Article by Gerard O'Dwyer who reports on Scandinavian affairs for Defense News.
HELSINKI – Nordic governments are set to deepen cross-border defense collaboration against the backdrop of rising tensions with Russia over Ukraine.
Despite renewed threats from Russia, unaligned states Finland and Sweden have decided against joining NATO at this time. Instead, both plan to strengthen Nordic defense cooperation and establish closer bonds with the alliance and the European Union.
Unlike Sweden, which does not have a land border with Russia, Finland wants to retain the “NATO option” as a security tool. Finland, which has a 1,340-kilometer (832-mile) land border with Russia, has responded to the Kremlin’s military build-up and muscle-flexing in the region by reinforcing its defense infrastructure.
In December 2021, Finland signed a $11.2 billion deal with Lockheed Martin to purchase 64 F-35A aircraft to replace its aging fleet of Boeing F/A-18C Hornets.
Nordic alliance members Denmark and Norway have both increased their military presence and readiness in the High North and Baltic Sea. Denmark has provided additional frigates and four F-16 fighters to support NATO’s naval and air operations in the Baltic Sea area.
“Our actions in support of NATO, which have the broad backing of parties in the Danish parliament, are intended to enforce the sovereignty of the Baltic states. We will supply more capacity if a changing situation demands and the need arises,” said Trine Bramsen, Denmark’s defense minister.
NATO has extended an open invitation to Finland and Sweden to join Nordic neighbors Norway and Denmark in the alliance. Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg reiterated the organization’s stance when he met with the foreign ministers of Finland and Sweden in Brussels on January 25 to discuss defense joint cooperation opportunities.
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NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (C) looks on as Finnish Minister for Foreign Affairs Pekka Haavisto (L) and Sweden's Foreign minister Ann Linde (R) bump fists at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Jan. 24, 2022. (Photo by John Thys/AFP via Getty Images)