What does Finland and Sweden’s membership to NATO mean for race to arm the Arctic?

By Andrew Blackman - May 31, 2024
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German soldiers, wearing snow camouflage and skis, take part in the multinational Nordic Response military exercise in Alta, Norway March 7, 2024. NTB/Heiko Junge via REUTERS

Now that Sweden and Finland have joined NATO, all but one of the Arctic Council members are part of the organization. As Euronews reports, NATO is still developing a plan to integrate these new members into its Arctic strategy.

  • Russia has maintained a significant military presence in the Arctic, including long-range defense capabilities and nuclear-armed submarines. NATO hopes to close this gap with the help of Sweden and Finland’s developed Arctic capabilities and their recent cooperation agreements with Norway.
  • Sweden and Finland have been bolstering their defense budgets and Arctic capabilities due to the regional threat from Russia. Key assets in the Arctic include Sweden’s iron ore production, orbital satellite launch complex, and developing data center hub, which enhance Europe’s strategic and technological position.
  • The Arctic is witnessing increased militarization and competition, particularly from Russia and China, as melting ice opens new sea routes. NATO remains vigilant against these threats, recognizing gaps in situational awareness and the need for integrated defense across various domains to ensure comprehensive security.
  • For Liselotte Odgaard, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, Finland and Sweden’s accession into NATO will benefit the Baltic Sea more than the Arctic. Due to geographical factors, other countries such as Norway and Denmark have “legitimate patrolling responsibilities” in areas where Russians could expand their influence.”