Sweden: Russian Military Plane Almost Hits Passenger Jet in Latest Airspace Violation
By William Tucker
Chief Correspondent for In Homeland Security
Sweden’s Defense Minister announced this week that 7,500 military conscripts would be called back to duty for an additional month of training. The rationale driving this decision stems from the prolonged Russian-Ukrainian conflict and the near constant presence of Russian military maneuvers that have probed the Swedish land, sea and air borders including an alleged near-miss collision Friday involving a Russian military intelligence and a passenger jet south of Sweden. Russia denies the latest incident.
A little over a year ago, Stockholm was embarrassed when Russian aircraft violated their airspace and the air force was late to respond. The debacle was repeated this autumn when the Swedes only managed to intercept the Russian aircraft when they were well on their way out of Swedish airspace. Perhaps the only saving grace was notification from NATO that Sweden’s airspace was violated.
Finland is in a similar state of limbo as neither Sweden nor Finland are NATO members, and though they do cooperate with the military alliance quite frequently, they prefer to remain outside of the alliance as a way of maintaining neutrality between the West and Moscow. Trade relations with Russia, and of course Sweden’s and Finland’s proximity, have driven the foreign policy of neutrality for quite some time, but a shift is possible.
Since Russia’s campaign into Georgia, but more noticeably since the Ukraine conflict, popular opinion for joining NATO in both Sweden and Finland has noticeably moved upward. It hasn’t been a massive shift, but it is a change from the status quo of the last 50 to 60 years. Politicians in both nations, on the other hand, are more public in their support for joining the military organization. What’s interesting is how the public polls didn’t really shift until the Ukraine conflict—even though Russia had engaged in probing Swedish defenses.
It’s possible that those earlier incidents are currently seen in a new light because of Ukraine and the continuing Russian maneuvers isn’t helping Moscow’s desire to prevent the expansion of NATO. Naturally, this isn’t to say that Sweden and Finland will change direction in the near future, but it is a development that is worth monitoring.
From NATO’s perspective, both Sweden and Finland have modern militaries and are economically stable—making them desirable candidates for alliance inclusion. For Moscow, however, rethinking their military adventures in the Baltic Sea might be wise, or else they may undermine their desire to prevent NATO from enlarging.