While Finland awaits approval of its application to join NATO, the U.S. State Department has approved the potential sale of $535 million worth of guided multiple-launch rocket systems (GMLRS) to contribute to the country’s land and air defense capabilities.
In a statement released last week, the State Department said, “This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security of the United States by improving the security of a trusted partner, which is an important force for political stability and economic progress in Europe. The statement went on to add, “It is vital to the US national interest to assist Finland in developing and maintaining a strong and ready self-defense capability.”
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Finland has recently become a point of contention between Russia and NATO as the country has applied to become a member of NATO amid rising tensions between Russia and Ukraine. Finland shares an 800-mile border with Russia and after requesting to join NATO, the Kremlin has warned that a build-up of NATO infrastructure along the Russian-Finnish border will force the Russian military to build up its border infrastructure as well.
The State Department’s statement reiterated that the GMLRS are intended for Finland’s defense, not as a means to build up NATO’s capabilities along the Russian border. “Finland intends to use these defense articles and services to increase its national stock, bolstering teh land and air defense capabilities in Europe’s northern flank,'” the statement went on to assert before concluding that “The increased national stock is critical to Finland’s defense an deterrence due to the deteriorated security situation in Europe.”
While Finland works to amp up its military defenses, its NATO application has all but stalled as Turkey and Hungary hold out on allowing Finland and Sweden to join. Turkey has said that the two countries have not taken enough “steps” yet to join NATO, but did not specify what remaining steps the two countries need to take.