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In a press conference in Helsinki on 7 October US Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work characterised Russia’s alleged violations of airspace in the Nordic-Baltic region as, “unsatisfactory manoeuvres that are unsafe [and] unprofessional,” adding that they have, “absolutely no justification.” Both Finland and Estonia have accused Russia of breaching their airspace in the last several days.

Russia appears to be taking every opportunity to assert what it considers to be legitimate security interests in the region as well as on the global stage. Recent increases in air activity in the Baltic, coupled with last week’s withdrawal from a 2000 agreement with the US on disposal of plutonium from the two nations’ respective nuclear weapons programmes, as well as a significant increase in Russian readiness, indicate an apparent willingness to risk an escalation in confrontation in order to make its point. Work pointed out that the US and all the Baltic nations have growing concerns regarding Russian air activity, which “are becoming the norm rather than the exception,” he said.

Work was in Helsinki attending multilateral discussions with eight Nordic-Baltic nations (Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway and Sweden) on issues of regional security, increased defence cooperation and to update attendees on the continuing struggle against insurgent forces in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere.

This is a very challenging security environment for all the nations in the region. From defeating ISIL to dealing with a more aggressive Russia, we have a lot to do – and the best way to address these challenges is together, which is exactly why this forum was formed and exactly why it is performing such important work,” Work concluded.

Tim Mahon

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