Russia Expresses Concern over NATO Action in Arctic Ocean

Russian ambassador-at-large Nikolai Korchunov reportedly said Sunday that his nation is concerned that increased NATO activity in the Arctic Ocean is creating the risk of “unintended incidents.”

NATO has conducted some exercises that were planned far in advance of Russia’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine without provocation on February 24. The Russian government describes the invasion as a “special military operation.”

Additionally, Finland and Sweden have conducted military exercises recently in the Arctic. Those two nations are not NATO members but are both currently considering joining the alliance.

Korchunov also said that Russia believes another “large-scale” exercise was conducted by NATO recently in northern Norway. He added that his county believes the activities do not contribute to security in the region.

He went on to say that NATO military exercises increase the risk of “serious damage” to the ecosystem in the Arctic. He did not specify what sort of “unintended incidents” as a result of military exercises Russia was concerned about.

Russia also made threatening statements last week regarding the prospect of Sweden and Finland joining NATO. On Thursday, deputy chair of the Russian security council Dmitry Medvedev said that there could no longer be discussion of a “nuclear-free” status for the Baltic region. He said Russia would have to act to “restore the balance.”

The prime ministers of Finland and Sweden held a joint news conference on Wednesday. Both Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson say their respective nations would decide in the next few weeks about joining NATO. Finland and Russia share a lengthy land border in the northern Baltic region.

Lithuanian Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas said that Russia’s threats are “quite strange” because his nation already believes the Russians have nuclear weapons 100 kilometers from its border. He said that Russia uses the weapons as a strategic threat by being sure that the countries in the region are aware of their presence.

Lithuania’s Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte also said the Russian threat to deploy nuclear weapons is “nothing new.” She said the Baltic region has been well known to be a “very militarized zone” for many years.