April 2015 – SWEDEN – The Kremlin has complained that a new Nordic defense pact is “directed against Russia” and amounts to a “confrontational approach” on the Ukraine crisis. The Russian foreign ministry issued the statement on its website on Sunday (12 April). It said “Nordic defense co-operation … has begun to be directed against Russia in a way that could undermine the positive engagement accumulated over the past decade.” It voiced “concern” that Finland and Sweden, which are not NATO members, are showing “increasingly strong convergence” with the alliance. It also said that “instead of an open and constructive dialogue” on issues such as the Ukraine conflict, “the principles of confrontation are being foisted on the public opinion of the Nordic countries.” The defense ministers of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden unveiled the agreement in an op-ed in Norwegian daily Aftenposten last Thursday.
They said they would: share information on maritime and airspace movements; take joint steps on cyber defense; conduct military drills; consider launching a new air-police mission called Northern Flag; share air bases; and explore joint military acquisitions. “Russia’s conduct [in Ukraine] represents the gravest challenge to European security. As a consequence, we must be prepared to face possible crises or incidents”, they warned. They said “Russia is undertaking huge economic investments in its military capability” and that its military “is acting in a challenging way along our borders.” They added that Russia is trying to “sow discord” in the West and that their pact “strengthen[s] the cohesion of NATO and the EU, and helps to maintain transatlantic links”.
Russian jets have violated the airspace of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania hundreds of times over the past year. But the Russian military has also spooked the Nordic allies. Last June, Russian bombers simulated an attack on the Danish island of Bornholm. Last October, two Russian bombers entered Swedish airspace near the Oland Island. The same month the Swedish navy launched a hunt for a suspected Russian submarine in the Stockholm archipelago. Russian military planes have also been involved in near-misses with Swedish civilian and military flights. A recent survey showed that 64 percent of Finnish people don’t want to join NATO. But Swedish public opinion is swinging toward the alliance. For his part, the Finnish foreign minister, Erkki Tuomioja, told national media on Sunday the defense pact is “neither a plan for nor precursor of NATO membership”.
Speaking to EUobserver before the Ukraine conflict, the then Swedish defense minister, Karin Enstrom, said she believes that if any Nordic state is attacked, neither NATO nor EU allies would stand aside. “It’s really difficult to think that if one [EU] country … was affected by a catastrophe or an attack, it would not affect all the other EU countries. It would be an act of self-interest to try to stabilize the situation,” she said. -EUO Observer
Global Strike Force
Poland has reportedly external link selected Raytheon’s Patriot AMDR system as the winner in its Wisla program, following the firm’s selection as a finalist in June last year external link. The Wisla program is designed to be the outermost, ballistic-missile-killing third tier of Poland’s modernized air defense system. The winning bid is reported to come with a price-tag of $5.6 billion.
The US Air Force is also realigning external link B-1 fleets and the Long Range Strike-Bomber external link (LRSB) program from Air Combat Command to Air Force Global Strike Command, with the move shifting 63 aircraft and around 7,000 personnel. The Air Force is grouping its bombers under Air Force Global Strike Command, a nuclear-capable command based at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, in a transition that will be effective Oct. 1. The leadership change also puts the Air Force’s next-generation bomber program, frequently called the Long Range Strike Bomber, under the same auspices. “Consolidating all of our Air Force assets in this critical mission area under a single command will help provide a unified voice to maintain the high standards necessary in stewardship of our nation’s bomber forces,” Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James said in a statement. –Defense Industry Daily