Norway is close to finalizing the purchase of up to 52 Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 fighter jets from the United States over the next few years in order to counter Russian aggression, its increased military buildup as well as frequent military flights in the region.
Norway is concerned about an “obvious projection of power” by Russia in the Baltic Sea region, where the Kremlin increased its military flights by three times in the period between 2013 and 2014, according to Norwegian Defense Minister Ine Eriksen Soereide.
When asked by Reuters about detailed numbers of Russia’s military flights in the region in 2015, Soereide could not give an exact number. However, in recent months Russia has been performing more complex and longer flights as well as violating international airspace in the region, according to Norwegian officials and monitoring systems.
Soereide, visiting the rollout of Norway’s first F-35 from the Lockheed plant in Texas, said Norway was watching Russian activities in the region closely and that the country is still concerned that Russian military activities could inevitably spark a military confrontation.
Norway will receive its first F-35 fighter jets in 2017 to begin training, while an initial operational capability of the jets is expected in 2019.
Russia threatens counter measure if Sweden joins NATO
Spokeswoman of Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, claimed earlier this month that Sweden, a Scandinavian brother of Norway, will face counter measures from Russia in case it joins NATO.
Zakharova said that Russian Foreign Ministry take notice of Sweden’s increased interest in joining the Alliance.
Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Margot Wallström, summoned Russia’s ambassador to explain ‘threats’ from the Russian foreign ministry about Sweden’s possible membership in NATO.
The minister herself was not present at the meeting with Zakharova. In its protest to Russia, Sweden says that it’s a sovereign country that decides for itself whether or not to join the Alliance.
Sweden to join NATO’s Joint Expeditionary Force
According to classified internal memo, the U.K. wants Sweden to join the agreement to create NATO’s Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF).
The agreement to create Joint Expeditionary Force was signed in fall of 2014 at the NATO’s summit in Wales. It was signed by seven NATO members – Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, U.K., Denmark, Norway, and the Netherlands.
The initiative to create the special military unit, which is expected to be established in the next few years, came from the U.K.
The need to create JEF was NATO’s response to Russia’s policy in eastern Ukraine, which the West considers to be aggressive and threatening.
NATO’s Joint Expeditionary Force will serve defensive purposes, according to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. He noted that NATO does not seek military confrontation with Russia nor does it intend to trigger an arms race, but rather tries to provide security to NATO members.
NATO’s Joint Expeditionary Force will include units of ground, naval and air-force forces. According to the document, 10,000 troops of the JEF will have to act in compliance with NATO standards and doctrines as well as “conducting the full spectrum of operations, including humanitarian assistance, conventional deterrence and war-fighting.”
However, according to Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist, the government has not yet received an official invitation to become a participant of NATO’s Joint Expeditionary Force.
41% of Swedes want NATO’s membership
A survey by Swedish pollsters Sifo, published by the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper earlier this month, suggests a dramatic change in public opinion in the traditionally non-aligned Nordic country.
41 percent of respondents now support Sweden’s membership in NATO, while 39 percent are against it, and 20 percent have not decided yet. A similar poll in 2014 found that 31 percent of Swedes supported the country’s membership in NATO, 50 percent opposed it and 19 percent were not sure.
“It is the first ever time Swedish people support Sweden’s membership in NATO so clearly. We have never witnessed anything like that before,” Stefan Ring, general secretary of the ‘Swedish General Defense Community’ forum, told Sverigesradio.
“The shift of Swedish public opinion toward Sweden’s membership in NATO is noticeable at least among middle-class voters. It largely depends on Russia’s actions, the conflict in Ukraine as well as statements by Russian political leadership, who threaten with ‘counter measures’ in case Sweden joins NATO,” Ring said. Many Swedes share the feeling that we are a free country, and if we are being threatened – we require the kind of support NATO’s membership provides.”
The outcome of Sweden’s membership in NATO largely depends on Finland. If Finland decides to join NATO, then Sweden will face an even increased pressure to join the Alliance. It is expected that the two countries will most likely join NATO at the same time.
Russia is preparing for a war against NATO
ValueWalk reported earlier this month that Russia’s military developments could potentially destroy “a few NATO states,” according to Igor Korotenko, a Russian military expert.
Korotenko’s comments came after the report by analysts at the European Leadership Network think tank, who concluded that Russia, given the scale of its recent military drills, is getting ready for a war against the United States and its NATO allies,
The conclusion was reached as a result of an analysis of large-scale military drills by Russia in March and smaller military drills carried out by NATO in June.
However, official representatives of both Russia and NATO have repeatedly dismissed any war plans during their military exercises, and claimed that the military drills were held to practice military actions against “hypothetical opponents.”
It its report, the think tank said that the “nature and scale” of the military drills showed that “Russia is actively preparing for a conflict with NATO, and NATO is preparing for a possible confrontation with Russia.”