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WASHINGTON – Baltic Sea nations such as Finland, which already have a strong connection to Russia, may be shifting closer to Moscow because of the European Union’s economic crisis, according to Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

They also are being distanced from the Western security organization NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and are being tasked with coordinating their own regional defense.

Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Iceland are working on ways to form their own regional defense under Nordic Defense Cooperation, or NORDEFCO, as the EU’s economic downturn makes NATO nations more selective about their involvement in future military actions.

NORDEFCO is aimed at protecting against any Russian threat, but economic and defense realities in Europe are beginning to dictate more trade with Russia, too.

For example, Iceland really doesn’t have a military force of its own but relies instead on patrols from the Baltic countries.

There was a U.S. military base in Iceland but it has been closed down, and the Baltic countries now rotate to provide for its defense.

“The grouping is not a military alliance that offers joint defense such as NATO,” according to the open intelligence report Stratfor. “Rather, it facilitates defense collaboration among the five countries and maximizes the benefits of such cooperation while reducing defense costs.”

In walking a delicate line, Finland has been seeking to assure Moscow that increased defense cooperation is not a move toward NATO. Unspoken is that NORDEFCO is to be a counterbalance to Russia, Stratfor points out.

Moscow appears to be undertaking a divide-and-conquer approach with the Nordic countries. Moscow recently increased tariffs on Finland’s export of paper and pulp, which constitute 10 percent of that country’s gross domestic product.

By exerting considerable leverage on Finland’s delicate economy, which is highly dependent on trade with Russia, Moscow is attempting to exert further economic pressure to limit its regional defense cooperation efforts and force at least Finland to look more to Russia for its security.

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