Change is coming to Europe. It will take decades to understand what this means.

It has been quite a week in Europe: Switzerland has moved away from its long tradition of neutrality. Finland is about to seek admission to the alliance after decades on the sidelines. Germany, after an almost 80-year hiatus from militarism, suddenly beefs up its defense budget and sends weapons to Ukraine.

The rule of physics applies: for every action, there is a reaction.

So it’s only natural that Vladimir Putin’s decision to go to war with Ukraine sparked a massive series of reactions in the rest of Europe. But we could take a moment to contemplate the unintended consequences of all these changes, especially when they come so quickly and with so little debate.

AT National exam, Michael Brendan Dougherty pointed out on Monday that neutrality for countries like Finland and Switzerland has benefits for those countries – and for the world in general. “Neutrality was for some of these nations a necessary condition of their independence, of their freedom from cousin rivalries which might send that duchy or province into devastating conflict with one another,” he wrote. (This was certainly the case with Finland, which shares an 830-mile border with Russia, and wanted to avoid another conflict with its neighbour.) He added: “Neutral states also offered, before the advent of organizations like the UN, “safe spaces”. ‘ for various dissidents or even negotiations for the great powers.”

Likewise, we all know the reasons for Germany’s profound reluctance to reinforce its army: the country is always grappling with his World War II sins – a process that may never end, and perhaps shouldn’t. Ending the arms race was an understandable way to deal with guilt and perhaps prevent a relapse. “German pacifism is a real thing, and it vibrates in German society,” Rachel Rizzo of the Atlantic Council wrote this week. “Over the years, there has never been broad public support for a more robust defense posture.” Now there’s a crack in that wall.

This does not mean that Finland will suddenly find itself at war with Russia, or that German militarism will automatically create new problems with the continent. We don’t really know, and history doesn’t always repeat itself. But the pre-Ukrainian order in Europe did not arise by accident – there was the reasons why things were the way they were. There may be good reasons for this order to change; we can still discover that the old reasons still make sense in this strange and scary new world.

Mary I. Bruner