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Why Sweden and Finland joined NATO
TITLE PLACEHOLDER | Carl Bildt | Europe In :60

Why Sweden and Finland joined NATO

Carl Bildt, former prime minister of Sweden, shares his perspective on European politics from Hanoi, Vietnam.

Was the Swedish and Finnish decision to move into NATO, was that driven by fear of Russia attacking them?

Not really. I don't think either of our countries feel any immediate threat by Russian aggression. But what happened when Russia, Mr. Putin, to be precisely, attacked Ukraine was a fundamental upsetting of the entire European security order. And although Mr. Putin's priority at the moment, he’s very clear on that, is to get rid of Ukraine by invading and occupying all of it, you never know where he's going to stop. And this led Finland and Sweden to do the fundamental reassessment of their security policies. Giving up, in Swedish case, we've been outside of military alliances for the last 200 years or something like that.

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Presidential candidates Alexander Stubb and Pekka Haavisto attend a debate on Feb. 1, 2024.

Lehtikuva/Antti Aimo-Koivisto via REUTERS

Finland heads to the polls

Voters in Finland will choose their new president on Sunday. The president controls military and security policy – a significant position since Finland joined NATO last year in response to its neighbor Russia invading Ukraine.

The candidates: The front-runner is center-right candidate Alexander Stubb. Stubb, who is viewed as a pro-European globalist, previously served as prime minister and foreign minister and as a member of the European Parliament. He is running against center-left Pekka Haavisto, a Green League member and former United Nations diplomat, who would be the country’s first openly gay president if elected.

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Former U.S. President Donald Trump arrives at Trump Tower, after his indictment by a Manhattan grand jury following a probe into hush money paid to porn star Stormy Daniels, in New York City, U.S April 3, 2023.

REUTERS/David Dee Delgado

What We’re Watching: Trump’s day in court, Turkey stuffing Sweden, Egypt buddying up

Trump’s arraignment

Donald Trump has a busy day ahead of him Tuesday. He returned to the Big Apple Monday night and, after getting some shut-eye in Trump Tower, the former president will head to the Manhattan courthouse on Tuesday for his indictment. After his court appearance and a quick photo-op, he’ll jet back to Mar-a-Lago before an evening news conference.

Sound like an orchestrated plan? That’s because Trump’s team wants to capitalize on the publicity blitz around his arrest to bolster his bid for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. There’s reason to believe this is working: Since the news of his indictment dropped, his campaign claims to have raised $7 million, and his polling numbers have soared above other Republican candidates.

On March 30, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg brought the results of his investigation before a Manhattan grand jury, which voted to indict the former president. Trump is expected to plead not guilty on Tuesday.

While the charges against him have not been revealed, they likely involve Trump's reimbursement to his former attorney and “fixer,” Michael Cohen, who paid adult film star Stormy Daniels $130,000 in exchange for her silence ahead of the 2016 election. The Trump Organization then filed Cohen’s $420,000 reimbursement and bonus as a “legal expense.”

Falsifying business records is only a misdemeanor in New York, but if it is done with the intent to commit or cover up another crime – namely, violating campaign finance laws – then Trump could be looking at a Class E felony and a minimum of one year in prison.

Trump will be the first former US president to be indicted on criminal charges. But whether his indictment will push the GOP to jump ship in favor of another candidate, or what it means for the campaign if they don’t, remains unclear.

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Swedish NATO bid caught in Erdoğan reelection effort
Sweden's NATO bid hostage in Erdoğan reelection effort | Europe In :60 | GZERO Media

Swedish NATO bid caught in Erdoğan reelection effort

Carl Bildt, former prime minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Stockholm, Sweden.

How is the process of accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO going?

Well, it's green light for Finland. After ratification by Hungary and Turkey, they've been playing some games, but now green light. Good, excellent. Sweden, they are still holding out. I think President Erdoğan sees this as an asset in his election campaign. There have been some issues with Sweden. I think they have been sorted out, but now it's a question of the politics of Turkey. President Erdoğan, of course, faces an extremely critical election May 14, first round his entire regime's up for grab, and he's holding Sweden hostage in a way that is not entirely good for the security of Europe.

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Finland's PM Sanna Marin at news conference in Stockholm, Sweden, February 2, 2023.

TT News Agency/Jonas Ekstromer via REUTERS

Finland’s next step

This is a big moment for Finland. For decades, its leaders tried to safeguard its security by remaining officially neutral in conflicts between giant neighbor Russia and the West. A clear majority of Finns considered that the more prudent choice. Since the end of the Cold War, Finland has drawn closer to NATO but remained outside the alliance to avoid provoking the Kremlin.

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses via video link the 26th Annual Economist Government Roundtable in Lagonisi, Greece.

DPA via Reuters

What We're Watching: Ukraine tackles corruption, Nordics-Turkey NATO drama

Ukraine sacks officials over graft

Just days after the Ukrainian defense ministry called reports of graft in its procurement contracts “nonsense,” a deputy defense minister has been sacked to “preserve the trust” of Kyiv’s international partners. Also ousted: one of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s top deputies, a fellow known for living lavishly and speeding around in a flashy car while his countrymen sleep in trenches. The move follows reports that Ukraine’s defense ministry had overpaid for food supplies, suggesting that kickbacks were in the mix. Despite making progress in recent years, Ukraine’s government has long struggled with endemic corruption, but Kyiv is particularly concerned to allay concerns in Europe and the US, which have sent tens of billions of dollars in aid to the country since Russia’s invasion. We’re also watching to see how things play out among rank-and-file soldiers — allegations of corruption at the top during a war where troops are defending their country with homemade dune buggies is a bad bad look …

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Should Ukraine be offered NATO membership?
- YouTube

Should Ukraine be offered NATO membership?

Finnish leaders know how to have a good time, which is probably why Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto recently sat down with Ian Bremmer to discuss Finland’s NATO accession.Threats from the Kremlin had kept Finland (and Sweden) from joining the alliance for 75 years. But the invasion of Ukraine changed all that. In May, Finland’s long-serving President Sauli Niinistö rang his old friend, Vladimir Putin. “It’s not me, it’s you,” Niinistö intimated to the Russian leader.

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GZERO

Why Finland’s top diplomat is proud of EU's response to Russia

Finnish leaders know how to have a good time, which is probably why Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto recently sat down with GZERO’s Ian Bremmer to discuss Finland’s NATO accession, the Ukrainian bid to join, and the consideration of future membership bids.

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