Published on: June 7, 2022

BALTIC SEA NAVAL EXERCISES

BALTIC SEA NAVAL EXERCISES

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longways   NATO kicked off nearly a two-week United States-led naval exercise on the Baltic Sea with more than 7,000 sailors, airmen and marines from 16 nations, including two aspiring to join the military alliance, Finland and Sweden.

Highlights:

  • The annual BALTOPS naval exercise, initiated in 1972, is not held in response to any specific threat. But the military alliance said that “with both Sweden and Finland participating, NATO is seizing the chance in an unpredictable world to enhance its joint force resilience and strength” together with two Nordic aspirant nations.
  • Finland and Sweden both have a long history of military non-alignment before their governments decided to apply to join NATO in May, a direct result of Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine.
  • As NATO’s close partners, Finland and Sweden have participated in the naval drill since the mid-1990s.
  • BALTOPS 22 is scheduled to end in the German port of Kiel on June 17.

Importance

  • The Baltic Sea is a strategically important body of water — “one of the great seaways of the world. From Moscow’s perspective, Finland and Sweden joining NATO will be “very problematic” and leave Russia in a difficult military position as the Baltic Sea’s coastline would be almost completely encircled by NATO members, except for Russia’s Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad and the Russian city of Petersburg and its surrounding areas.

Oppositions

  • Turkey, a NATO member that has had good relations with Russia, has objected to Finland and Sweden joining the military alliance, citing their alleged support for a Kurdish group that Turkey labels as terrorist. NATO’s chief has been trying to resolve the dispute.