The Corner

Northern Exposure

It’s been a busy few days in the Baltic/Nordic region.

Delfi:

Sweden on Thursday stated support to the Lithuanian protest over the conduct of Russian military vessels in the Baltic Sea, which impeded the laying of a NordBalt power cable between Lithuania and Sweden. Pezhman Fivrin, spokesman for the Swedish Foreign Ministry, told BNS that Stockholm saw the Russian behavior as violation of international law.

“Sweden has been in contact with Russian authorities and have discussed this issue and stated that this is violation of international law. We are supporting Lithuania in this matter. On Monday, the Foreign Ministry will discuss how to follow this issue up,” the diplomat told BNS in a telephone interview from Stockholm.

The ministry said that conduct of the Russian Navy were aimed at hindering the laying of the NordBalt cable.

Litgrid, the Lithuanian power transmission system operator in charge of the project, said that the ship guarding the laying of NordBalt cable between Lithuania and Sweden on Thursday was forced out of the zone has not affected the project. However, the company confirmed that this was the third time this year that the ship guarding the cable in the Baltic Sea had to deviate from its route by direction of Russia’s warships.

Meanwhile Dagens Nyheter (in Swedish) is reporting that a British analyst from Chatham House, who also works for the Conflict Studies Research Centre, is warning of the growing danger to Gotland (a strategic Swedish island in the Baltic which I wrote a bit about here). Alarmist? Perhaps, but after a long period in which Sweden was insufficiently alarmed, there are worse things to be.

Defense News:

HELSINKI — Norway has decided to invest $500 million in two new programs intended to strengthen its military capability in the High North. The capital investment, which is being financed within the framework of the 2015 defense budget, happens against a backdrop where Russia continues to reinforce its air, naval and land capabilities in the neighboring High North.

The Norwegian government earlier set spending on the core defense budget at $5.6 billion for 2015, a 3.4 percent increase compared with the core military budget for 2014….

The Wall Street Journal

HELSINKI—Finland’s navy resorted to a rare public display of force on Tuesday when it dropped hand-held depth charges to warn off a suspected submarine detected in Finnish territorial waters. The unconfirmed intrusion came at a time when the Baltic Sea region has seen a spate of airspace and maritime incidents that have coincided with a rise in tensions between Russia and the West.

Signs of an intrusion were first detected by Finland’s underwater surveillance network at around noon local time on Monday, the Ministry of Defense said. In response, the country’s authorities dispatched ships to search an area in the relatively shallow waters of the southern coast near the capital, Helsinki. New contacts were made during Monday night and on Tuesday—when the Finnish forces dispatched the warning shots. The tactic is designed to signal to an underwater vehicle that it has been detected….

YLE:

A mail-out to 900,000 former conscripts in Finland began being publicised on Monday, with a TV announcement reminding reservists that “conscription is the cornerstone of Finland’s defence capability”. The defence minister denied that the move has any link to worsening relations with Russia. Finland’s armed forces began broadcasting an announcement on Yle television from Monday, telling the nation’s reservists that “We want to have a word with you,” and reminding them that “conscription is the cornerstone of Finland’s defence capability.”

The ad accompanies a mass mail-out campaign, in which a letter will be sent to each of Finland’s 900,000 reservists next month, informing them which post they would be given in a crisis situation. The letter also asks them to send in up-to-date details of their whereabouts.

Earlier this month Defence Minister Carl Haglund denied that the campaign has anything to do with the country’s worsening relations with Russia, nor with the crisis in Ukraine.

“Many reservists are interested to know which role they would have, and they’re motivated to be a part of this country’s defence work. Therefore it’s good that we can give them regular information about what’s planned for them,” he said.

Haglund said the mail-out was decided upon in 2013, following recommendations made by a 2010 Defence Forces review, which suggested keeping closer contact with the country’s former conscripts.

He refused to speculate on how Russia may interpret the move, and on any possible response. “The aim of this isn’t to give out sort of message at all [to Russia],” Haglund said.

Maybe. Maybe not.

Interesting times. 

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