Monday, April 15, 2024

Nordic tensions on the rise amid Russian anger over NATO accessions | Russia-Ukraine war News

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Finland PM urges EU to step up defence spending and coordination, as tensions rise with Russia following NATO accession.

Signs of tension with Russia are rising in the Nordic region following Sweden and Norway’s accession to NATO.

Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo on Wednesday warned that Moscow is gearing up for a “long conflict with the West” and Denmark revealed plans to boost defence spending, as Russia continued to condemn the expansion of the Western military alliance in the wake of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

In comments delivered to the European Parliament, Orpo called for increased spending and coordination on European defence.

“Russia is evidently preparing for a long conflict with the West and represents a permanent and essential military threat to Europe,” the Finnish leader declared.

“If we, as a united Europe, fail to respond sufficiently to this challenge, the coming years will be filled with danger and the looming threat of attack,” he said, before adding: “Russia is not invincible.”

Orpo, whose country neighbours Russia, urged the 27-country European Union to step up defence spending and said the bloc had to take care of its own defence, insisting that its security cannot hinge on the outcome of the election in the United States.

Republican contender Donald Trump suggested last month that NATO guarantees could be weakened should he win back the White House in November’s vote.

Meanwhile, Moscow has continued to hit out at the Western alliance’s expansion.

President Vladimir Putin said in remarks published on Wednesday that Finland and Sweden’s entry into NATO was “a meaningless step”. Russia will deploy troops and systems of destruction to the border after Finland joins the alliance, he reiterated.

Putin also warned the West on Wednesday that Russia was technically ready for nuclear war and that if the US sent troops to Ukraine, it would be considered a significant escalation of the conflict.

Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014 served as a wake-up call for European countries, and saw NATO increase its minimum defence spending recommendation from less than 1.5 percent to 2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).

Many have been struggling to hit that threshold. However, Moscow’s continuing invasion of Ukraine is focusing minds, while weapons and ammunition handed to Kyiv have boosted spending.

Denmark, one of NATO’s founding members, on Wednesday said it would raise its defence budget by $5.9bn over the next five years to boost its military capacity, pushing it past the spending target starting this year.

“The total defence budget, including aid to Ukraine, will amount to 2.4 percent of Danish GDP this year and in 2025,” Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen told reporters.

The increased funding will be used both to boost Denmark’s military capacity and provide aid to Ukraine. It will also go towards an expansion of conscription, which will be extended from four to 11 months and will include women for the first time.

Denmark already announced last year that it was tripling its military spending over the next 10 years.

“We haven’t stopped investing in defence, but it’s still not enough,” Frederiksen said.

“If we want to reach NATO’s target of being able to deploy a brigade of 6,000 soldiers as quickly as possible and to defend Denmark against air strikes, we have to modernise even more quickly,” she stated.

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