Nordics should consider joint air control in far north, Finnish parliament speaker says

"It would be most natural that in the coming years the controlling of the airspace would be common."

By Anne Kauranen, Reuters - June 13, 2022
Finnish Parliament Speaker Matti Vanhanen attends the annual debate session on foreign and security policy “Kultaranta Talks” at the Presidential Summer Residence Kultaranta in Naantali, Finland on June 13, 2022. (Markku Ulander / Lehtikuva via Reuters)

HELSINKI — Finland, Sweden and Norway should consider organizing their air defense control jointly in territories north of the Arctic Circle in coming years, the speaker of the Finnish parliament said on Monday.

If Finland and neighboring Sweden’s applications for membership in the Western military alliance NATO are successful, the Nordics could for the first time consider organizing parts of their defense jointly with their common neighbor Norway which is already a NATO member.

“We all three — Sweden, Norway and Finland — have relatively strong air forces and we have to control our borders and airspace,” said Matti Vanhanen, discussing NATO and security policy with Norway’s Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre at an event organized by Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto at his summer residence in Naantali, Finland.

“It would be most natural that in the coming years the controlling of the airspace would be common,” said Vanhanen, a former Finnish prime minister.

Finland and Sweden abandoned their traditional policy of neutrality in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February are seeking to join NATO. Their applications face opposition from Turkey, however, which accuses them of harboring terrorists.

Norway’s Støre said he saw room for more Nordic crossborder cooperation in the far north — known as the Cap of the North—- in areas beyond defense, such as energy and railways.

“I’m trying to tell my government apparatus that a lot of the measures we have to develop our cross-border relations with Russia we should just shift the focus and do it with Sweden and Finland,” he said, giving possible railways from Finland to Norway’s northern ports of Tromsø and Kirkenes as examples.