On June 13th, Finland’s parliament speaker Matti Vanhanen promoted the idea of jointly organizing the air defense control in the Arctic Circle between the Nordic countries Finland, Norway, and Sweden at an event discussing N.A.T.O. and security policy with Norweigan prime minister Jonas Gahr Stoere. This statement comes as Sweden and Finland, traditionally neutral nations, attempt to join N.A.T.O. to deter the expansion of Russian military aggression beyond Ukraine. Finland and Sweden have participated in military exercises with N.A.T.O. in the past; in 2018, they hosted aircraft deployments and made their airspaces available during N.A.T.O.’s Trident Juncture 18 exercise in Norway, and they recently joined U.S.-led naval exercise BALTOPS 22 in the Baltic Sea.
“We all three – Sweden, Norway and Finland – have relatively strong airforces and we have to control our borders and airspace. It would be most natural that in the coming years the controlling of the airspace would be common,” Vanhanen said. Carisa Nietsche, an associate fellow for the Transatlantic Security Program at the Center for a New American Security, claimed that Finland’s and Sweden’s admission to N.A.T.O. would mean that “Arctic security would continue to climb on N.A.T.O.’s agenda.”
Building up a unified Nordic air defense control is crucial to maintaining Russia’s lack of aggression against Finland or Sweden, which is likely due to the nations’ close proximity and the large length of the Finland-Russia border. These nations should continue to work with Norway and the other N.A.T.O. nations to ensure that they are prepared in case of a Russian attack in the Arctic region. They should also take further steps to encourage naval and army co-operation in the region, as well as building up their forces and defense infrastructure. These military forces would ideally never be used, mainly serving as deterrence against Russian military expansion in the region; however, it is important for the defenses to be adequately equipped and for the Nordic nations and N.A.T.O. to strategically plan for any possible Russian attack.
The U.S. army has predicted that the Arctic will become an increasingly important region for maintaining security and obtaining resources. In its 2021 Arctic Strategy report Regaining Arctic Dominance, the army asserts that the region is “an arena of competition, a line of attack in conflict, a vital area holding many … natural resources, and a platform for global power projection.” The region is vital for Russia, which holds its arctic naval headquarters and nuclear submarines in the Kola Peninsula. Additionally, the Arctic accounts for 10% of Russia’s G.D.P. and is the source of 20% of its exports. The Russian 2020-2035 Arctic Policy report focuses on increasing use of the Northern Sea Route and exploiting the resource base in the Arctic to fulfill its energy needs. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the Arctic holds 13% of the world’s undiscovered oil resources and 30% of natural gas resources; despite currently suffering from oil embargoes from the U.S. and E.U., Russia still exports oil to nations such as China, which bought 20% of Russia’s crude exports last year. The strong economic and military implications of the Arctic indicate that Russia will continue to expand into the region, prompting N.A.T.O. to oppose this expansion and provide for mutual defense.
It is crucial that the Nordic countries continue to work on collaborating military exercises and defense in case of potential Russian hostility in the Arctic region. This unity deters possible Russian aggression, keeping the Arctic open for exploration and trade.