Danish Frigate to Join NATO Force in Baltic Sea Amid Russia-West Standoff
The mission of the HDMS Peter Willemoes, with a crew of 160, has been described as monitoring and deterring Russian activity in the Baltic Sea, which a military expert described as "Denmark's own backyard".
The Danish frigate HDMS Peter Willemoes will join the NATO fleet in the Baltic Sea as part of the country's contribution to the alliance.
The frigate, with 160 sailors on board, will be provided along with four F-16 aircraft and 70 soldiers in support of NATO's preparedness mission in the Baltic Sea area. This measure was decided upon after NATO had specifically demanded the increased contribution, Defence Minister Trine Bramsen said in a statement.
The mission will have a special focus on the Baltic countries and, according to the Danish Navy, the task for the Danish frigate will primarily consist of showing its presence, proximity and solidarity with the entire NATO alliance.
However, as the deployment occurs amid tensions between Russia and the West, the ship will "keep an eye on Russian activity in the Baltic Sea" and "deter Russia from escalating the conflict with Ukraine", Danish Radio reported, citing military experts.
According to Anders Puck Nielsen, naval captain and military analyst at the Defence Academy, NATO's increased naval presence in the Baltic Sea must be seen in the light of two things.
"First, the idea is to send some clear signals to both Russia and the Baltic countries that we stand together in NATO, and that this whole situation actually just makes us move even closer together. Second, there is a very specific military task - surveillance, possible deterrence and being able to maintain presence if the Russians suddenly increase their military presence in the Baltic Sea," Nielsen told Danish Radio.
While emphasising that such "live operations" until recently only happened in faraway waters, Nielsen claimed that the mission of the HDMS Peter Willemoes is not aggressive and that Denmark is sailing in its own backyard.
Its captain Henrik Kim Schjoldager admitted to underlying "political tensions", but described the mission as a "business-as-usual" one.
"The Willemoes is, as a task-ready unit, ready to solve tasks in the entire spectrum of conflicts", Schjoldager told Danish Radio. "It can cope with efforts at the high end of the conflict spectrum, which is conventional naval warfare, but also all the way down to the low end with sea rescue and assistance to other maritime traffic."
The deployment of the Danish frigate as part of a NATO mission comes in the wake of growing tensions between Russia and the alliance following the Ukraine crisis in 2014, when Western-backed forces overthrew the elected government in Kiev. The coup prompted Crimea to break off and re-join Russia after a referendum; it also sparked a civil conflict in eastern Ukraine.
Throughout 2021, Western officials and media accused Russia of a military build-up near Ukraine's borders in preparations for a possible invasion. Moscow has dismissed all claims, instead accusing the West of artificially pumping up tensions.
Last week, Russian diplomats met with their US and NATO counterparts to discuss a series of security proposals spelled out by Moscow in an effort to substantially ease the current tensions, yet Russia is still waiting for a written answer. Among others, both sides were called to refrain from deploying troops, missile systems, aircraft and warships in areas within striking distance of the other side. Washington and NATO were also asked to abandon plans of NATO's eastward expansion, particularly plans to incorporate Ukraine or any other former Soviet republic into the alliance.
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