NATO Minehunters Arrive In Finland
by Essi Lehto (Reuters) Three NATO warships arrived in the southwestern Finnish port of Turku on Monday to train with Finland’s navy as Helsinki considers the possibility of joining the U.S.-led alliance amid increased tensions with Russia over Ukraine.
Latvian minelayer LVNS Virsaitis and minehunters Estonian ENS Sakala and Dutch HNLMS Schiedam will train with two minehunters from Finland’s coastal fleet, the Finnish defense forces said in a statement.
The two-day exercise, set to commence on April 28, will prepare the Finnish ships to take part in NATO response forces in 2022 and focus on “mine countermeasures and working in a multinational framework,” the statement said.
Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said on April 13 that her country would take a decision in the next few weeks about whether to apply to join NATO, prompting an angry response from Russia.
Finland and neighboring Sweden are close partners with NATO but have shied away from joining the 30-member alliance, founded in 1949 to counter the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
Marin said the option to join NATO had to be carefully analyzed but that everything had changed since Russian forces invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. Finland shares a 1,300-km (810-mile) land border with Russia.
Finland, Sweden could decide together on NATO ties
Finland and Sweden might decide together whether or not they will join NATO following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said on Tuesday.
Russia’s offensive, which it calls a “special operation,” has forced Sweden and Finland to examine whether their longstanding military neutrality is still the best means of ensuring national security.
“Now that Sweden has decided to bring forward somewhat their own parliamentary process, it is possible that the decisions related to joining, if they are taken, will take place on the same days or at least within the same weeks,” Haavisto told reporters, commenting on media reports on Monday about the timing of the move.
He gave no firm date for the decisions, citing a need to leave time for parliaments of both Nordic countries to debate the matter.
Stockholm is conducting a review of security policy, which includes a position on possible NATO membership, with the results due by mid-May. Its eastern neighbor Finland has said it is planning to decide on whether to apply to join the alliance “within weeks.”
Russia, with which Finland shares a 1,300-km (810-mile) border and a pre-1945 history of conflict, has warned it will deploy nuclear weapons and hypersonic missiles in its Baltic coast enclave of Kaliningrad if Finland and Sweden decide to join the U.S.-led NATO alliance.
Haavisto acknowledged that filing a membership application by itself would not bring the two Nordic countries under the umbrella of NATO’s Article 5, which guarantees that an attack on one ally is an attack on all.
“But at the same time NATO member countries have an interest in that no security breaches would take place during the application period,” Haavisto said.
Finland has been in talks with various NATO member countries on enhanced joint exercises which could add to the country’s security during the interim period, Haavisto added.
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(Reporting by Anne Kauranen, Essi Lehto ; Editing by Mark Heinrich)
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