“It is important for us, the United States, as well as for the other NATO countries, to show our solidarity with Finland and Sweden with this exercise,” General Milley said, referring to the annual naval maneuvers. of NATO in the Baltic Sea, “Baltops 22”, during a joint press conference with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson.

These maneuvers scheduled for June 5 to 17, in which 14 NATO countries as well as Sweden and Finland will participate, have taken on particular significance this year with the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, which has pushed the two countries Nordic countries to reconsider decades of non-alignment to ask for NATO membership.

The presence in Stockholm of the Kearsarge, an amphibious assault ship designed to deploy ground forces to enemy shores, “demonstrates the United States’ commitment to a common cause, the international order and the idea that great nations cannot invade small countries with impunity,” added the top American officer.

For Ms. Andersson, the imposing presence in the middle of the Swedish capital of this 250-meter-long helicopter carrier and its 1,200 Marines, “is a concrete expression of the support of the United States and also a strong political sign at a time central to the story.

“And it shows that the security guarantees that President Biden talked about when President (Sauli) Niinistö and I visited him at the White House are indeed being followed up with concrete actions,” she added in reference to his recent visit to Washington with the President of Finland. “We are very, very grateful.”

– Scenario of invaded territory –

General Milley met with sailors, pilots and Marine Corps soldiers from the Kearsarge, equipped with 10 Osprey transport aircraft, capable of taking off and landing vertically, like a helicopter, and flying like an airplane, six helicopters from attack Harrier, three MH-60 helicopters, the navy version of the “Black Hawk” and five landing craft.

Asked about the message sent by the presence in the Baltic Sea of ​​this building, the American Chief of Staff noted that the Baltops 22 exercise plans in particular to “train in the practice of amphibious attacks and scenarios which would include attack on territory invaded by an adversary or an enemy country”, a thinly veiled warning to Russia.

The United States also plans to increase its participation in other military exercises planned in the coming months, he recalled.

The candidacies of Stockholm and Helsinki come up against opposition from Ankara, which accuses Finland and Sweden of harboring “terrorists” from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and their allies.

The two countries are seeking security assurances before formal membership that will guarantee them unconditional support from allies under Article V of NATO’s founding treaty, a months-long process that Ankara’s opposition risks to prolong.

In the absence of a formal security guarantee, the two countries have requested a reinforced American military presence in the Baltic Sea and in northern Europe.