London: Defence ministers from 10 countries, as part of a UK-led task force grouping, have announced manoeuvres in the Baltic Sea, as they condemned Russia for its actions in Ukraine.
The Joint Expeditionary Force said in a statement they would “shortly conduct an exercise demonstrating JEF nations’ freedom of movement” in the strategic zone.
“These and subsequent activities will remain preventative and proportionate.” “In acting together, we shall demonstrate the JEF’s solidarity, capability, and resolve to stand together for security and stability in our region.”
The JEF, set up in 2012, is made up of NATO members Denmark, Estonia, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, and the United Kingdom, and non-members Finland and Sweden. It is focused on security in the “High North” region around the Arctic, the North Atlantic, and the Baltic Sea area.
Ministers were hosted at talks in central England by UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, and said the grouping was more important than ever in the light of Russia’s actions. They unanimously condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recognition of two pro-Moscow rebel regions in Ukraine and the Kremlin’s deployment of troops there.
“We call on Russia to de-escalate and encourage (Russia) to engage in transparent dialogue,” they added. The UK’s highest-ranking military officer, Chief of Defense Staff Tony Radakin met his counterparts in Sweden last Tuesday to discuss Ukraine and European security issues.
“In a world defined by competition and confrontation, it is vital that like-minded nations like ours come together to protect our shared values and defend the rules and freedoms that underpin security and stability in Europe,” they said.