Two American warships and a French navy ship joined a German frigate in Helsinki on Friday. Finland has applied to join NATO and is conducting several exercises with other countries. Sweden, an ambitious fellow, will host a major NATO exercise next month.
The USS Gravely, an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, the USS Gunston Hall, a Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship and the French Navy’s F70-type anti-submarine ship Latouche-Treville docked in the Finnish capital on Friday. Until Monday, Finnish authorities said.
The warships have joined the German navy ship Schachsen, the chief of its class of air-defense frigates. It arrived in Helsinki on Wednesday after taking part in a joint exercise with the Finnish navy earlier this week.
Two U.S. Navy ships have also conducted joint naval exercises in Balti. It involved the USS Kirsarge, a wasp-class amphibious assault ship, as well as Finnish and Swedish forces. Sweden has sent its second largest warship HSwMS Carlskrona to take part in the exercise.
Following the maneuver near Finland, the USS Kearserge sailed for Stockholm, where it is scheduled to participate in the 2022 Large NATO Exercise Ballotops. The 51st rehearsal of the annual exercise will be held from 5 to 17 June and will involve 14 allies, including Finland. And Sweden. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said more than 45 maritime units, 75 aircraft and an estimated 7,000 personnel would take part in the exercise.
Finland and Sweden have long been closely allied with NATO, but have been reluctant to join the US-led bloc because of the national tradition of non-alignment and Russia’s opposition to NATO expansion in Europe. Moscow changed its position after launching an attack on Ukraine. Russia has accused NATO of invading Ukrainian territory without formal expansion, citing the reason for the attack.
The two Nordic countries applied for full membership of the alliance earlier this month, but will have to overcome Turkish resistance before being admitted. Ankara has accused Finland and Sweden of “harboring terrorists” and compromising Turkey’s security with arms embargoes.