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The defence of northern Europe: new opportunities, significant challenges

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With Finland and Sweden joining NATO, the Nordics will be united for the first time in a military alliance encompassing not only northern Europe but also the broader transatlantic region. It will eventually fortify northern European security, but several obstacles must be overcome first.

NATO has done a formidable job since 2014 in updating its defence plans, cumulating in the Deterrence and Defence of the Euro-Atlantic Area (DDA) family of plans approved in Vilnius 2023. Now Finland and Sweden need to be incorporated into these plans.

A more challenging task is to implement NATO's New Force Model which is tremendously ambitious. Finland and Sweden's contributions will be important, but new investments must be made.

NATO's Command Structure is yet to be fully reformed and fitted to the DDA. Joint Force Command Norfolk must urgently be staffed, without undue politicization in NATO.

Nordic defence buildup can draw on regional cooperation in particular in five areas: in strengthening the area's command design through functional double-hatted headquarters; developing close air power cooperation through e.g. a Combined Joint Air Operations Centre; strengthening total defence cooperation across borders and expanding logistical infrastructure; establishing joint intelligence task forces; and joint training and exercises.

The contributions of the United States and United Kingdom are indispensable when it comes to upholding the alliance's guarantee in northern Europe. The recent signing of Defense Cooperation Agreements between the US and the Nordics reinforces this—together with an increased presence of air and naval assets in the region. The same applies to the UK and the Joint Expeditionary Force which now has shifted its focus towards northern Europe. This engagement is a crucial addition to Nordic and NATO plans and activities in a period when growth in Nordic defence structures is occurring at a relatively slow pace.

Only after the weaknesses and hurdles are addressed will the deterrence and defence of the region attain a fully credible level.


  • Defence
  • NATO
  • Europe
  • North America
  • The Nordic countries