Sweden and Finland are joining NATO. This is a historic step for the Nordic neutrals. Russia’s war against Ukraine has changed northern European security forever. Old dogmas are being destroyed under the hammer blows of Russia’s war against European peace.
Ireland now has a majority of 52 per cent in favour of NATO membership. Cyprus would love to join NATO but is blocked by Turkey. Only Malta and Austria remain stubbornly neutral in an EU of 447 million people. Ninety-seven per cent of EU citizens are NATO allies. The three former British colonies and Austria, representing 15.5 million people, remain outside the alliance which is defending Ukraine today.
Security alliances are not museums but key for today’s and tomorrow’s security. NATO’s support for Ukraine to liberate the territories occupied by Russia shows the relevance of the Atlantic alliance, in case anybody has any doubts. Sweden and Finland are joining now and Montenegro and North Macedonia joined in 2017 and 2020 respectively.
Moldova is considering ending its neutrality, Georgia wants to join the alliance, as do Kosovo and the majority of Bosnians. Only pro-Russian Serbia refuses NATO membership and is the only country in Europe not ready to sanction Russia for its war against Ukraine. Here we are in October 2022 and Maltese and Austrian officials plan for a neutral axis, Valletta and Vienna, to keep the EU neutral.
NATO membership for the EU might be the logical answer to Russian aggression. Such a development could be the next step in a federal European Union.
NATO membership for the EU could make NATO more European, no matter who wins the presidency in the US in 2024. But, no, Malta and Austria want to keep the EU neutral and separate from NATO. While some in Ireland and Cyprus worry about their potential isolation and loss of influence in Brussels as outsiders, in Malta and Austria, elites are confident that, without their consent, nothing will move in Brussels and the superior insight in European strategic security from Vienna and Valletta is essential for decision-makers in the EU and NATO.
Austria’s and Malta’s neutrality is the legacy of Austrian Socialist Chancellor Bruno Kreisky and Maltese Socialist Prime Minister Dom Mintoff. Malta and Austria stand united against an American Europe and maintain strict political neutrality, despite benefitting from a united Europe.
If neutral Malta has a case, it must spell it out clearly or join NATO like everybody else- Gunther Fehlinger
In a Europe of solidarity, however, we all should care for each other. Solidarity in the EU is not a one-way street. We have Article 42 of EU Treaty requiring Malta and Austria to defend Estonia in case of attack. So why not join NATO, Malta? The US can defend itself just fine. NATO is about European defence. Defence from a hostile Russia. Who else might attack us?
Inside NATO we are all secure. Nobody would ever dare to attack NATO. And saying Ukraine is far away and Russia is only a threat to Poland and the Baltics, but not to Malta, is not a smart move. The next time Malta faces a refugee crisis from Africa, Malta might discover how lonely one is alone. And Austria will certainly not help; forget solidarity from a neutral Austria.
Neutralist philosophy is introvert, protectionist and isolationist and is contrary to moral solidarity and a united common approach on which the EU is based. And, soon, the patience of Italy, France and Germany with neutral particularities might run out and the debate on the EU joining NATO as the European pillar will gain steam. Malta and Austria will then have to make choices.
Clearly, NATO and the EU will be the answer as neither Austria nor Malta has a similar successful economic reality to offer outside of the EU. There is no objective reason to stay outside NATO once you are an EU member. Maltese and Austrians are not different to Swedes, Italians, Croatians or Estonians. We are all Europeans. Maltese and Austrians have no deeper insights into European peace than the French or Slovenians. We are all Europeans. We are either successfully united inside the EU, NATO and the euro or we fail. And that is not an option.
So, please, Malta join NATO and let us join together with Austria, Ireland, Cyprus and, hopefully, the EU itself, and soon. This is the best answer, peaceful but resolute and significant, that we can give as Europeans to Russia’s war of aggression, to be united in NATO. Sweden and Finland did it for a reason.
If neutral Malta has a case, it must spell it out clearly, or join NATO like everybody else. It is no longer time to hide in the past. It is time for responsibility and solidarity inside NATO for all European Union citizens.
Gunther Fehlinger is an Austrian economist and pro-EU activist. He works as an economic consultant for Ukraine and the western Balkan EU candidate countries and has initiated a public petition for Austrian NATO membership.