Sweden’s Defence Minister has hit back at claims by his Russian counterpart that NATO has been given access to Swedish waters and airspace, saying it was “yet another example” of Russia spreading “false information”.
Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoygu on July 24th warned that Russia had no choice but to respond to a deal he said had been struck in May by Sweden and Finland with the NATO alliance.
Shoygu claimed the deal gave NATO access to Swedish territorial waters and airspace as well as opening the way for Finland and Sweden to take part in NATO military exercises and to use NATO’s weapons systems.
But Swedish Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist has said that Shoygu’s statement was misleading and that NATO countries still require “special permission” to enter Swedish territory.
“Sweden is non-aligned militarily and we make our own decisions. This was an incorrect description,” he told Swedish Radio. “Statements often come from the Russian side where we think things are not described in the correct way, and this is yet another example.”
Finland’s defence ministry has issued an official statement in response to Shoygu’s comments, stressing that it was not a deal but a “trilateral statement of intent”, that Finland was not part of NATO’s command structure or military exercise programmes, and that NATO did not have unrestricted access to Finnish territory.
Bad for relations
Hultqvist said Sweden’s foreign ministry was responsible for making a formal diplomatic response to Shoygu’s claims.
But he said he was nonetheless worried Shoygu’s comments would worsen relations with Russia.
“Clearly, this isn’t good for relations, and that’s why I think it’s important to underline that this was not a correct description,” he said.
Related stories from around the North:
Canada: Canada extends air defence monitoring zone to entire Canadian Arctic, Radio Canada International
Finland: Finland, Sweden and US building three-way defence ties, Yle News
Norway: Norway scrambles F-16 as Russian aircraft train over Kola Peninsula and Barents Sea, The Independent Barents Observer
Russia: Russia’s Northern Fleet works on increasing ties with Chinese Navy, The Independent Barents Observer
Sweden: Sweden to buy U.S.-made Patriot air defence systems, Radio Sweden
United States: Alaska senators blast Trump for going soft on Putin, Alaska Public Media