
But there has been more than one variation on the theme of neutrality as practiced by those European states describing themselves as neutrals since the end of the last major war in western Europe in 1945. The context in which their policies have evolved has also varied, coming full circle from the divided continent of the Cold War, through a more peaceful era which has now regressed to the current crisis of European insecurity. A comparative analysis is necessary to consider the implications of Putin’s War.