Russia has a tremendous influence on Europe’s security architecture – just in a different sense than Vladimir Putin intended. His attack on Ukraine narrows the space for geostrategic diversity.
Four European states had made military neutrality their model for success: Finland and Sweden in the north, Austria and Switzerland in the middle. Sweden and Switzerland freely chose this status. Finland and Austria have learned over the decades to make a virtue of their necessity with Russian pressure.
In terms of their values and social order, the four belonged to the West. But they also maintained relations with the East, including lucrative trade, and offered to mediate in conflicts.
Now Finland and Sweden are striving to join NATO. Turkish President Erdogan will not hold up the northern expansion for long. For decades, the majority of Finns and Swedes had seen an advantage in being a “buffer state”. But now security has priority, even at the cost of becoming a frontline state. With the exception of two strips of land around St. Petersburg and Kaliningrad, the Baltic Sea will become an inland sea of the Alliance.
Austria and Switzerland feel no pressure to change. They are surrounded by NATO countries in all directions. They form your safety buffer. Putin, on the other hand, has decimated his buffer space to the alliance.