Finland regions

NATO membership for Sweden and Finland would be difficult for Russia, says US general

US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley speaks during a press conference also attended (L-R) Swedish Supreme Commander Micael Byd駭, Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and the Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist, aboard the US amphibious warfare ship USS Kearsarge in Stockholm, Sweden, June 4, 2022. (Photo by Fredrik PERSSON / TT NEWS AGENCY / AFP) /

Finland and Sweden joining NATO would put Russia in a difficult military position in the Baltic Sea, US General Mark Milley said on Saturday during a visit to Stockholm ahead of a military exercise.

The two Nordic neighbours, who both have long borders on the Baltic Sea, asked last month to join the military alliance amid security concerns following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, although that they come up against the objections of Turkey.

Joining them would mean that the Baltic Sea coastline would, except for short strips around the Russian cities of Kaliningrad and St. Petersburg, be surrounded by NATO members.

“So from the Russian point of view it will be very problematic for them, militarily speaking, and it would be very beneficial for NATO,” said Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“The Baltic (the East Sea) is strategically very important, it’s one of the great sea lanes of the world,” Milley added.

He was speaking at a joint press conference with his Swedish counterpart, the Swedish prime minister and the Swedish defense minister ahead of an annual NATO exercise in the Baltic Sea in which Sweden and Finland participate.

Along with Sweden and Finland’s hopes of joining NATO, the war in Ukraine triggered the very kind of alliance expansion to Russia’s borders that President Vladimir Putin’s invasion sought to prevent.

Putin said last month that there was no threat to Russia if Sweden and Finland joined NATO, although he warned that Moscow would react if the US-led alliance strengthened the military infrastructure of the new Nordic members.

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson described the US military visit as a concrete demonstration of the assurances President Joe Biden gave her and Finnish President Sauli Niinisto when they visited Washington in May.

“It’s a strong signal to the world. And it also shows that the security assurances that President Biden has spoken about very openly…in the White House are actually also being followed up with concrete actions,” he said. she stated.