While waiting for Finland and Sweden to finalize their NATO accession, the Nordic countries have already started to update regional cooperation agreements and further develop operational integration of their armed forces.
But there’s a problem. Despite years of work between the Nordic nations, NATO is not currently structured to exploit this to the full. The current command structure does not serve the needs of the new Northern Flank, as the Nordics are currently divided into two Joint Force Commands: Finland and Denmark under Brunssum in the Netherlands, and Norway under Norfolk in Virginia.
Finland and Sweden’s NATO accession is nothing short of a revolution for Northern Europe’s security, as the two countries bridge what was a gap in alliance territory between Norway in the Arctic, and Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania in the Baltic Sea.
Sweden is a major connecting link between Finland and Norway in the north, and to continental Europe in the South through Denmark. Uniting all the Nordics in the same alliance unlocks an unprecedented level of strategic cohesion, making it possible to plan regional defense from the Baltic Sea to the North Atlantic and the Arctic.
However, the public information available about NATO’s new regional defense plans suggests that the region will be divided between the European Arctic and the Atlantic on the one hand, and the Baltic and Central Europe on the other. If implemented, it would be bad news for Finland and Sweden. Both countries are essential for their contribution to the defense of the Baltic region, but equally so for the Arctic. Any division of the two into different defense plans would disrupt the close bilateral cooperation and other existing Nordic defense arrangements. It would be a sad reversal of the very considerable strengths of Finland and Sweden if NATO now separates them.