Washington now joins with the weak to defend shared values of democracy.

US senator and former presidential candidate John McCain slammed Russia over its increased military activity in the Baltic region on a visit to Stockholm together with Republican party colleague John Barrasso and Democrat senator Sheldon Whitehouse.

“We underline our concern for Russia’s activities in the region and its military build-up,” McCain told Swedish media after he met Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström, Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, Sverker Göranson.

Since the civil unrest in Ukraine, the United States, EU and NATO have accused Moscow of interfering in Ukraine’s internal affairs, including multiple allegations of Russian troops’ presence in the country. Russia has repeatedly denied these allegations.

Russia’s ongoing and frequent violations of Baltic airspace, including Sweden have been well documented, but two other Russian policies have also recently violated international norms of neighborly conduct in peacetime. Both have been viewed in the Baltic countries as a challenge or provocation regarding their sovereignty.

These small countries are “the most likely front line of any future crisis.” The alliance has promised to protect certain countries, notably Poland and the tree Baltic republics, but it has not such obligation to Ukraine. Because of the crisis, of its three core tasks of collective defence, expeditionary crisis management, and cooperative security and partnerships, NATO put more emphasis on the first. Defence of the alliance’s territory and the security guarantee offered by Article 5.

That does not mean that NATO will no longer do crisis management, but as a consequence in many future non-Article 5 contingencies the European Union may be the institution that will be called upon to take the lead, as it is doing already in its broader southern neighbourhood

Baltic states — are at the far edge of Eastern Europe, along Russia’s border. They were formerly part of the Soviet Union. And they are where many Western analysts fear World War III is likeliest to start. Our Baltic world was always a world between the East and the West. This comes both out of the lessons drawn from the past. And the recognition of the challenges of the future.

As the Cold War was replaced by unipolar peace, Sweden went to great lengths as did all the Nordics to assist the three vulnerable Baltic countries in every possible way in their struggle for independence and NATO membership. Though Sweden itself chose to maintain its nonaligned policy. Stability and security in the Nordic-Baltic region was never doubted in Stockholm, where every single government since the end of the Cod War has emphasized the significance of the transatlantic link.

America and Europe have done extraordinary things together before. Here, Winston Churchill had played a major part in helping the Allies to win the world war II. Then, as now,what is at stake now are the core values of democracy.

When Nato expanded, encompassing the Baltic states and other countries in 2008, Nato declared that Ukraine and Georgia will become members. ‘wen Georgia tested that commitment in 2008, Putin struck back, sending troops into Georgian territory. The lessons Putin learnt then might go some way to explaining what he has done in Ukraine. Russia’s actions in Crimea are a violation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine.

The American leadership is indispensable in Europe.

Washington now joins with the weak to defend shared values of democracy, the rule of law and freedom.

Senator McCain has long advocated a more aggressive approach towards Russia and his comments are likely to fuel the debate in Sweden over its eastern neighbour’s presence in the region.

At the NATO Wales Summit in September 2014, Allied leaders approved a Readiness Action Plan (RAP) to ensure the Alliance is ready to respond swiftly and firmly to new security challenges. The plan provides a comprehensive package of measures to counter the changes in the security environment in and near Europe, to include the challenges posed by Russia and the threats emanating from the Middle East and North Africa

Since March 2014, the NATO alliance has focused on a Readiness Action Plan to “deter Russian aggression,” according to the alliance. The plan includes troop rotations along Russia’s western border, increased joint military exercises, and additional training and equipment to NATO partner states.

After more than twenty years of ever-closer cooperation with NATO, Sweden now has a NATO member’s level of interoperability. Further, after the Russian aggression against Ukraine, Sweden participates in Alliance deterrence and reassurance activities in the Baltic area—for example, by advanced exercises and by accepting AWACS over-flights.

The latest discussion on Swedish participation concerns the British-led Joint Expeditionary Force, which will be a part of the VJTF (Very High Readiness Joint Task Force). All this brings an added identification with NATO, but also an increased risk in Sweden’s relations with Russia. What is interesting is the impact of the common destiny with Finland. For Finland, cooperation with Sweden in some sense represents a step westward.

For Sweden in the same sense it represents a step eastward. Such a step would now be taken in the face of a clearly revisionist and aggressive Russia. To many in Sweden, that is a strange step to take, if it is not combined simultaneously with at least a corresponding deepening of Sweden’s ties westward—and that would mean operative planning with NATO

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