With Turkey remaining opposed to the membership of Finland and Sweden in NATO, both countries have been silently making contingency plans to ensure their security in case of a prolonged accession process or an eventual final blockade by Turkey. Ankara accuses Stockholm of harboring what Ankara calls “members of terrorist groups.”
After the leader of the Danish far-right political party Hard Line, Rasmus Paludan had burned a copy of the Koran outside the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm in January, Turkey canceled indefinitely the trilateral mechanism with Sweden and Finland on their applications. Turkey recently indicated it would be willing to accept Finland in NATO but has yet to ratify Finnish membership. Meanwhile, the US has pushed Ankara to remove its objections.
“Finland and Sweden have already taken concrete steps to fulfill the commitments that they met under the trilateral memorandum of agreement that they signed,” US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has said.
In the most commonly cited contingency scenario, the letter combination JEF would replace NATO. The Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF), founded in 2014 and led by the United Kingdom is a military alliance that includes a number of European countries, including Finland and Sweden, which joined the alliance back in 2017.
The JEF is seen as a potential alternative to NATO for these two countries, as it provides a platform for them to collaborate on collective defense and security initiatives under British defense assurances. One of the key benefits of the JEF for Finland and Sweden is its focus on rapidly deployable and adaptable military capabilities. The JEF is designed to respond quickly to global security challenges, and its smaller size and more agile structure compared to NATO makes it well-suited for this type of mission.
During his May visit to the Niinisalo garrison in Finland, British Defense Minister Ben Wallace confirmed that Britain would come to defend Finland and Sweden, should either of them be attacked, regardless of their membership status in NATO.
“It is absent from the bills that Britain would not come to the aid of Finland or Sweden if they were attacked. I can’t think of a situation where we wouldn’t support Finland or Sweden. Regardless of where countries stand in their NATO debate or with their agreements,” Wallace stressed.
Regardless of what the Turkish decision on the Nordic states’ membership in NATO will be, one thing is clear: the transatlantic alliance has shown its challenges in reaching political consensus in strategic matters. Frustrated by NATO’s slowness to respond to Ukraine’s request for military assistance, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in March last year, advocated for the establishment of a military alliance of responsible states, which would respond to crises around the world within 24 hours.
“I addressed the United States and all responsible states with a proposition to create a new U24 union: a new union that will ensure that each aggressor receives a coordinated world response quickly, effectively, and immediately – not in weeks, months, years, but for the first 24 hours after the attack,” Zelensky stated in his speech.
WAR and anti-war, NATO and anti-NATO
Leon Trotsky famously wrote that “you may not be interested in war but war is interested in you.” These words, which might seem familiar to Israelis, were unthinkable to most Europeans only a short while ago. Last February their sense of peace was shattered and the war made its interest known to the complacent Europeans. In their brilliant book War and Antiwar, futurists Alvin and Heidi Toffler describe how our lives are not only shaped by wars which have been fought but also by the wars which were avoided due to the strategic application of military, economic and political power to end the war before it started.
Alvin Toffler’s concept of “antiwar” refers to the idea that war should not be the primary means of resolving conflicts in society. Instead, he advocated for the development of nonviolent means of conflict resolution, including diplomacy, economic sanctions, and other forms of soft power.
The nature of asymmetric warfare, in which one side has a significant military advantage over the other, often requires the use of nontraditional tactics such as guerrilla warfare, terrorism, and cyber attacks. This type of warfare is often characterized by the use of unconventional weapons and tactics, and it can be difficult to fight using traditional military strategies and with traditional military alliances.
Perhaps NATO, as a traditional military alliance, may not be the most effective means of countering asymmetric threats. An alternative approach could be to establish an “anti-NATO,” much like Ukrainian President Zelensky advocated with his U-24 plan; one which emphasizes nonmilitary means of conflict resolution and prioritizes diplomacy and economic sanctions, yet is capable of deliberate military intervention when deemed necessary. Such a third-party peace-making force could prove itself to be effective in preventing wars before they develop, or bringing them to an end quickly, should one of the key participants decide to destabilize the balance of power.
In essence, an anti-NATO could represent a paradigm shift away from traditional military alliances and towards a more holistic and collaborative approach to global security in a multipolar world. An anti-NATO would not be the opposite of NATO, but rather it would be the shadow of NATO, capable of action where NATO isn’t.
No country in modern history has an equal experience with asymmetric warfare as Israel, hence the Israeli participation in European security architecture should be considered a must, not an option. The UK-led JEF initiative could act as the backbone for the future “anti-NATO,” which could, in due course, also offer security assurances to Ukraine and Israel.
Israeli and Ukrainian membership in JEF would give both countries a greater voice in shaping the direction of the regional and global security, which could be particularly important, given we are entering a new era of global uncertainty, where the ability to act, combined with being connected to the most powerful networks, is what allows nations to protect themselves, adapt to evolving risk landscape, and prosper.
The writer is the executive director at the Impact Innovation Institute and a member of the Councilors Program at the Atlantic Council.