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NATO’s two newest members – Finland and Sweden – have already seen their militaries quite busy as part of recent joint exercises with the alliance. For the first time this week, another milestone has been achieved as Finland has deployed fighter jets to another NATO country, in a further reversal of the Scandinavian country’s decades-long policy of neutrality.

Seven F-18 fighter jets have been deployed by Helsinki to a base in southeastern Romania. Reuters said based on military statements that the aircraft will “conduct air shielding missions with Romanian and British jets.” Romania has long been dubbed in Western publications as “Russia’s doorstep”.

Finnish Air Force, file image

Finland is hailing this as part of efforts to speed up its military integration within NATO. “I’m sure that during this enhanced air policing air shielding mission our integration into NATO will take a big leap forward,” commander of Finland’s Karelia Air Wing Johan Anttila said this week.

Finland’s entry into the Western military alliance has in effect doubled the border now directly shared by Russia and NATO countries.

“This will certainly lead to tension. We can only regret this,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov had earlier commented. “We had excellent relations with Finland. No one threatened anyone, there were no problems or complaints against each other. No one infringed on anyone’s interests, there was mutual respect.”

And President Putin has previously derided Finland’s entry into NATO as all about joining “the Western club.”

“Frankly speaking, I don’t understand why they need this. This is an absolutely meaningless step from the point of view of ensuring their own national interests,” Putin said back in March.

“We didn’t even have troops; we removed all the troops from there, from the Russian-Finnish border,” he said. “However, it is up to them to decide. That’s what they decided. But we didn’t have troops there, now we will.”

Meanwhile Denmark too is among those Nordic countries calling for increased defense spending and greater coordination on European defense. This has been a persistent talking point over the last months as Ukraine forces are not fairing well on the battlefield, and as Washington funds have dried up.

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