Finnish Defense Minister Jussi Niinistö said that US plans to position heavy weapons in Baltic and East European countries will not help reduce tensions in the area, Finnish broadcaster Yle reported.
The New York Times reported on Sunday that the US was poised to move battle tanks, infantry vehicles and other heavy weaponry into Baltic states in a bid to deter Russian aggression in Europe.
According to Yle, Niinistö said that such a move would not serve to calm the situation in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, noting that the crisis in Ukraine had heightened tensions in the area for some time. However, Niinistö also said the proposal may be part of a US policy of reassurance toward its NATO partners in the region.
“This is what these countries have hoped for, so it doesn’t come as a complete surprise if this information is true and can be confirmed,” Niinistö reportedly said, adding that Finland will monitor the situation and attempt to maintain good relations with both sides. “It’s understandable that countries in the Baltic and eastern Europe have been following the recent developments in Ukraine with broken hearts.”
Finnish President Sauli Niinistö appeared to echo his namesake's words, saying that the proposal by the US to place military hardware in the region is in direct response to the events that took place in Crimea and is a form of reassurance policy, to signal its readiness to act on Article 5 of the NATO treaty. At the time when Russia annexed Crimea, Niinistö had predicted that he expected to see an increased military presence in the Baltic region, Yle reported.
Niinistö's Estonian counterpart Sven Mikser said on Monday that the decision to preposition US heavy weapons in the Baltics has been nearly finalized.
Although no final decision has been taken, it is believed the plan would include battle tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and other heavy weapons for 5,000 soldiers. The plan would also include Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary. Estonia's part in the plan would not be huge, with equipment for a company, or 150 soldiers, suggested to be stationed in Estonia.
Editor: S. Tambur