15:04 GMT30 May 2020
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    Russia and the West are currently experiencing the worst freeze in relations since the fall of the Soviet Union, with the United States and the European Union accusing Moscow of "annexing" Crimea, fanning “separatism” in eastern Ukraine and planning further incursions into the territories of its immediate and even not so immediate neighbors.

    Not everyone in the West is buying all this, however, with dissenting voices increasingly being heard in Europe and beyond.

    Including that of General Christophe Gomart, the head of France’s military intelligence, who recently told a parliamentary hearing that NATO commanders should listen more to French intelligence reports and a bit less to what is being told them by the ever-present Americans.

    “NATO announced that the Russians were about to invade Ukraine while, according to French intelligence, there is nothing to corroborate this hypothesis – we determined that the Russians were deploying neither command posts nor logistical facilities, including field hospitals, needed for a military incursion,” General Gomart said.

    “Our conclusion eventually proved correct because even if some Russian soldiers had indeed been seen on the Ukrainian side of the border, it was just a ploy, meant to bring pressure to bear on President Poroshenko, rather than an attempt to invade Ukraine,” he added.

    Old habits die hard, however. As if to prove this deplorable truth, five Northern European states, including Sweden and Finland, signed on Friday a joint declaration on the expansion of military cooperation in the face of what the countries' defense ministers called "Russian aggression against Ukraine.”

    According to Norwegian defense analyst Janne Haaland Matlary, the declaration takes the cooperation strategy as far as it can go without explicitly creating a NATO community with non NATO-members Sweden and Finland, but adds that it could be a step further to full membership.

    “Finland and Sweden have also decided to keep their exercises to NATO standard, which implies a step on the way towards NATO. Today, there are no political grounds for them to join NATO, public opinion is not frightened enough, and referenda will be required. But what is happening now still looks like a preparation for membership,” Janne Haaland Matlary told Aftenposten newspaper on Friday.

    She warned, however, that Russia would perceive the message as aggressive.


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    NATO, France, military presence, tensions, political crisis, Janne Haaland Matlary, Christophe Gomart, Ukraine, Russia
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