Now that Finland has become a member, NATO is consolidating its control of the Baltic Sea. Finland, for the first time since it joined the alliance, is leading a NATO exercise. Called Freezing Winds 23, it involves 4,000 alliance troops, including U.S. Marine and U.S. Navy contingents, who are practicing mine countermeasures and explosive ordnance disposal, among other objectives, reported Stars & Stripes.
Regardless of what NATO may say about its “defensive” intentions, the Russians clearly see the exercise as offensive in nature. Former Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ordzhonikidze told Izvestia that he does not rule out that, in the event of a conflict, Finland may claim a number of Russian areas, firstly, a sector in Karelia. “Secondly, the Russian islands in the Baltic Sea may be claimed [by Finland]. In general, the exercise is aimed at continuing to exert pressure on Russia from the north in an effort to block our Baltic fleet, while hampering commercial shipping as much as possible,” Ordzhonikidze said, reported the TASS press review of Nov. 23. According to him, Finland joined NATO in order to create a bloc to counter Russia in the north, which is a real threat to Russia’s interests there. Other experts note that a blockade of Kaliningrad is another likely objective.