Russia Jittery Over NATO's Ties With Sweden And Finland

By @ibtimesau on
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IN PHOTO: An Italian Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon fighter patrols over the Baltics during a NATO air policing mission from Zokniai air base near Siauliai February 10, 2015. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

Russia’s getting jittery over the growing closeness of Sweden and Finland with NATO, despite experts saying NATO’s manoeuvrings into the region to get closer to Russia will not succeed because the two countries remain neutral. Last week, the defence ministers of the five Nordic nations Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Sweden signed a joint declaration wherein they stated northern Europe must prepare against Russia’s growing aggression. Russia found the statement “confrontational.”

Of the five Nordic nations, only Finland, which borders its former ruler Russia, and Sweden remain not members of NATO. That they agreed to sign the declaration and posture with the other NATO members has become an area of "special concern," Russia's Foreign Ministry said on Sunday.

Alexander Domrin, Professor at the Higher School of Economics, told Sputnik much is at stake should Sweden and Finland pursue membership with the U.S.-led military alliance. He said Sweden and Finland are best known for their policies of non-involvement and military neutrality, which prompted them to become “world leaders in terms of quality of life and the economic development.” This method has been implemented over the last two centuries, Domrin said. Domrin added the intent to join NATO will require broad public debate within the countries, not to mention that the two countries need to resolve a long-standing agreement concerning the joint provision of military security, where it was stated the other cannot join NATO unless the other also joins in.

But the expert’s views were rejected by Finish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb. "No other country, of course, has a veto over Finland's decisions," Stubb told public broadcaster YLE. To date, Stockholm has yet to fully express any intent to alter its decades-long position of neutrality and join NATO.

In their joint declaration, the five Nordic ministers described the "increasing” Russian “military and intelligence activity in the Baltics” as "the biggest challenge to the European security."

Defense News reports Sweden has already embarked on a US$2 billion [$2.62 billion] capital investment program to procure a new submarine class, convert existing corvettes into frigates and re-establish a strong military presence on its forward Baltic island, Gotland.

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