The Nordics are both individually and collectively working to enhance their defense capabilities.
In this article, we are highlighting recent press releases from Nordic Ministries of Defence as well as the UK MoD with regard to shaping a way ahead for Nordic defense.
The Finnish Ministry of Defence highlighted Finnish defense efforts in an August 5, 2022 press release.
The 2023 draft budget for the Ministry of Defence’s branch of government is EUR 6.1 billion, representing an increase of EUR 1 billion, or 20%, on the current budget. The figure is explained by general increases in the Defence Forces’ operating expenditure, in defence materiel procurement and in support for the activities of national defence organisations. The increases seek respond to the changes in the Defence Forces’ operating environment.
The draft budget does not include the costs of future NATO membership, as these will be discussed later in the budget preparations.
Extra resources for the Defence Forces to strengthen defence capability
The Defence Forces’ operating appropriations would increase by EUR 179 million, largely due to a general increase addressing the changes in the operating environment, pay adjustments, and price and cost level adjustments.
The appropriation increase would reinforce Finland’s defence capability by adding 500 person-years to the Defence Forces personnel capacity in the next few years, by increasing the number of reservists called up for refresher training exercises by approximately 10,000 people, and by improving the level of materiel maintenance.
Defence budget focus on materiel procurement and maintenance
The draft budget has EUR 1.6 billion allocated to defence materiel procurement, representing a EUR 765 million increase on the ordinary 2022 budget. Most of the increase would be allocated to improving the defence capability with materiel to satisfy operational demands. In addition to cost-level adjustments, the appropriation is affected by changes in the timing of expenditure included in the previous supplementary budgets.
The draft budget contains two new procurement authorisations. An authorisation of EUR 559 million is proposed for defence materiel acquisitions with expenditure to be incurred between 2023 and 2032. The intended uses include the acquisition of high-altitude capability of ground-based air defence, and development of the application of fire by the Army and the mobility of troops. A procurement authorisation of EUR 113 million is proposed for the Defence Forces for acquiring spare parts and concluding system service and maintenance agreements for 2023–2028.
Support for conscript finances
The draft budget includes a proposal to improve the financial benefits of conscripts. The improvement would address the rising living costs and minimise any disruptions to the conscript service also from a financial point of view.
Military crisis management to continue to focus on Lebanon and Iraq
EUR 65 million in appropriations is proposed for equipment needs and administrative expenses arising from military crisis management. The maintenance expenses of Finnish crisis management contingents are included in the appropriations of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. A new procurement authorisation of EUR 20 million is proposed for military crisis management in 2023–2026 to aquire supplementary and replacement equipment. It is estimated that the combined strength of crisis management troops will be at most 400 person-years.
The Swedish Ministry of Defence in an August 9, 2022 press release underscored enhanced defense cooperation among Denmark, Norway and Sweden.
Minister for Defence Peter Hultqvist, Denmark’s Minister of Defence Morten Bødskov and Norway’s Minister of Defence Bjørn Arild Gram met on 8 August in Malmö. They discussed enhanced cooperation between the three countries to contribute to security and stability in the Baltic Sea region.
The security situation in the region has deteriorated considerably in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“We need to be prepared and equipped to act together in times of peace, crisis and conflict. Strengthened cooperation between Sweden, Denmark and Norway is important,” says Mr Hultqvist.
In September 2021, Denmark, Norway and Sweden signed a trilateral Statement of Intent on enhanced operational defence cooperation.
In April 2022, the Government decided that the Swedish Armed Forces and their Danish and Norwegian counterparts would establish a military coordination group for this purpose.
When Mr Hultqvist met his Danish and Norwegian colleagues in Malmö, they discussed how to further enhance this cooperation and what Swedish NATO membership may involve.
“The ability to conduct co-ordinated military operations gives us an opportunity to control the southern Baltic Sea, the Baltic Sea inlet and the North Sea, and take responsibility in a crisis. This ability is a vital common interest for Denmark, Norway and Sweden,” says Mr Hultqvist.
In a press release by the Norwegian Ministry of Defence on August 15, 2022, efforts to further strengthen Nordic cooperation on security and defense were underscored.
Security policy was a key topic at the meeting of the Nordic Prime Ministers in Oslo today. The Nordic countries have agreed to further develop security and defence cooperation in the region.
‘The fact that Finland and Sweden have applied for membership of NATO represents a historic shift for Nordic security policy and defence cooperation. My ambition is for this to lead to a further deepening of our already close cooperation,’ said Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre.
‘The Finnish and Swedish NATO applications enable us to view Nordic defence in a larger, more binding context. We will cooperate and assist each other as allies in the event of a crisis or war. A united Nordic region in NATO will provide us with a stronger voice in the Alliance, and will give our shared values greater visibility and impact,’ said Mr Støre.
During today’s meeting, the Nordic countries agreed on a joint statement on Nordic cooperation on security and defence. The statement points out that Swedish and Finnish membership of NATO can greatly enhance the effectiveness of defence of the Nordic region. The document also states that the Nordic countries will strengthen joint exercises and training and will seek to develop NATO as a military and political alliance.
