The leaders of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden had one nation on their minds while attending a summit at the White House on Friday — Russia — and its airspace violations and aggressive posturing.
While meeting with President Barack Obama, the leaders all agreed on the need to maintain sanctions against Russia following the illegal annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014 and the start of an ensuing war in Eastern Ukraine that has left more than 9,300 people dead.
Russia’s aggressive actions have left its Nordic neighbors worried. In April, Russian military aircraft buzzed U.S. ships and aircraft in Europe, further raising concerns over the Kremlin’s intentions.
“The United States and the Nordic countries are concerned by Russia’s growing military presence in the Baltic Sea region, its nuclear posturing, its undeclared exercises and the provocative actions taken by Russian aircraft and naval vessels,” read a joint statement issued from the summit. “We call on Russia to ensure that its military maneuvers and exercises are in full compliance with its international obligations and commitments to security and stability.”
During the summit, Denmark and Norway said they were ready to work with the U.S. and the NATO military and political alliance for an “enhanced allied forward presence.” NATO is scheduled to meet in Warsaw in July and is likely to discuss stationing more troops in the Baltic states and Eastern Europe in order to deter Russian aggression.
During the summit, Obama and the Nordic leaders also discussed the refugee crisis in Europe as well as the fight against the Islamic State group. In contrast to the many challenging summits in recent months, the meeting with Nordic leaders was full of praise and agreement.
The American president commended the Nordic states for their reliability. “Why don’t we just put all these small countries in charge for a while?” Obama asked jokingly.