Defence deal with Finland will give US access to 15 military bases on Russian border

The Kremlin said it ‘regrets’ the defence deal between Finland and the US
The Kremlin said it ‘regrets’ the defence deal between Finland and the US - Vesa Moilanen/Shutterstock

The US will gain access to 15 military bases along the border with Russia under a defence deal to be signed with Finland next week.

Russia would regard the presence of Nato infrastructure near its borders as a threat, said Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman.

“This will certainly lead to tension. We can only regret this,” Mr Peskov said.

The treaty must be approved by Finland’s parliament.

Elina Valtonen, the country’s foreign minister, will be present in Washington during the signing to meet Antony Blinken, the United States secretary of state.

Washington signed a similar pact with Sweden on Dec 6 that gives the US access to 17 military bases.

Concerns raised by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 led both Finland and Sweden to abandon their military non-alignment and apply for membership in the Nato.

Finland joined in April, while Sweden is still waiting for its bid to be ratified by Nato members Hungary and Turkey.

‘There were no problems’ with Finland

The Kremlin said: “We had excellent relations with Finland. No one threatened anyone, there were no problems or complaints against each other. No one infringed on anyone’s interests, there was mutual respect.

“But now, when Finland is a Nato member and Nato’s military infrastructure will already enter Finnish territory, this will pose an obvious threat to us.”

Finland is due to sign a defence co-operation agreement with the US on Monday.

Nato has warned in recent days that if Ukraine loses the war, Russia will attack other neighbouring countries.

Arvydas Anusauskas, the Lithuanian defence minister, attends the testing of a Leopard tank
Arvydas Anusauskas, the Lithuanian defence minister, attends the testing of a Leopard tank - PETRAS MALUKAS/AFP/Getty Images

On Friday two German Leopard tanks damaged in Ukraine were test-driven in Lithuania, to showcase how the Baltic Nato member has become a hub for such work.

‘What can I say? A powerful tank’

Arvydas Anusauskas, the Lithuanian defence minister, sat on a turret on one of the tanks as he was driven along a rough road in the military training area in the central town of Rukla.

“What can I say? A powerful tank,” he said.

The tanks are expected to reach Ukraine next month, nearly two years after it was invaded by Russia.

According to the latest public data, Western countries have delivered 71 Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.

Some have already been damaged beyond repair during Ukraine’s counter-offensive.

Lithuania will be Europe’s only country to repair Leopard 2 A6 and A5 tanks, the company responsible for the work said.

“For these variants, this is the only hub,” Sebastian Dietz, chief executive of Lithuania Defense Services , said.

The company was established by German industry giants Rheinmetall and Krauss-Maffei Wegmann who also manufacture the Leopard tank.

The Leopard 2 tank was created during the Cold War, with potential clashes with the Soviets in mind.

Almost a quarter-century after the Leopard 2 was delivered to the West German army, these tanks are being used in Ukraine against Russian forces that are still heavily dependent on Soviet arms.

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