The Nordic countries, not generally known for their extreme foreign policies or their habit of overreacting to current events, have started to voice increasingly louder concerns over Russia’s role in the Baltics and the Arctic.
In the beginning of April, the five Nordic nations — Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland — announced their plans to expand defence ties.
The move towards further collective defence treaties showcases just how concerned these states have become: Iceland, Denmark, and Norway are already full NATO members. Sweden and Finland had in the past steered away from the organisation out of concerns over infuriating Russia — but they are thinking about the alliance again.
In any case, as Moscow plays a larger belligerent role in the Arctic and the Baltics, Finland and Sweden have reevaluated the risks and have found banding together with the other Nordic countries to be worth the increased risk of an angry Russia.
“Russia’s actions are the biggest challenge to the European security,” the defence ministers from the Nordic nations said in a joint declaration. “Russia’s propaganda and political manoeuvring are contributing to sowing discord between nations, and inside organisations like NATO and the EU.”
“There is increasing military and intelligence activity in the Baltics and in our northern areas,” it said. “The Russian military is challenging us along our borders and there have been several border infringements in the Baltics.”
The Kremlin has played an increasingly provocative role over the Baltic Sea since the annexation of Crimea in March 2014.
Since then, Moscow has sent unprecedented numbers of jets and boats throughout the region forcing the scrambling of NATO air policing forces. In a move that caught the public’s eye, Sweden remains convinced that Russia sailed submarines through its territorial waters between October 17 and 24, 2014.
The threats in the Baltic were further compounded by Russia’s unrelenting militarization of the Arctic region. The Kremlin is activating a key Arctic military base only 30 miles away from the Finnish border.
Beyond that one base, Moscow has undertaken a construction blitz across the Arctic in a bid to ensure that it remains the unchallenged military power in the region. Moscow is constructing ten Arctic search-and-rescue stations, 16 deepwater ports, 13 airfields, and ten air-defence radar stations across its Arctic coast.
On April 19, Norway demanded an explanation from Russia as to what Deputy Prime Minister Rogozin was doing in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard. Since the Russian annexation of Crimea last year, Norway has placed Rogozin on a sanction list that bars him from travelling to Norwegian territory.
During his trip, which took Rogozin to a Russian station by the North Pole, the deputy referred to the Arctic as a “Russian Mecca” due to its overwhelming geopolitical significance for Moscow.
Russia’s focus on the Arctic stems from the unclaimed natural resources under the ice. The US estimates that a possible 15% of the earth’s remaining oil, 30% of its natural gas, and 20% of its liquefied natural gas are stored within the Arctic sea bed.
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