BALTIC-2-BLACK: Sweden, Finland Move Closer to NATO Membership; Russia Blusters and Threatens

April 15, 2022 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

Sweden, Finland and NATO.

The Nordic nations of Sweden and Finland, neutral during the Cold War, have been moving closer to NATO — participating in multi-national exercises with the forces of the western alliance — since Russia seized Crimea and grew increasingly belligerent in its military moves both on and above the Baltic Sea.

Russia’s February 24 invasion of non-NATO member Ukraine alarmed the Eastern members of NATO who used to be under the sway of Moscow — like Poland, Romania and the Czech Republic — to spend more on their defense forces and participate in more NATO exercises.Several are also supplying arms, medical equipment and technology to embattled Ukraine.

Finnish Troops participate in Exercise Cold Response 2022, a multinational Arctic weather military exercise hosted by Norway between March 14 and March 31. (Maavoimat – Armén – The Finnish Army, photo via Facebook)

The war in Ukraine pushed leaders in Sweden and Finland to publicly announce plans to consider joining the 30-member North Atlantic Treaty Organization — where an attack on one means an attack on all.

“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has caused Finland to review our security strategy,” Prime Minister Sanna Marin said at a joint press conference in Stockholm on April 13 hosted by Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson. “I won’t offer any kind of timetable as to when we will make our decision, but I think it will happen quite fast. Within weeks, not within months. The security landscape has completely changed.”

Finland, which shares an 830-mile border with Russia, is “highly likely” to join NATO despite the Russian government’s threats to deploy nuclear weapons, Finnish Minister for European Affairs Tytti Tuppurainen said in an interview with Sky News Friday.

The people of Finland, they seem to have already made up their mind,” Tuppurainen told Sky News, noting that polls show overwhelming support for joining NATO.

The Finnish government is expected to submit a report to parliament on the changed security environment by the end of this month, kicking off a debate and eventually a recommendation on applying for NATO membership, according to Axios.

Meanwhile, Sweden has decided to examine a range of security-related options, including deepening Nordic defense cooperation and urging the European Union to develop enhanced defense policies to offer greater military protection to EU member states that border the highly sensitive Baltic Sea and High North regions, Defense News reports.

The Swedish government is expected to deliver its National Security Report to the Riksdag, the country’s legislature, before May 31.

“What we need to do is to carefully think through what is in the best long-term interests of Sweden, and what we need to do to guarantee our national security, our sovereignty and secure peace in this new heightened tension and situation,” said Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson.

“Russia’s invasion has dramatically changed the political discourse in Sweden and Finland and also crucially public opinion,” Alistair Shepherd, senior lecturer for European security at Aberystwyth University, told Al Jazeera.

There are indications both Finland and Sweden are heading towards a genuinely historic change of course in their respective security policies. During the Cold War, Sweden and Finland were essentially considered neutral states, although for different reasons.

“Sweden’s neutrality was much more part of their national identity, whereas Finland’s neutrality was more pragmatic and virtually forced upon them by the Agreement of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance signed between Finland and the USSR in 1948,” said Shepherd.

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Moscow Reacts with Threats

Russia warned Finland and Sweden on Thursday (April 14) that if they join NATO, Moscow will reinforce the Baltic Sea region, including with nuclear weapons, the Washington Post reported.

The threat came just a day after Finnish officials suggested their country could request to join NATO within weeks, while Sweden mulled making a similar move.

Dmitry Medvedev, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin who serves as deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, said that NATO expansion would lead Moscow to strengthen air, land and naval forces to “balance” military capability in the region.

“If Sweden and Finland join NATO, the length of the land borders of the alliance with the Russian Federation will more than double. Naturally, these boundaries will have to be strengthened,” he wrote on Telegram. “There can be no more talk of any nuclear-free status for the Baltic — the balance must be restored,” Medvedev added.

Even before his invasion of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Sweden and Finland of “retaliation” should they join NATO.

The New York Times notes that “if his invasion of Ukraine has succeeded at anything so far, it has been to drive the militarily nonaligned Nordic countries into the arms of NATO, as Russian threats and aggression heighten security concerns and force them to choose sides.

Finland and Sweden’s shift to NATO membership “would be another example of the counterproductive results of Mr. Putin’s war. Instead of crushing Ukrainian nationalism, he has enhanced it. Instead of weakening the trans-Atlantic alliance, he has solidified it. Instead of dividing NATO and blocking its growth, he has united it,” the Times observed April 13.

 

More that 1,600 Swedish troops and civilian personnel participated in Exercise Cold Response 2022, Norway’s multi-national Arctic military training exercise. (Swedish Armed Forces photo by Mats Carlsson/Försvarsmakten)

 

Entry filed under: Arctic, HIGH NORTH, National Security and Defense, Skills and Training, Special Operations, Unconventional Warfare, Weaponry and Equipment. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

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