In the midst of discussions about Sweden’s possible accession to NATO, a Russian reconnaissance aircraft entered the airspace of the Scandinavian country without permission. The Swedish Ministry of Defense spoke of a “completely unacceptable” incident. Danish airspace was also violated, and Copenhagen, like Stockholm before it, announced diplomatic steps on Sunday.
The Russian aircraft was initially east of the Danish island of Bornholm on Friday evening and from there entered Swedish airspace, the Swedish army said. The propeller plane was said to have been observed and photographed.
Especially in view of the “general security situation”, the airspace violation was “very inappropriate”, said Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist, according to the television station SVT. His country will lodge a protest through diplomatic channels. “Sweden’s sovereignty must always be respected.” At the beginning of March, four Russian fighter jets briefly violated Swedish airspace.
Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod announced on Sunday that Danish airspace was briefly violated by the Russian plane on Friday evening. The Russian ambassador was therefore summoned to the Foreign Ministry for Monday. “This is totally unacceptable and particularly worrying in the current situation.”
A spokesman for the Danish Foreign Ministry told the AFP news agency that the Russian machine was a reconnaissance aircraft. “Two Danish F-16s immediately took off.”
The new incident came at a time when Sweden, like Finland, was intensively discussing joining NATO in view of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine. The heads of state and government of the 30 NATO countries could theoretically discuss possible applications for membership in the near future at their summit meeting in Madrid at the end of June. Russia has repeatedly warned of the “consequences” of such a NATO expansion.
Sweden’s Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said on Sunday her country would not take the decision lightly. “We were non-aligned for 200 years and that has served us well,” she told journalists. “A decision should not be taken lightly.” A possible application for NATO membership is “a very, very difficult question that requires thorough analysis,” stressed the Prime Minister.
Unlike Denmark, Sweden, like Finland, is not a NATO member, but acts as a close partner of the military alliance in Scandinavia. According to a new poll published on Saturday, 54 percent of Swedes are in favor of joining NATO. For decades before the Russian military operation in Ukraine, it was only 20 to 25 percent.
Andersson’s governing Social Democrats have so far been considered advocates of Sweden’s alliance neutrality. At the end of March, however, the Prime Minister declared that she was by no means ruling out joining. The Social Democrats want to decide on their future position by May 24th.
© 2022 AFP