Putin and the generals: Will Sweden and Finland be safer joining NATO, or

heeding Russia's warning that joining NATO would make them more insecure?



Sweden and Finland: Where Military 'Impotence' Meets the Russian Bear (Publico, Portugal)


"Will Sweden and Finland abandon their historic neutrality and join NATO? … In Stockholm, the case of the 'phantom submarine' dominated the week. … What worries the Swedes is their military impotence. In 2008, Sweden sold its fleet of anti-submarine helicopters, and only in 2017 will it have another. … In December 2012, the commander of the armed forces shocked the nation by declaring that in the event of an attack, the army would only be able to defend the country for a week."


By Jorge Almeida Fernandes



Translated By Ricardo Farinha


November 2, 2014


Publico – Portugal – Original Article (Portuguese)

Growing tension in the Baltic Sea presents Stockholm and Helsinki with a dilemma: To join NATO would be the best guarantee of their security, but Moscow tells them precisely the opposite.


There has been a succession of military incidents in the Baltic Sea that threaten to transform it into a new theater of political-military conflict. Consequently, a question arises: will Sweden and Finland abandon their historic neutrality and join NATO? That remains unlikely at the moment, but the debate has been reopened.


Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, although belonging to NATO, are the countries with the greatest sense of vulnerability, fearing being next on Moscow target list. Sweden and Finland are similarly concerned. Tension in the Baltics, already on the rise in recent years, has skyrocketed with Russia's occupation of Crimea.


By themselves, the incidents would have little relevance. What “unnerves” is their recurrence. Example: according to the BBC, on Thursday, NATO jets intercepted a “Russian spy plane.” An Ilyushin-20 was intercepted by two Danish F-16s when it approached Danish airspace. It was then intercepted by Swedish fighters before entering Estonian airspace. From there, it was escorted back to international airspace by a pair if Portuguese F-16s.


The phantom submarine


In Stockholm, the case of the “phantom submarine” dominated the week. The Swedish navy launched a “track-and-capture” operation of the mysterious underwater craft which is assumed to be Russian off the coast of the capital. The spectacle evoked scenes of the Cold War: in 1981, a Soviet submarine carrying nuclear weapons near Sweden's largest naval base was held for ten days [the submarine reportedly ran aground]. operation, involving ships and helicopters, was launched on Saturday. On Monday, the Swedish daily Expressen dedicated 20 pages to the event. Moscow denied the accusations. Experts believe it to be a “mini sub” that could easily hide out amid the myriad islands and bays off the coast of Stockholm. More than the intrusion, what worries the Swedes is their military impotence. In 2008, Sweden sold its fleet of anti-submarine helicopters, and only in 2017 will it have another.


The most traumatic episode dates back to March 29, 2013. Intercontinental bombers and Russian fighters conducted an exercise in which they simulated a surprise attack on military targets in Stockholm and southern Sweden. The Swedish Air Force was unable to immediately react.


Sweden recently had one of the most powerful armies in the world. The end of the Cold War and the economic crisis of the 1990s led to drastic cutbacks. Stockholm neglected its territorial defenses and put its resources into international missions. In December 2012, the commander of the armed forces shocked the nation by declaring that in the event of an attack, the army would only be able to defend the country for a week.


The new Russia of Vladimir Putin and the pressure it exerts on neighboring countries, notably the three Baltic States, are forcing Swedes to reconsider their two-century-old neutrality: “No military alliance in peacetime, neutrality in wartime.”




The neutrality of Sweden and Finland is no longer what it was during the Cold War. They joined the European Union. They don't belong to NATO but joined its Partnership for Peace in 1994. They are “NATO partners in disguise.” They participate in Alliance exercises and NATO missions in Kosovo and Afghanistan. Stockholm had an active role in air operations over Libya in 2011. In June, Russian and NATO naval forces conducted joint naval maneuvers and Swedish and Finnish ships were among the forces of the Alliance.


So far, both countries have perceived the “solidarity” of the E.U. and NATO in terms of security – but they know that security guarantee against military attack only apply to NATO members. Danes and Norwegians have warned Sweden that in the event of an aggression, they will only help within the framework of NATO. Therefore, the question has become the subject of parliamentary debate.


In March, the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet wrote: "The truth is that there is no alternative to NATO. Membership would bring Sweden out of its current security-policy vacuum.”


In April, former Finland President Martti Ahtisaari advocated that his country join NATO. Yet public opinion is divided. For 50 percent of Swedes and 58 percent of Finns, their countries should stay out of the Alliance. British newspaper The Guardian notes that if Swedes lose confidence in the capacity of their armed forces to ensure the nation's security, “in the long run, the logic of Sweden’s geostrategic position makes Nato membership almost inevitable.”

Posted By Worldmeets.US


The Nordics wonder: how far is Moscow willing to go? According to former Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt - who advocates a hard line against Moscow, the Baltics will be the great “test for relations between the West and Russia.”


What's the logic of the “provocations” by Moscow, which has no interest in harassing Sweden and Finland? Tomas Ries, security expert at the National Defence College in Stockholm, answers: “Russia is sending a message to the outside world, saying that the "old" Europe is over. … Russia wants to create a new status quo in Europe.”


Moscow has no interest in antagonizing Sweden and Finland. What it says is that they will face added security problems if they continue to approach NATO.




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Posted By Worldmeets.US November 2, 2014, 9:55 pm












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