Nordic politicians sign landmark defense cooperation deal in Arctic Norway

Nordic minister of defense assembly in Porsangmoen, northern Norway. From left, Antti Kaikkonen, Peter Hultqvist and Frank Bakke-Jensen. (Atle Staalesen/The Independent Barents Observer)
The defense ministers of Finland, Norway and Sweden meet in the far northern military base of Porsangmoen to sign an agreement that is to bolster Nordic cooperation.

“This is a beautiful place with great nature, and I wanted to show it to my Nordic colleagues,” Norwegian Minister of Defense Frank Bakke-Jensen says about the site chosen for Wednesday’s signing ceremony of the trilateral agreement.

A cold Arctic wind was blowing across the harsh north Norwegian landscape as the three ministers sat down by the outdoor table to sign the documents. On site were lined up several of Norway’s tanks and armored vehicles, along with soldiers showing their newest guns and military hardware.

It was a show of Nordic power and the joint force that the three countries now are determined to develop.

The place chosen by the three defense ministers was far from coincidental. The new agreement highlights the importance of the High North for military and security cooperation. The Porsangmoen base is located in the northernmost part of Norway with Russia only about 200 km away.

Focus on trilateral policy

Joint operational planning in the North Calotte, the northern parts of the countries, and improved interoperability between the armed forces are among the key issues mentioned in the document titled “Statement of Intent on Enhanced Operational Cooperation.”

The document also outlines an intention to form a joint trilateral policy steering group with defense ministry representatives, as well as the establishment of a trilateral strategic planning group.

Wind and rain marked the signing of the new trilateral agreement. (Atle Staalesen/The Independent Barents Observer)

On the basis of the new agreement lies the established Nordic defense cooperation NORDEFCO and a joint vision about enhanced military capabilities outlined in 2018.

Several more agreements connect the three countries’s armed forces, including a binding agreement on defense sector supply security that came into force this June.

Arctic concerns

Norwegian Defense Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen believes the agreement will facilitate more joint training in northern Scandinavia, including possibly in Porsanger.

On the backdrop lies a significant hike in military activities on the Russian side of the border. According to Bakke-Jensen, the Russian military buildup is leading to stronger Nordic cooperation.

“We have acknowledged that one crisis or conflict in the future will hardly hit only one Nordic country, it will hit all the Nordic countries, and that is what makes us cooperate more and more closely,” he says in a comment to the Barents Observer.

Also the security situation in the wider Arctic is common concern of the Nordic countries.

“On the military side, we clearly see a Russian buildup in the Kola Peninsula, a troop building up in Arctic region and it includes both the Navy, Air Force and the Army,” says Swedish Minister Peter Hultqvist. “And we also see certain operative patterns, exercise patterns, that almost are similar to the Cold War,” he adds.

Related stories from around the North:

Arctic: Are potential Arctic security threats eclipsing urgent action on climate? A new study makes its case, Eye on the Arctic

Canada: Canada’s long-term neglect of Arctic must stop says Senate report, Eye on the Arctic

China: Qingdao plays pivotal role in China’s Arctic strategy, Blog by Mia Bennett

Denmark: COVID-19 could delay Kingdom of Denmark’s Arctic strategy, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: Finland and Russia discuss cooperation between Arctic and Barents structures, The Independent Barents Observer

Iceland: Nordics should aim for common approach to China’s Arctic involvement says report, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: Good Fences? Good Neighbours? The Diplomatic Travails of Norway and Russia, Blog by Marc Lanteigne

Russia: Russian navy conducts major manoeuvres near Alaska, The Associated Press

United States: NATO’s new Atlantic command to keep watch over the European Arctic, Radio Canada International

Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

For more news from the Barents region visit The Independent Barents Observer.

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