In Finland, the arrival of the US military has stirred mixed reactions, with a number of advocates of the time-tested non-alignment policy threatening to organize protests. Previously, the Americans' visit caused confusion among the ranks of Finland's political establishment. At a meeting of the defense committee, profile minister Jussi Niinistö was unable to explain who the initiator of joint exercises was. The situation was saved by the Minister for Foreign Affairs Timo Soini, who stated that the initiative came from the American side.
Mika Varvikko of Finland's Ministry of Defense stressed that the cooperation between the Finnish and US defense forces is close.
"Cooperation with the US is close and our cooperation on a practical level has been and will continue to remain tight," Varvikko told Finnish national broadcaster Yle.
Meanwhile, pressure on the traditionally neutral Sweden and Finland to join NATO has been mounting. Last week, Finland's Chief of Defense Jarmo Lindberg called on the country's armed forces to step up their defense effort, citing the increased threat from Russia. At the same time, he expressed criticism of NATO's combat readiness.
"It is true that NATO has a rapid reaction force, but it is still rather clumsy, because NATO's decision-making mechanism is doing badly," he told evening newspaper Iltalehti.