The Pentagon’s announcement Wednesday that it may sell $880 million worth of military weapons in Europe drew strong condemnation from Kremlin-backed media Thursday. The proposed sales include rockets to Finland for the Nordic state to defend its border with Russia, leading Moscow-backed Sputnik News to call the threat from Russia “nonexistent.”
The U.S. announcement said the “proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States by helping to improve the security of a friendly country which has been, and continues to be, an important force for political stability and economic progress in Europe,” Defense News reported.
A $150 million sale to Finland would include guided multiple launch rocket systems and warhead rockets. The weapons would be used to “improve Finland's capability to meet current and future threats,” a nod to continuing Russian aggression in Europe. Finland shares a more than 800-mile border with Russia, but the state is not a member of the NATO alliance.
European nations have increased their military budgets and called for greater NATO support since Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014. Following the annexation, a conflict pitting Ukrainian government forces against Russian-backed separatists in Eastern Ukraine has taken the lives of more than 8,000 people, displaced more than 1.4 million people and largely destroyed an economically important factory region. Russia denies any direct military involvement in the conflict.
The sales announcement came the same day NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg visited the alliance's Nordic defense in Stockholm.
"NATO does not seek confrontation with Russia. We are looking for cooperation and dialogue, but that cooperation must be based on predictability and strength," Stoltenberg said, according to the Local.
The other proposed sales include a $650 million package for France with aircraft to support its campaign in sub-Saharan Africa that would also “greatly increase interoperability” among France, the U.S. and NATO forces. The $80 million package to the U.K. potentially would include Hellfire missiles to be used in its airstrikes against the Islamic State militant group, also known as ISIS.
While the sales still must be finalized, Kremlin-backed media reiterated Russia does not pose a threat to Europe.
“Moscow, as well as many foreign officials and experts have repeatedly stated that Russia poses no threat to any nation, whether it is a NATO member or not,” the report from Sputnik said.