Relevant areas for increased cooperation in the first phase include air defence, logistics and supply, as well as joint training and exercises in the Nordic region and with NATO. Having all the Nordic countries in NATO will enhance the countries’ shared airspace situational awareness and facilitate use of each other’s air bases. The Nordic countries in NATO will together command a considerably larger air force of several hundred modern fighter jets.
‘Norway will listen to what Finland and Sweden think is needed as we now consider how to further reinforce Nordic regional cooperation within the framework of NATO. Just last week, Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden established a framework for entering into agreements on defence-related products and security of supply,’ said Mr Støre.
And a joint statement on Nordic cooperation in security and defence was released as well.
The five Nordic Prime Ministers met in Oslo 15 August 2022 and agreed as follows:
We share fundamental values and security interests and aim for the Nordic region to be the most sustainable and integrated region in the world by 2030. We have a responsibility to protect our open and democratic societies, built on a high level of trust.
Russia ́s war of aggression against Ukraine has fundamentally changed European security. The Nordic countries share an objective to retain stability and enhance security in our region. We will continue to deepen our dialogue on security policy developments. While the Nordic countries do not pose a threat to anyone, we must act together to safeguard our sovereignty, freedom and shared values.
Finland’s and Sweden ́s accessions to NATO will make NATO stronger and Europe safer. With regard to security and defence, the Nordic countries already cooperate closely within the NORDEFCO framework as well as through other bilateral and multilateral mechanisms. With Finland and Sweden in NATO, all of the Nordic countries will be committed to assist each other under Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty. This represents a significant deepening of our defence cooperation and a strengthened defence of the Nordic region, the Baltic Sea Region, NATO ́s northern flank and the Alliance as a whole. Finland and Sweden are EU member states and their accession to NATO combined with the recent Danish vote to abolish the opt-out on EU’s security and defence cooperation, will constitute a possibility for enhancing cooperation between NATO and the EU.
Nordic defence cooperation will be adjusted to the new security order. Recently, at their meeting in Kirkenes, the Nordic ministers of defence tasked their ministries to begin this work.
The Nordic countries possess significant, modern and highly capable armed forces. Through joint training, integrated planning and the ability to conduct operations seamlessly, the effectiveness of our defence can be greatly enhanced. Our strategic focus areas represent an important asset for our common security.
Against this background, we will further develop the cooperation on security and defence between our countries, building on existing structures, but realising fully the potential derived from us becoming Allies in NATO. To this end, we have the ambition to:
- Explore the opportunities for enhanced political cooperation with regard to security and enhanced resilience in our region.
- Contribute actively to the development and strengthening of NATO as a military and political alliance.
- Strengthen joint exercises and training in close coordination with NATO and Allies.
- Pursue synergies and interoperability in harmonising national and NATO defence plans.
- Enhance the resilience of our societies in peace, crisis and conflict through shared situational awareness, cooperation in total defence, security of supply and resilience against malign activities, including cyber-attacks and hybrid threats. The work to strengthen our resilience of our societies takes place in different fora and at different levels, including within the NORDEFCO – Haga cooperation.
- Further strengthen means for classified communication between relevant Ministries and between institutions in the Nordic countries.
- Continue to promote shared values and interests, such as a rules-based international order, in relevant multilateral fora including the United Nations and the European Union.
And in July and August 2022, the UK Ministry of Defence highlighted various aspects of their engagement in the Nordic region as well.
First, they highlighted the enhanced role they envisaged for their joint expeditionary force in a press release published on July 5, 2022.
A number of exercises within the framework of the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) will be held in Sweden and Finland in the coming months, following the two countries’ applications for NATO membership. Minister for Defence Peter Hultqvist attended a JEF exercise at Skaraborg Air Force Wing (F 7) in Såtenäs on 5 July.
When Mr Hultqvist visited F 7, the exercise was already in full swing. The Swedish and British air forces participated with JAS 39 Gripen and Eurofighter Typhoon fighter planes, conducting combat training based on various scenarios.
This exercise and a number of additional planned JEF exercises in the coming months follow the decision by the defence ministers of the JEF partner nations at their meeting in June to increase JEF presence in the Baltic Sea region while Sweden and Finland wait to become NATO members.
“The JEF contributes to regional security and stability. Joint exercises conducted by the JEF nations, like the one here in Såtenäs, strengthen our ability to operate together in response to a crisis in our neighbourhood. This is particularly important in today’s challenging security environment,” says Mr Hultqvist.
Next, they highlighted RAF training in Finland and Sweden in a press release published on July 10, 2022.
The Royal Air Force has deployed Typhoon FGR4 and F-35B Lightning jets to Finland, and Typhoon FGR4 jets to Sweden, for integrated fighter aircraft training as part of an increased presence in the region.
The deployments, which took place over the last month at the request of the host nations, allowed the partner air forces to develop their joint tactics and strengthen their ability to operate alongside each other.
