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Experts: Finland’s expanding cooperation with US, NATO poses no threat to Russia yet

The active phase of the Finnish-US combat aircraft drills started in Finland’s southern Kanta-Hame and Paijat-Hame regions on Wednesday to practice repelling a notional enemy’s air strikes

MOSCOW, August 24. /TASS/. Neutral Finland that is actively expanding its military cooperation with the United States and other NATO member states is taking part in the West’s psychological pressure on Russia, exports polled by TASS said on Wednesday.

However, it shouldn’t be said that something special is taking place in the military and strategic sphere, they say.

An active phase of the Finnish-US combat aircraft drills started in Finland’s southern Kanta-Hame and Paijat-Hame regions on Wednesday to practice repelling a notional enemy’s air strikes. The drills with the US Air Force are being held in the modern history of neutral Finland for the first time. Earlier, Finland provided its territory for the first time in the traditional Baltops-2016 military exercises for the amphibious landing of NATO’s forces and supported the military alliance’s anti-Russian rhetoric.

At a NATO summit in Poland in July, Finland signed a framework agreement on military cooperation with the UK, which stipulates, first and foremost, training and maneuvers, and also a data exchange. Finnish Defense Minister Jussi Niinisto said at the time that the country was making preparations for signing a similar agreement with the United States.

The Finnish defense minister directly stated the other day that the preparations for a framework military agreement between Helsinki and Washington were caused, among other things, by "the growing discontent in the Scandinavian countries with Russia’s military activity in the region." However, according to the minister, the document will not contain military assistance obligations that would imply membership in NATO.

Helsinki’s position changes but nothing terrible is taking place

"Finland’s position has changed in recent years: You can’t be in Europe and fail to succumb to provocations staged against Moscow. But I don’t see anything radical and dangerous for Russia," researcher for regional security problems at the Russian Institute of Strategic Studies Ivan Monikov told TASS.

"Finland is inseparably linked with Sweden and NATO sentiments, as polls suggest, are far stronger precisely in Sweden than in Finland," the researcher said.

"Meanwhile, maneuvers can be considered as some concession to the Swedish neighbor," he added.

"There is nothing unusual in this regard. Finland has been a member of NATO’s Partnership for Peace program for already many years, like Sweden and Austria," Chairman of Russia’s Center for Political Studies, retired Lieutenant-General Yevgeny Buzhinsky said.

"All of them take part in military drills. They have held, are holding and will continue holding them," he added.

In the expert’s opinion, "absolutely nothing special is taking place." "Everything is correct and within the framework of the policy, which Helsinki conducts."

"Finland is now taking part in NATO’s policy of pressure on Russia," leading expert at the MGIMO Center for Military and Political Studies Mikhail Alexandrov said.

"But drills were held before as well. And there is nothing terrible yet in what is taking place. This is a virtual reality threat, an intimidation, military and political pressure but there is nothing real so far," the expert said.

Nothing serious in agreement with United States

An agreement with the United States sounds impressive but, largely speaking, it deals with the issues of exchanging experience and holding joint drills, Monikov said.

"A typical bilateral agreement," Buzhinsky said, sharing Monikov’s opinion. "We also had military cooperation agreements with about 60 countries. So, what is so special about that? With Finland, we also used to conclude a plan and an agreement on military cooperation annually," the expert said.

No talk about admission to NATO

"Although Finland supports NATO’s policy of pressure on Russia, it does not want to join the North Atlantic alliance, understanding that it is one thing to exert virtual reality, information and psychological pressure and it is quite another thing to join NATO," Alexandrov remarked.

"Russia will undoubtedly respond to this, the relations will deteriorate and trade ties will be frozen," the expert said.

"So far, there is no talk about Finland’s entry into NATO," Buzhinsky agrees. "Even if this takes place, this will happen in a very distant future," he added.

"In Finland, according to its President Sauli Niinisto, there is no special desire to join the North Atlantic alliance," Monikov said.

"This is because the Finns understand that they are a state, which will be a buffer between Russia and NATO, if it joins the alliance. And no one wants this because the relations with Russia are quite weighty for Finland," the expert said.