Nordic Leaders With Joint Move on the Cap of the North Ahead of NATO Summit

Fra trilateralt møte i Bodø

Finland's President Alexander Stubb (Coalition Party), Norway's Pm Jonas Gahr Støre (Labor), and Sweden's PM Ulf Kristersson (Moderates) during a press conference at the Norwegian Joint Headquarters in Bodø. (Photo: Hilde-Gunn Bye)

Bodø (High North News): "We need a shared political understanding on how to maintain peace, stability, and order here in the North," says Norwegian PM Jonas Gahr Støre. Recently, he gathered Swedish and Finnish top politicians in Bodø to discuss the long-term defense planning of the Northern Nordic region. 

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Defense cooperation between the Nordic countries was on the agenda when Norwegian PM Jonas Gahr Støre met Sweden's prime minister and Finland's president in Bodø, Northern Norway, last week.

The meeting takes place only weeks before the major NATO summit in Washington DC this summer, and the discussions in Bodø facilitated the three Nordic countries embarking on the meeting with a more unified agenda, says the Swedish PM Ulf Kristersson.

Statslederne i Finland, Sverige og Norge om bord kystvaktskipet KV Svalbard

This week, PM Jonas Gahr Støre welcomed Finland's president and Sweden's PM aboard the coast guard vessel KV Svalbard, which was docked in Bodø. (Photo: Hilde-Gunn Bye)

"Considering Sweden and Finland being new members, we greatly appreciate being part of discussions ahead of the big meeting. Many of the topics revolved around Ukraine, but also the long-term defense planning in the northern part of the Nordic region," says Kristersson to High North News.

"We have much to learn. Norway has been part of the alliance for a long time, and we are gathering impressions to plan our operations," he adds.

Joint political understanding

PM Jonas Gahr Støre elaborates that the meeting in Bodø is an opportunity to deepen the political conversations on what he calls the Northern Nordic region.

"We need a joint political understanding on how to maintain peace, stability, and order in the North. In that regard, it is a good tradition for the political leaders of our three countries to meet," emphasizes Støre.

Fra statsledernes besøk om bord KV Svalbard

PM Jonas Gahr Støre invited the state leaders of Sweden and Finland to two days in Bodø, discussing deepened cooperation between the countries on security and peace on the Cap of the North. (Photo: Hilde-Gunn Bye)

"Our defense people are already in good contact and have worked on coordination for years. Norway, Sweden, and Finland being in the same defense alliance and having the same NATO procedures provides increased opportunities. I wish to lift this to a governmental and heads of state level so that we can politically discuss what opportunities and challenges this provides," he says to HNN.

What do you say to the Swedish PM and the Finnish president about deterrence and the importance of balance in the North regarding Russia, for example?

"Norway has a long tradition for what we call deterrence and reassurance. Deterrence consists of our own defense and NATO. Reassurance is about being predictable, long-term, and recognizable. I want to share this combination with them; how we have practiced this since 1949," says Støre.

Infrastructure and logistics on the agenda

"This meeting also provides the opportunity to share Norway's perspective with our Swedish and Finnish colleagues, namely that we are an ocean state, what this entails for Norwegian defense, and how Norway organizes itself. Sweden and Finland have other geographical perspectives that we will now coordinate," continues the Norwegian PM.

According to him, it will now be important for the political leaders to discuss how the countries' infrastructure will be developed so that they can support each other. 

During the press conference at the Norwegian Joint Headquarters in Bodø, Støre could inform that the heads of state want the countries' defence ministers to further develop the corridors between the countries in the North.

"We have been given a strengthened mission to continue working to achieve concrete solutions on military mobility so that we can maneuver across the Cap of the North between the countries to ensure the best operative ability and mobility," elaborates the Norwegian MoD Bjørn Arild Gram in an interview.

Fra toppmøte i Bodø

From the left: Finland's MoD Antti Häkkänen, Norway's MoD Bjørn Arild Gram, Finland's President Alexander Stubb, Norway's PM Jonas Gahr Støre, Sweden's PM Ulf Kristersson, and Sweden's MoD Pål Jonsson at the Norwegian Joint Headquarters. (Photo: Hilde-Gunn Bye).

"Since the Nordic region are NATO members, we face a new situation. In Sweden, it has been normal to talk about the north-south dimension. Now we must also talk about the east-west and the west-east," adds Sweden's PM Kristersson. 

"We must connect the geography to a higher degree than before," he continues.

The development of military mobility includes allied reinforcement to arrive in Norway in a possible crisis and further move into Sweden and toward Finland. If the Baltic Sea area is blocked, this is the only route in and out for support to Finland, emphasizes Finnish President Alexander Stubb during the press conference at the NJHQ.

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Fra trilateralt møte i Bodø

The ministers of defence from Sweden, Norway, and Finland met in Bodø at the same time as the heads of state visited the Nordland capital. (Photo: Hilde-Gunn Bye)

New NATO command structure

The Norwegian MoD Bjørn Arild Gram further elaborated on NATO's new command structure and regional defense plans, which will be among the topics addressed at the NATO summit in Washington DC in July.

After Sweden's and Finland's accession to NATO, one of the questions has been what command the two countries would belong to. At the NATO defence ministers' meeting on June 14th, 2024, NATO defence ministers gave their political backing to organising the Nordic countries under JFC Norfolk, located in the state of Virginia, USA.

This is NATO's newest operational level command, responsible for the Atlantic Ocean and the High North.

"There is an MoU of the Nordic countries belonging to the same command," says the Nordic MoD, adding that much work still remains to build up the command.

"The Nordic countries are jointly concerned with ensuring that the command becomes operative as soon as possible. Norway significantly increases its number of positions and our contribution to the command in the next year," he says and concludes:

"Being under the same joint operational level command, as well as having the same regional defense plan, will be a good framework for developing the Nordic defense cooperation."

NATO's new command structure in short

NATO's new regional plans were approved at the NATO summit in Vilnius in the summer of 2023. These involve, among other things, a build-up of the Joint Force Command Norfolk in Virginia.

The command was established in the US state of Virginia in the fall of 2019. It is the NATO command with area responsibility for the Atlantic Ocean and the High North.

NATO now has three operational level headquarters: Naples in Italy, Brunssum in the Netherlands, and Norfolk in the USA.

Before the transfer to JFC Norfolk, Norway officially belongs to JFC Brunssum.

A final decision on the force command's organization is expected at the summit in Washington DC in July.

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