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Russia Issues Warning: Possible Reaction if U.S. and Finland Signs Defense Pact

Finnish Defense Minister Jussi Niinisto (left) and Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist (right) during a welcome ceremony at the Pentagon in Washington, DC, on May 8, 2018. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

If the US and Finland agree on a cooperative defense strategy, Russia will respond, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova stated on Thursday.

When questioned about possible U.S.-Finland defense cooperation, Zakharova stated at a news briefing, “We will be forced to take response measures, both military-technical and otherwise, in order to curtail the threats to Russia’s national security that will emerge as a result.”

The extent of this military accord, particularly with regard to the stationing of American soldiers at a Finnish military post, would determine Russia’s precise actions, she continued.

According to reports, the Finnish government has officially ended negotiations with the United States on a defense deal.

“Our country’s specific steps will depend on the specific steps and practical actions taken as part of this agreement, including the stationing of US contingents at a Finnish military base,” she stated.

The Finnish government had announced that negotiations on a defense cooperation deal with the United States had come to an end.

Outside of routine military exercises, the agreement will let the US military conduct operations on Finnish land in specific regions, as previously reported by the Helsingin Sanomat daily.

Due to Finland’s NATO membership, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the ensuing sanctions, the Nordic nation’s ties with Russia have substantially deteriorated. As of late, Moscow considers its neighbor to the west to be an enemy nation, the Finnish Security and Intelligence Service stated on Thursday.

In a national security assessment, the organization—which goes by the acronym SUPO—stated that Russia was “prepared to take measures against Finland” and that it was probably going to keep influencing activities and eroding bilateral ties.

According to SUPO, among other things, Moscow’s animosity toward Helsinki is demonstrated by the unfavorable portrayal of Finland in the Russian media and by the decision to close Finland’s general consulate in St. Petersburg this month.

Strengthening Military Bonds: Finland and U.S. Forge Closer Ties with New Pact

A bilateral defense cooperation agreement was signed by Finland and the US, promising more military cooperation at a time when Finland’s concerns over Russia’s actions in the Baltic Sea region are growing.

The U.S. signed the agreement on Friday in Helsinki. Jussi Niinisto, the defense minister of Finland, and Robert O. Work, the deputy secretary of defense.

Though Washington and Helsinki currently collaborate closely through combined air, land, and sea exercises, the non-binding agreement aims to strengthen the relationship through intelligence sharing, collaborative research and development in fields like cyber defense, and training, among other things.

The agreement addresses collaboration in shipbuilding, nuclear defense, and technology development for the Arctic, an area that both countries are becoming more and more interested in.

“The U.S. presence in and around the Baltic Sea undergirds stability in the region and creates opportunities to increase defense cooperation between our countries,” the defense ministries of Finland and the United States jointly declare in a three-page proclamation.

Niinisto’s statement earlier on Friday, which served as a sobering reminder of the military situation in the area, stated that Finland believes Russian SU-27 fighter planes breached its airspace twice on Thursday in the Gulf of Finland.

Russia’s military ministry swiftly refuted the report, stating that the jets flew over foreign seas “in strict compliance with international regulations,” as cited by news agency TASS.

Some in the Finnish media suggested that the air intrusion could have been connected to Work’s visit, while others said that it was the result of a Russian air force exercise that was taking place nearby.

Juha Sipila, the prime minister of Finland, called for a thorough inquiry, calling the occurrence of two similar instances on the same day “serious.”

The Russian military has reportedly been shipping short-range Iskander missiles to the Baltic Sea enclave of Kaliningrad this week, complete with a sizable air escort, according to the Estonian national broadcaster ERR. This could account for incursions on the slender international air strip in the Gulf of Finland.

Concerns have been raised by the US about what it perceives to be Russia’s aggressive and careless actions in the Baltic Sea, where Finland, Sweden, Estonia, and Latvia, among other countries, have reported air infractions and other Russian military activity near US ships and aircraft.

Work met regularly with defense officials from the Nordic and Baltic countries during his one-day visit to Helsinki to talk about matters related to regional defense, especially the recent actions by Russia.

After the discussion, Work said at a press briefing, “Unfortunately, these (Russian air intrusions) are becoming a norm rather than an exception.” “I find it difficult to comprehend that Finland would be viewed as a threat by Russia in any way, and these kinds of actions are difficult to comprehend.”

In June, the United States and Sweden, Finland’s neighbor to the north, signed a similar form of military agreement.

Earlier this year, Sweden and Finland, two non-members of NATO, also signed agreements with Britain on defense cooperation.

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