NATO’s Holds Arctic Military Exercises With Sweden And Finland As Full Members

Ever since the end of the Cold War, the Arctic has been a territory of peaceful development. Most of the issues were solved using dialogue mechanisms, such as the Arctic Council, the EU’s Northern Dimension, the Barents Euro-Arctic Council, etc. The region’s limited economic value at the time served as a positive factor for bringing peaceful cooperation and exploration to the fore of international relations.

However, climate change, new technologies for extracting hydrocarbons and increasing interest for new maritime logistical routes have all contributed to escalating tensions in the region. The Arctic is now a territory of immense interest for most of the world. This is why Russia’s military operation in Ukraine has served as an impetus for Western states to create division lines in the Arctic and to combat Russia’s dominance in the region.

Russia has been excluded from all of the dialogue platforms mentioned above and NATO has pursued a policy of expanding its military presence in the region. Last week, NATO’s Nordic Response 2024 military drills have been kicked off in Norway, Sweden and Finland. According to the Norwegian Armed Forces, over 20,000 soldiers from 13 NATO countries take part in the Alliance’s second largest military exercise ever in the Arctic region. Over 50 frigates, submarines, corvettes, aircraft carries, and other vessels, as well as over 110 fighter jets, helicopters, and other aircraft are used.

The first exercise of this nature was held in 2006 under the Cold Response name in Norway and the 2022 iteration was the largest Arctic military exercise in the whole history of the Alliance, whereby 30,000 troops were used on the ground, 50 vessels at sea, and 220 aircraft in the air, with 27 NATO nations taking part in the drills.

nato-arctic-military-exercisesIn 2024 the name of the drills has been changed to Nordic Response and even though the numbers are lower than those in 2022, the nature of these drills is different. In 2022, military activity took place mainly in South-Eastern, Central and Northern parts of Norway, but in 2024 the drills have their focal point in Finland and Sweden, as both of these countries become strategic footholds for NATO’s activity against Russia.

Sweden and Finland’s accession to NATO means that 7 of the 8 members of the Arctic Council (except for Russia) are now members of the US-led Alliance. The truth is that there were no disagreements between Russia and Sweden or Russia and Finland that in any way threatened the security of any of these countries. The Russian President has explicitly mentioned that Russia does not have any intentions to attack any NATO territory or pursue any expansionist agenda against other nations. Despite this, the two previously neutral nations decided to believe the US-incited bogus threats of an “aggressive Russia” and to join the US-led Alliance, which will only put more strain of the Scandinavian nations’ economies and prove fruitless when it comes to ensuring their security.

For Russia, this is now a strategic threat, which will have profound implications for the security in the region. According to the Arctic Council, Russia stretches over 53% of the Arctic Ocean coastline and approximately 2.5 million Russians live in Arctic territory. The principle of territorial integrity of states reads that under international law sovereign states have a right to defend their borders, which is why Russia is responding to NATO’s actions by bolstering its Northern Fleet. This creates a classic “security dilemma”, which leads to escalating tensions and further arms race in the Arctic.

Nordic Response 2024 is closely integrated with the British-led naval exercise Joint Warrior 2024, which took place between Scotland, Norway, and Iceland a week before. Both of these exercises are part of NATO’s record-breaking Steadfast Defender 2024 exercise, whereby 90,000 soldiers prepare to wage a “defensive” war against a “near-peer” competitor in Germany, Poland and the Baltic states. There is no doubt that these military drills are directed against Russia because there can be no other “near-peer” rival in this region of the world. Despite Russia’s calls for negotiations and dialogue on the shared and indivisible security of Europe and the European people’s willingness to use peaceful methods to end the conflict in Ukraine, the US-led Western alliance seems committed to expanding the frontlines to other regions and defeating Russia on the battlefield.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply