This article, jointly written by Defense Ministers Frank Bakke-Jensen (Norway) and Peter Hultqvist (Sweden), was published by Nordlys on March 20, 2019.
The Northern Brigade, reinforced by NATO Allied British and American units, participates in exercise Northern Wind. In total, nearly 10,000 soldiers from Norway, Finland, Sweden, the US and the UK will participate in the exercise.
That is why Norway and Sweden are working together during this exercise.
The Nordic countries are closely linked to each other through geography and history. We have common values and largely equal interests. The development of security policy in our part of Europe in recent years has meant that we have begun to cooperate more closely in the field of defense. It is impossible to imagine a major security crisis in the region that would not affect us all.
In order to take joint responsibility for the security of our region, we must become better at interacting. Therefore, our defense forces must be able to train with each other and with others.
During the month of March, the largest exercise in the Nordic countries in 2019 will be completed. Army forces will train in the Northern Wind exercise, on the border between Sweden and Finland. The large international participation in the exercise means that it differs from the ordinary annual Swedish military exercises. About 1,500 Finnish soldiers and officers and 4,600 Norwegian soldiers and officers from the Northern Brigade, together with soldiers and officers from the United States and the United Kingdom, will practice and train with parts of the Swedish army. Altogether, around 10,000 soldiers and officers will participate in the exercise.
Exercise and training with each other and with others gives us the opportunity to practice greater scope and more qualified opponents than we can handle ourselves. This type of exercise develops our national defense capabilities and our ability to cooperate.
The large participation from Norway and Finland in Exercise Northern Wind is a good example of how Nordic defense cooperation can look in practice. In recent years, we have had extensive Nordic participation in a number of major exercises in the region, both national exercises and exercises under NATO leadership. Norwegian, Swedish and Finnish aircraft co-operate every week over the North ice cap, and the Nordic exercise Arctic Challenge will this year be developed into an even more advanced version.
Our assigned financial resources provide a framework for how much we can practice. In order to achieve maximum effect, we must find ways to avoid exercise activities that compete with each other. Therefore, in the coming years we will develop how we coordinate the exercise activity between our countries in cases where this is relevant.
The Nordic defense cooperation, Nordefco, has grown in strength and importance in recent years. The deteriorating security policy situation in our immediate vicinity has meant that several countries in the Nordic countries have reconsidered parts of the defense and security policy. We have strengthened our defense forces to once again focus on the defense of our countries. Defense cooperation between the Nordic countries has become natural.
Security policy radically changed with Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea in spring 2014. This was also reflected in the Nordefco cooperation.
National security and defense policy motives became increasingly central. The conditions for closer operational cooperation between our countries have been strengthened. In recent years, we have seen concrete results from this work. We have established secure communication between our respective defense ministries and defense leaders. We have reduced the bureaucratic hurdles to refer military forces between our countries. We have created the conditions to be able to exchange airspace data with each other, first in peacetime, but we agree to look at the possibilities of eventually expanding the co-operation to apply also in crisis and in worst case conflict.
Nordefco this year celebrates ten years in its current form. In 2018, we adopted a new vision for defense ministers with a view to the development of cooperation until 2025.
The vision states that Nordic cooperation covers all levels of conflict from peace cooperation to cooperation in crisis and conflict. We want to ensure a close Nordic dialogue on defense and security issues, among other things by developing the cooperation for a platform for crisis consultations, establishing a strategic dialogue on prosperity development and developing our capacity building work to support peace and security in conflict areas.
Our countries have made various security policy choices. Norway is a member of NATO, but not a member of the EU. Sweden and Finland are members of the EU, but not members of NATO. But we are united in the perception that security is best built with others. And in common responsibility for security in our part of Europe.