Kallas: Security cooperation with Sweden, Finland strong despite NATO delay

Estonia’s defense cooperation with Finland and Sweden is already very good, and it will not be damaged by delays in the two countries’ accession to NATO, said Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) on Tuesday.

“Our security cooperation with both Finland and Sweden is very strong. We are in the (NATO) JEF (Joint Expeditionary Force) together, where we are planning our military exercises and already cooperating on security. Of course, for us it would be much clearer, if Sweden and Finland were also members of NATO, but in terms of military cooperation, it is already very good and I don’t think it will make the security of our region any weaker if this process (both joining NATO – ed.) takes a bit longer than first thought,” Kallas told a joint press conference in Tallinn on Tuesday after meeting her Swedish counterpart Ulf Kristersson.

Kristersson echoed the statement made earlier in the day by Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs Tobias Billström. Billström had said, that, as a NATO ally, Sweden is ready to play a role in the air security of the Baltic states as well as to send ground troops.

In addition to air security operations in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, Sweden is also prepared to take part in similar operations in the Black Sea as well as in Icelandic airspace, Kristersson said.

“Finland and Sweden in NATO will strengthen the alliance, and open up important possibilities for increased Nordic-Baltic cooperation on security and defense. We want to be security providers, not only receive help from the alliance,” said the Swedish Prime Minister.

Kristersson also said, that he sees further opportunities to improve cooperation between Sweden and Estonia, highlighting in particular the cybersecurity sphere. “All our countries are being attacked deliberately by countries and forces that want to harm us. We are both very advanced countries in terms of cyber, so  we can do more together in that area,” he said.

Commenting on Turkey’s opposition to Sweden joining NATO, Kristersson pointed to the elections scheduled to take place in Turkey this spring, which could delay the ratification process. In response to a question on the possibility of Finland becoming a NATO member before Sweden, Kristersson said that he understood the Finns’ position, but referred to the trilateral memorandum signed with Turkey last summer, which must be respected.

Kallas pledged Estonia’s support to make Sweden’s accession to the alliance a reality as soon as possible.

The accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO has not yet been ratified by Turkey and Hungary. Turkey has cited differences with Sweden in particular, which it believes is not doing enough to contain anti-Turkish forces.

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