Brent Scowcroft Center Nonresident Senior Fellow Henrik Breitenbauch cowrites for the American Interest on how Russia’s provocations in the Baltic Sea region are changing the debate on NATO membership in Sweden:
Last summer, during the annual political festival on the Danish island of Bornholm, Russia carried out a simulated attack against the island. This year, two US Air Force B-52 Stratofortress bombers appeared in the sky over the festival, gliding silently at a low altitude over the city of Allinge—twice. These flybys were intended as a political and strategic message, a clear American response to last year’s provocations by Russia. The B-52s also patrolled near Swedish waters as part of BALTOPS, a large NATO military exercise in the Baltic Sea. While Danish F-16s regularly police Danish airspace and escort Russian jets, the B-52 visit was a welcome reminder that Denmark is not alone when it comes to security.
Denmark’s political festival on Bornholm is inspired by the Swedish “Almedalen” political meeting on the Island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea. Like Denmark, Sweden has the capability to police its airspace. But unlike Denmark, Sweden is not a NATO member. Would a comparable Russian provocation be followed up with an American response? We don’t think so.