On June 5, NATO kicked off the US-led naval exercise BALTOPS 22 (June 5-17) in the Baltic Sea. The exercise involved more than 7,000 sailors, airmen and marines, and 45 ships and 75 fighters from 16 countries.
NATO’s BALTOPS 22 exercise has the participation of two countries that have just applied to join NATO, Finland and Sweden. Both countries are close NATO partners and have participated in naval exercises since the mid-1990s.
The BALTOPS naval exercise takes place every year, starting in 1972. NATO says “With the participation of both Sweden and Finland, this military alliance is working to improve the resilience and synergy of forces.”
Speaking ahead of the naval exercises, the top US military official in Sweden said NATO has shown particular support for the governments in Helsinki and Stockholm.
“It is important for us, the United States and other NATO countries, to show solidarity with both Finland and Sweden through this exercise.” General Mark Milley, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff said on June 4.
General Mark Milley emphasized that the Baltic Sea is strategically important water – “one of the great sea lanes of the world”. Russia will be in a difficult position militarily because the coastline of the Baltic Sea will be almost completely controlled by NATO members once Finland and Sweden join NATO.
Finland and Sweden both have long histories of military discord before their governments decided to apply to join NATO in May. This came after Russia launched its military campaign against Ukraine in 24/2.
Turkey has protested against Finland and Sweden joining the military alliance, accusing the two Nordic countries of supporting a Kurdish group that Turkey considers terrorists. NATO is trying to convince Ankara to support the aspirations of Helsinki and Stockholm.
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