Sunday

23rd Sep 2018

Nordic pact heightens tension with Russia

  • The Nordic states plan to share information on airspace violations (Photo: Air Combat Command)

The Kremlin has complained that a new Nordic defence pact is “directed against Russia” and amounts to a “confrontational approach” on the Ukraine crisis.

The Russian foreign ministry issued the statement on its website on Sunday (12 April).

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It said “Nordic defence co-operation … has begun to be directed against Russia in a way that could undermine the positive engagement accumulated over the past decade”.

It voiced “concern” that Finland and Sweden, which are not Nato members, are showing “increasingly strong convergence” with the alliance.

It also said that “instead of an open and constructive dialogue” on issues such as the Ukraine conflict, “the principles of confrontation are being foisted on the public opinion of the Nordic countries”.

The defence ministers of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden unveiled the agreement in an op-ed in Norwegian daily Aftenposten last Thursday.

They said they would: share information on maritime and airspace movements; take joint steps on cyber defence; conduct military drills; consider launching a new air-police mission called Northern Flag; share air bases; and explore joint military acquisitions.

“Russia’s conduct [in Ukraine] represents the gravest challenge to European security. As a consequence, we must be prepared to face possible crises or incidents”, they warned.

They said “Russia is undertaking huge economic investments in its military capability” and that its military “is acting in a challenging way along our borders”.

They added that Russia is trying to “sow discord” in the West and that their pact “strengthen[s] the cohesion of Nato and the EU, and helps to maintain transatlantic links”.

Russian jets have violated the airspace of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania hundreds of times over the past year.

But the Russian military has also spooked the Nordic allies.

Last June, Russian bombers simulated an attack on the Danish island of Bornholm.

Last October, two Russian bombers entered Swedish airspace near the Oland island. The same month the Swedish navy launched a hunt for a suspected Russian submarine in the Stockholm archipelago.

Russian military planes have also been involved in near-misses with Swedish civilian and military flights.

A recent survey showed that 64 percent of Finnish people don’t want to join Nato. But Swedish public opinion is swinging toward the alliance.

For his part, the Finnish foreign minister, Erkki Tuomioja, told national media on Sunday the defence pact is “neither a plan for nor precursor of Nato membership”.

Speaking to EUobserver before the Ukraine conflict, the then Swedish defence minister, Karin Enstrom, said she believes that if any Nordic state is attacked, neither Nato nor EU allies would stand aside.

"It's really difficult to think that if one [EU] country ... was affected by a catastrophe or an attack, it would not affect all the other EU countries. It would be an act of self-interest to try to stabilise the situation”, she said.


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