Fact check: These are the fakes about Sweden and Finland joining NATO

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Hamster purchases that didn't exist. Contracts that are invalid. And surveys that weren't conducted. Dubious claims about Sweden and Finland's planned NATO accession in the DW fact check.

Does Finland's NATO accession mean a breach of contract?

Claim: Finland's planned NATO accession represents a&nbsp ;A breach of contract, it is often said by the Russian side. “Many people don't know the history of Finland and its involvement with Nazi Germany,” writes a user on Twitter. “After the Second World War, Russia has an agreement with Finland hit, and Finland broke them.”

DW Fact Check: False.

The agreement mentioned refers to the “Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance” of April 6, 1948 between Finland and the then Soviet Union. In the treaty, both sides undertook not to enter into alliances or coalitions directed against the other side.

In addition, the contracting parties assured each other of mutual military assistance if Finland were to be attacked directly or if Russia was to be attacked from Finnish territory. The treaty was renewed in 1955, 1970 and 1983.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, however, the agreement was replaced on January 20, 1992 by the “Treaty of Good Neighborhood between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Finland”. . In contrast to the old agreement, this treaty does not contain any commitment to alliance neutrality.

In the “Winter War” of 1939, Finland was celebrated for its resistance to the Russian military.

The neutrality had already been adjusted by Finland's 1992 accession negotiations with the EU. Because with the Maastricht Treaty, accession candidates automatically accept the common foreign and security policy of the EU.

The “involvements with Nazi Germany” mentioned date back to Finland's military alliance with the German Reich during World War II. The alliance concluded in 1941 was a reaction to the Russian invasion of Finland in 1939 in the so-called Winter War.

Through the military alliance, Finland wanted to win back the territory lost in the Winter War. On September 19, 1944, however, against the will of Nazi Germany, Helsinki signed a separate armistice with Moscow and then fought on the side of the Allies. 

 

NATO as a warmonger?

Claim: In view of the planned NATO accession of Finland and Sweden, according to the dpa news agency, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned of a further deterioration in international relations at a recent meeting with heads of state and government of former Soviet republics in Moscow . “This aggravates the already difficult international security situation.”

DW fact check: Misleading.

The narrative of aggressive NATO is repeatedly tried by the Kremlin.

The left-wing member of the Bundestag Sevim Dagdelen goes one step further. In her call to the congress “Living without NATO – ideas for peace” for May 21, she explains that “there were not too many offers and diplomacy towards Russia, but too few”. In the appeal, she describes NATO as a war machine, “the largest in the world”.

MP Sevim Dagdelen: “NATO is the world's largest war machine”

The fact is that since the collapse of the Soviet Union, 14 Central, Eastern and South-Eastern European countries have been admitted to NATO. Five of them, Norway (founding member of NATO), Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Poland, border Russia. Finland would be another country with a direct border with Russia. The Ukraine was also given the prospect of joining NATO in 2008, although the country's NATO membership has been on hold since then.

The Kremlin has felt threatened by NATO's eastward expansion for years and is demanding security guarantees. To overcome the fear of military attacks, NATO and Russia agreed on the NATO-Russia Founding Act on May 27, 1997 after the end of the Cold War.

In the contract, both sides pledged to “renounce the threat or use of force and territorial integrity”. The renunciation of the stationing of nuclear weapons in new NATO member states in Central and Eastern Europe was also included.  

NATO expert Markus Kaim from the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP) therefore defends the course followed by Finland and Sweden. “Despite joining NATO, both countries are very careful not to put too much strain on their relationship with Russia,” he explained in an interview with ZDF.
The Finnish left-wing party Vasemmistoliitto, which is part of the government in Helsinki, insists on a “defensive orientation of NATO membership”. “We will bring no nuclear weapons, no permanent military bases and no permanent NATO troops into the country,” MP Veronika Honkasalo wrote on Twitter.

The NATO accession of Finland and Sweden does not pose any concrete threat to Russia. By joining, the two countries would also agree to the NATO-Russia Founding Act. Conversely, however, the two accession candidates fear for their territorial integrity after the Russian attack on Ukraine and thus justify their desire to join. 

 

Majority of Turks against NATO membership of Sweden and Finland?

Claim:At the informal meeting of the foreign ministers of the 30 NATO member states on May 15 in Berlin, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said, according to reports from the semi-state news agency Anadolu, that “a large part of the Turkish population is against NATO membership of Sweden and Finland”.

DW Fact Check: False.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu speaks out against Sweden and Finland joining NATO at the NATO Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Berlin on May 15

According to the Turkish opinion research institute MetroPOLL, there have been no surveys in which the Turkish population was asked about the NATO accession of the two countries. According to the opinion research institute, this topic will be included in this week's current list of questions. The results are scheduled to be presented between May 23rd and 27th.

 

Panic buying in Finland?

Claim:“Finnish residents near the Russian border are rushing to buy groceries and look at bomb shelters in preparation for a potential conflict with Moscow,” according to a report by the US magazine Newsweek. The reason for this is that the Kremlin announced retaliatory measures for Finland's NATO accession.

Fact check: False.

The article, according to which the Finnish people are said to be panicking and stocking up, caused a stir on the internet. Many users and also the city administration of the Finnish municipality of Lappeenranta, which is located in the south of the country and in close proximity to the Russian border, criticized the reporting.

“The headline and the content of the article do not appear on Newsweek to fit together. There is no panic in Lappeenranta,” reads the municipality's official Twitter account. Other users point out that shelters are checked regularly and residents would habitually stock up on food and drink supplies at the weekend regard as exemplary. On the official web portal “72 Tuntia”, for example, precautionary recommendations for power failures and other emergencies are given. According to an official survey published there, almost a million Finns stocked up on food and bottled water at home in the spring of 2022 – regardless of the war in Ukraine.