At the highest levels of command, the Swedish and Finnish armed forces know each other well. At the same time, the links are also growing stronger at soldier level. Northern Wind 2019 is another step in the right direction along that road.
The political majorities on both sides of the Baltic Sea are in agreement, as are the military commands. Finnish-Swedish defence cooperation will continue and will be expanded.
“I am really happy with the progress we have made over the last two, three years. Progress has been fantastic. That is the right word to describe it,” said Lieutenant General Petri Hulkko, Commander of the Finnish Army, when he attended the visitors' day during Northern Wind.
Sweden's Chief of the Army Staff, Karl Engelbrektson, agreed, while making it clear that the development work must continue and the momentum must be maintained:
“We need to plan for the future and synchronize our exercises more clearly, so that we get a balance between how we use our troops for real tasks in the so-called grey zone phase and, at the same time, manage to develop our capabilities.”
Memorandum of Understanding 2018
The foundations of the Swedish-Finnish co-operation, FISE, were laid in June 2014 when the Swedish government tasked the Armed Forces with investigating the conditions for closer defence cooperation with Finland by the Army, the Navy and the Air Force.
In July last year at a ceremony in Turku, Finland, Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist and the Finnish Minister of Defence, Jussi Niinistö, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) specifying a number of areas where cooperation should be developed: defence and security policy dialogue, exercises, training, education, surveillance and maintenance of territorial integrity. The MoU also specified the need for access to each other's territory for both parties' military forces, and measures to create the conditions for joint military action.
Learning from each other
FISE at the soldier level, in everyday practical military life, has – so far – been slightly unclear, and this can only be clarified and improved by exercising together again and again.
“Both sides become stronger when we share knowledge with each other, said Jerry Nenola,” a Finnish conscript with the Pori Brigade, who got a few hours off on Friday to talk to media representatives visiting the exercise. “When we exercise together, we discover a few things the Swedes do that we should do as well. And I'm sure it's the same for the Swedes,” Jerry continued.
Next to him stood Jonas Lindström, a conscript from the Command and Control Regiment in Enköping. He did not disagree: “We strengthen our defence by both giving and receiving help.”
How much have the Swedes mixed with their Finnish colleagues so far during the exercise?
“We've been to the Finns' location and cooperated a little,” explains Jonas Lindström. “We've chatted a bit with each other. But mostly we've been busy ourselves,” said Jerry Nenola.
"Soldiers without borders"
Cooperation requires exercises. And there will be more exercises on both sides of the border if the Army Commanders have a say.
“We have coined the term "soldiers without borders". In the Army we should be able to have a system like our air forces, with much less bureaucracy, where we have the organisation in place to be able to exercise together on either side of our border.
“Coordinating exercise periods and reducing the bureaucracy to get military troops across each other's borders – as long as we're in agreement – that is high on our priorities right now. And it will happen. It's just a question of how long it takes,” concluded the Swedish Army Commander, Karl Engelbrektson.