Two F-35Bs and four Typhoons conducted high-end warfighting training with Finnish F-18 Hornets and Swedish Gripen aircraft, underlining the UK’s commitment to strengthening our collective defence capabilities.
The deployments are a practical demonstration of the mutual security assurance declarations that the UK signed with these nations in May, as they progress their respective applications to join NATO. All three nations already work together through the UK-led Joint Expeditionary Force, which is a coalition of 10 member nations who cooperate to maintain the security of Northern Europe.
Secretary of State for Defence, Ben Wallace, said:
“Finland and Sweden are important defence partners and we welcome their applications to join NATO, which will make the alliance stronger as we face a renewed threat in Europe.
“These deployments highlight our determination to enhance that partnership and ensure our forces can work together seamlessly.
“The F-35 deployment to Finland came after two US F-35A visited for an air show in June. The F-35B’s arrival was of particular interest to the Finns as they recently announced that they will purchase F-35 aircraft. The UK Lightning Force will continue to develop their partnership with the Finnish Air Force as they integrate their new aircraft.”
Swedish Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist said:
“The Joint Expeditionary Force contributes to regional security and stability. Joint exercises, like the one here in Såtenäs, strengthen our ability to operate together in response to a crisis in our neighbourhood. This is particularly important in today’s challenging security environment.”
The fighter jets were supported by teams of specialists from RAF Marham and RAF Lossiemouth. A Voyager aircraft from RAF Brize Norton also provided air-to-air refuelling to extend the duration of the combat sorties and an A400M Atlas deployed the support team to Sweden.
Working with similarly advanced air forces such as the Finnish and Swedish also provides an opportunity to learn from each other and identify areas of mutual benefit. The deployed teams spent time further integrating their systems, so that they can share information quickly on the exercise and in the future.
These exercises are part of a series of bilateral and Joint Expeditionary Force exercises planned this year at Finland and Sweden’s request. Later this month the UK will deploy the F-35B to Norway for further integration training with the Norwegian Air Force.
The Typhoon Force also deployed aircraft to Konya in Türkiye for similar integrated fighter training with the Turkish Air Force, flying alongside Turkish, Pakistani, Jordanian and Azerbaijani aircraft in simulated combat scenarios. The Typhoons forward deployed from Romania where they are currently supporting the NATO Air Policing mission.
Finally, in a July 30, 2022 press release, the participation of the UK in Vigilant Fox was highlighted.
The deployment follows the UK’s joint security declaration with Finland signed in May.
More than 750 troops from the UK, USA and Finland gathered this week in Niinisalo, western Finland, to participate in the four-day high-readiness exercise. Partner nations practised interoperability between air and land forces ahead of Finland’s accession to NATO. This type of international training is critical in preparing allies to operate alongside one another should NATO need to deploy in the future.
Minister for the Armed Forces James Heappey MP said:
“Exercise Vigilant Fox has demonstrated the strength and interoperability of our Armed Forces with our US and Finnish allies and reaffirms our commitment to the defence and security of the Baltic Sea region.”
British troops based in Estonia as part of Project Unified Stance swooped into Finland in Royal Air Force Chinook helicopters. The troops from C Company, 2 Rifles Battlegroup, were inserted into Niinisalo to join Finland’s high readiness forces from the Jaegar, Karelian and Pori Brigades. The exercise also included soldiers, armoured fighting vehicles and helicopters from the US 3rd Armoured Brigade Combat Team (The Iron Brigade).
Units from all three nations undertook a series of demanding training events, conducting offensive and defensive operations including helicopter assaults, covert landings and short-notice raids using American Black Hawks, Finnish NH-90s and UK Chinooks.
Such training improves integration between air and land forces, as well as interoperability between partner nations, and is crucial to ensuring that NATO forces can work together effectively on operations and in war.
As well as air-land integration, the exercise focused on developing command and control procedures and tactical drills using a combination of live and blank firing drills and urban operations.
Colonel Jukka Nurmi, Deputy Chief of Training, Defence Command Finland, said:
“Training events like Vigilant Fox are a great opportunity to learn from each other and Finland is most grateful for participation of international partners. For Finland, the exercise is an effective way to demonstrate the competence of our conscripts and to verify and develop the international compatibility of our own troops. The training and exercise activities carried out with close partners, such as the United Kingdom, are a continuation of long-term close cooperation.”
Wing Commander Stephen Boyle, Defence Attaché, British Embassy Finland, said:
“Our soldiers, sailors and aviators have received a warm welcome in Finland over the last few months. Exercise Vigilant Fox is the latest activity in an ongoing series of events across the domains. As Finland moves towards full NATO Membership, we will continue to seek opportunities like this to show solidarity with Finland, learn from each other and improve our ability to operate together.”
Featured Photo: Minister for Defence Peter Hultqvist (in the middle), Denmark’s Minister of Defence Morten Bødskov (left) and Norway’s Minister of Defence Bjørn Arild Gram (right) at the press conference held in connection with their meeting in Malmö. Photo: Ministry of Defence