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Finnish security expert: NATO troops in Baltic countries only symbolic gesture

NATO confirmed yesterday at its Warsaw summit that it will be bolstering its eastern flank with rotating troops in Poland and the Baltic countries for the first time. Finnish security expert Pekka Visuri posits that the presence of troops in Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia would be purely symbolic.

Spring Storm 2016 -harjoituksessa panssaroituja ajoneuvoja Viron Räpinassa.
Armoured vehicles participate in Spring Storm 2016 NATO exercises in Estonia’s Räpina municipality. Image: Valda Kalnina / EPA

The North Atlantic military alliance NATO is meeting in Warsaw, Poland this weekend for a two-day summit. The 28 states of the alliance decided yesterday to move four battalions of up to 4,000 troops into the north-eastern European countries of Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Latvia on a rotating basis to defend eastern members against any Russian aggression.

Finnish security expert Pekka Visuri says the troop placement is largely a symbolic gesture.

“It is basically just a show of the flag, a sign that the key NATO countries want to assist the smaller alliance members. It is has been proven quite decisively that if, for some reason, a war would arise in those regions, these troops wouldn’t bring a strategic advantage,” Visuri said in an Yle interview.

He estimates that the Warsaw summit will only have indirect significance for the NATO member countries and its partners of Finland and Sweden.

“It is relevant to the extent that Finland and Sweden have been accepted as NATO partners. Yet both countries have emphatically declared that they will defend their own territory and will not allow others to use their territory for military purposes. Things will work out if we adhere to this policy,” he said. 

Land use pressure from NATO

Visuri said that NATO has been putting pressure on Finland and Sweden to use their territory in the defence of the Baltic countries.

“[It’s] mostly having to do with the air defence system and potential support. It’s abundantly clear, however, that Finland and Sweden could not possibly defend the Baltic countries.”

A meeting on cooperation between NATO and Russia will follow the summit next week. Visuri said the objective is to find ways to re-introduce trust and security in the Baltic Sea region.

“Finland’s proposal to diffuse the tension with respect to air traffic and altercations at sea is tied to this,” he said.

Professor Pekka Visuri said in his Yle interview that there is no specific threat of war in the Baltic area. 

“It makes no strategic sense that Russia would invade the Baltic countries. The Baltic Sea is very important to Russia in terms of its export products, and its economic cooperation with Germany is very productive. From this perspective, there is no reason Russia or NATO would embark on war in the Baltic Sea region.”

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