Nordic defense ministers sign landmark security deal

Finland, Norway and Sweden agreed to closer military cooperation in the Far North.

By Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer - September 24, 2020

The defense ministers of Finland, Norway and Sweden met Wednesday in the far northern military base of Porsangmoen to sign an agreement that is to bolster Nordic cooperation.

“This is a beautiful place with great nature, and I wanted to show it to my Nordic colleagues,” Norwegian Minister of Defense Frank Bakke-Jensen says about the site chosen for the signing ceremony of the trilateral agreement.

A cold Arctic wind was blowing across the north Norwegian landscape as the three ministers sat down by the outdoor table to sign the documents. On site were lined up several of Norway’s tanks and armored vehicles, along with soldiers showing their newest guns and military hardware.

It was a show of Nordic power and the joint force that the three countries now are determined to develop.

[On Norway’s Arctic border with Russia, unease over military buildup grows]

The place chosen by the three defense ministers was far from coincidental. The new agreement highlights the importance of the High North for military and security cooperation. The Porsangmoen base is located in the northernmost part of Norway with Russia only about 200 kilometers away.

Joint operational planning in the North Calotte, the northern parts of the countries, and improved interoperability between the armed forces are among the key issues mentioned in the document titled “Statement of Intent on Enhanced Operational Cooperation.”

The document also outlines an intention to form a joint trilateral policy steering group with defense ministry representatives, as well as the establishment of a trilateral strategic planning group.

[In face of uncertainty about Russia, a Nordic gang of four emerges]

On the basis of the new agreement lies the established Nordic defense cooperation NORDEFCO and a joint vision about enhanced military capabilities outlined in 2018.

Several more agreements connect the three countries’ armed forces, including a binding agreement on defense sector supply security that came into force this June.

Norwegian Defense Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen believes the agreement will facilitate more joint training in northern Scandinavia, including possibly in Porsanger.

On the backdrop lies a significant growth in military activities on the Russian side of the border. According to Bakke-Jensen, the Russian military buildup is leading to stronger Nordic cooperation.

“We have acknowledged that one crisis or conflict in the future will hardly hit only one Nordic country, it will hit all the Nordic countries, and that is what makes us cooperate more and more closely,” he says in a comment to the Barents Observer.

Also the security situation in the wider Arctic is common concern of the Nordic countries.

“On the military side, we clearly see a Russian buildup in the Kola Peninsula, a troop building up in Arctic region and it includes both the Navy, Air Force and the Army,” says Swedish Minister Peter Hultqvist. “And we also see certain operative patterns, exercise patterns, that almost are similar to the Cold War,” he adds.