NATO will look at increasing cooperation with the European Union and its non-NATO members Finland and Sweden through information-sharing and more military exercises, the alliance said on Thursday (14 May), a move likely to cause concern in Moscow.
Sweden and Finland, neither of which belong to the US-led alliance, have been alarmed by increased Russian military activity in the Baltic Sea and by Moscow’s actions in Ukraine.
That has pushed them towards closer defence cooperation with other northern nations and with NATO.
NATO foreign ministers meeting in Turkey on Thursday discussed how the alliance could further develop its cooperation with Finland and Sweden, alliance Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told a news conference.
“We have agreed to look at ways to hold more consultations and to share more information about what is happening in the Baltic Sea region and beyond so that we all have the fullest possible picture,” he said.
“We will also look at how we can conduct more exercises together with Finland and Sweden,” he said.
EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini attended the NATO meeting.
“Both Federica Mogherini and I have decided to task our teams to intensify NATO-EU cooperation in countering hybrid warfare,” the NATO Secretary General said. “We will ensure that the strategies we are developing are complimentary, so that we can work together quickly and effectively in case of a hybrid threat against our members,” Stoltenberg added.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said last month that moves by Finland and Sweden towards closer relations with NATO were of “special concern”.
A major poll last October showed more Swedes favoured joining NATO than opposed it for the first time. But public support in Finland for joining the alliance remains low.
The Finnish military fired underwater depth charges last month as a warning against a suspected submarine while Sweden launched a major hunt for a suspected Russian submarine in its waters last year.
Both Finland and Sweden have complained of violations of their air space by Russian planes over the past year or near misses between Russian military jets and civilian airliners.
The NATO meeting in the Turkish city of Antalya will be remembered by a video showing ministers linking arms and singing along to “We Are the World”, the famous charity single by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie.
The extravaganza started after Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavu?o?lu took to the stage and invited ministers to join him “for a song for peace”.
Many people on social media reacted negatively to the “karaoke-singing stint”. Some said this was not a wedding or a homecoming party, while others were more critical and blasted the singing officials as “warmongers”.