Updated: Arctic security discussed at Reykjavik Northern Group meeting

Defence Ministers of the Northern Group at their meeting in Reykjavik. (Sigurjón Ragnar/MFA Iceland)

Arctic security was among the top issues discussed at the Northern Group meeting in Reykjavik this week, the member countries’ defence ministers said in a joint statement.

The fallout of of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine dominated the discussions along with its implications for the North.

We underline our strong political unity and cohesion in the face of threats to the security of our region,” the defence ministers said in a statement on June 8. 

“We will continue to strive to protect our common values of democracy, rule of law, freedom and human rights. We underline that the sanctity of internationally recognized borders is a bedrock principle of international relations. Any erosion of this principle represents a grave danger to a system that is based on international law and rules-based order.”

“International partnerships are our strength”

The Northern Group, short for the Northern European Defence Policy Forum, is made up of the Nordic and Baltic countries as well as the U.K., the Netherlands, Poland and Germany.

The group was initiated by the United Kingdom in 2010 to collaborate on security issues in northern Europe.

“At these uncertain times, our international partnerships are our strength,” U.K. Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said in a statement.

“I look forward to continuing to strengthen our relationship with the Northern Group which, alongside NATO and the Joint Expeditionary Force, helps ensure our mutual safety.”

The Northern Group Defence Ministers in Reykjavik this week. (Government of Iceland)

Iceland’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Thordis Kolbrun Reykfjord Gylfadottir, who chaired the meeting, said the regional expertise of the group is an important strength. 

“It’s valuable for us to be able to provide insight to our closest allies and partners into how we in Iceland manage our security and defence, and how we contribute to our shared security environment in the North Atlantic and the Arctic, as a nation without armed forces,” she said in a statement this week. 

Welcoming Sweden, Finland’s NATO bids

The Northern Group ministers also stressed their support for Finland and Sweden’s NATO bids.

“This will improve our collective defence and enhance security and stability in Northern Europe,” the ministers said. 

“Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, and the United Kingdom welcome Finland and Sweden’s applications and will work for fast national ratification processes.”

The chair of the Northern Group rotates ever six months. Norway will take over from Iceland later on this year.

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn(at)cbc.ca

This text has been updated with a quote from Iceland’s Foreign Minister Thordis Kolbrun Reykfjord Gylfadottir.
Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Seven western countries on Arctic Council to resume limited work in forum, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: US military refuelling plane flies over Finland day after NATO announcement, Yle News

Norway: Norway closes General Consulate in Murmansk, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Russia pauses nuclear safety cooperation with Norway in the North, The Independent Barents Observer.

United StatesU.S. Army poised to revamp Alaska forces to prep for Arctic fight, The Associated Press

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