Tensions are increasing in a number of regions around the world.
Finland Joint Statement on NATO Membership
While the battle in eastern and southern Ukraine continues, on Thursday of this week a joint public statement was issued by the President and Prime Minister of Finland on the topic of NATO membership. Quoting directly from the statement:
"During this spring, an important discussion on Finland’s possible NATO membership has taken place. Time has been needed to let Parliament and the whole society establish their stands on the matter. Time has been needed for close international contacts with NATO and its member countries, as well as with Sweden. We have wanted to give the discussion the space it required."
"Now that the moment of decision-making is near, we state our equal views, also for information to the parliamentary groups and parties. NATO membership would strengthen Finland’s security. As a member of NATO, Finland would strengthen the entire defence alliance. Finland must apply for NATO membership without delay. We hope that the national steps still needed to make this decision will be taken rapidly within the next few days."
As to be expected, Moscow issued a harsh response to the joint statement. Russia's Foreign Ministry warned that Moscow "will be forced to take retaliatory steps of military-technical and other characteristics in order to counter the emerging threats to its national security."
Readers are reminded that the invasion of Ukraine prompted Finland, which shares more than 800 miles of border with Russia, to move away from its decades-long history of neutrality and military nonalignment.
As previously reported by Threat Journal, public opinion in both nations shifted dramatically in favor of NATO membership after the invasion, which stirred fears in countries along Russia's border that they could be targeted next.
As if intended to bolster these concerns, this week a Russian lawmaker close to Vladimir Putin warned that recent comments from Poland’s leaders are encouraging Moscow to "put it in first place for denazification after Ukraine."
Medvedev Warns of Full Fledged Nuclear War
Also on Thursday, Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy chairman of Russia's security council and former President of Russia, said in a Telegram post:
"NATO countries pumping weapons into Ukraine, training troops to use Western equipment, sending in mercenaries and the exercises of Alliance countries near our borders increase the likelihood of a direct and open conflict between Nato and Russia."
"Such a conflict always has the risk of turning into a full-fledged nuclear war." Medvedev added "This will be a disastrous scenario for everyone."
Turkey: Not So Fast...
In an interesting twist to the whole topic of Finland and Sweden joining NATO, Turkish President Recep Erdogan said Friday that his country is “not favorable” toward Finland and Sweden joining the alliance, indicating Turkey could use its membership to veto moves to admit the two countries.
Erdogan told reporters, “We are following developments concerning Sweden and Finland, but we are not of a favorable opinion.”
Readers are reminded that all NATO decisions are made by consensus, after discussion and consultation among member countries. Per NATO:
"When a 'NATO decision' is announced, it is therefore the expression of the collective will of all the sovereign states that are members of the Alliance."
Erdogan explained his opposition by citing Sweden and other Scandinavian countries’ alleged support for Kurdish militants and others whom Turkey considers to be terrorists.
Despite his words, it is likely Erdogan is simply using this opportunity as leverage to gain concessions on an unrelated matter involving the U.S., NATO or the EU (think Syria and Iraq, immigration, pipeline transit fees, etc..).
Britain Signs Security Agreements w/ Sweden and Finland
On Wednesday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson traveled to Sweden and Finland to sign mutual security agreements with the two countries completely separate from any NATO treaties. Under the agreements, signed separately with Swedish Prime Minster and Finnish President, the countries would provide military and other assistance to the other signatory upon request and tailored to the specific request.
N. Korea Continues Work at Nuclear Test Site
Recent commercial satellite imagery of the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site in North Korea indicates efforts to restore an access tunnel and support facilities continue. According to the nonprofit monitoring and analysis group 38 North, on imagery from May 10th, a shelter used to house equipment providing air, lighting, ventilation and power to the tunnel network can be seen. In addition, cabling seen leading to the portal now clearly extends into the entrance. Additional equipment and materials have also arrived and are staged near the entrance. Roads leading to the facility are also being improved using spoils from the tunnel clearing effort.
Last Friday, State Department deputy spokesperson Jalina Porter said during a telephone briefing that "the United States assesses that the DPRK is preparing its Punggye-ri test site and could be ready to conduct a test there as early as this month."
20 States Sue for Title 42
A federal judge on Friday declined to issue an immediate ruling on whether the Biden administration can rescind COVID-related border restrictions that prevent immigrants from requesting asylum in the U.S.
U.S. District Judge Robert Summerhays of Louisiana said he would leave in place the Trump-era policy while he weighs a legal challenge filed by more than 20 states seeking to bar the White House from rescinding what has become known as the Title 42 policy.
Readers are reminded that Title 42, a public health order issued by the Trump administration, allows Customs and Border Protection to expel migrants to Mexico or back to their home countries to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in holding facilities.
In mid March, Axios published a report that U.S. intelligence officials are privately bracing for a massive influx of migrants at the Mexico border if Title 42 is lifted.
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