Nordic countries expanding their Defense Doctrine

In the face of evolving security challenges and the subsequent escalation of tensions in the region, the Nordic countries have embarked on a proactive path, embracing collaborative measures. They are actively engaged in developing a broad Nordic defense approach that not only aims to enhance military cooperation among Nordic nations but also aligns with broader defense strategies, reaffirming the region’s commitment to steering an increasingly complex geopolitical environment.

Amid Russia’s assertive actions and escalating tensions in the region, the Nordic countries are proactively responding with collaborative measures. Sweden, Norway, and Finland have initiated efforts to create a unified Nordic air defense system to enhance regional security. There is also a growing support for the concept of establishing a Nordic air operations center, with discussions about its potential development in the Arctic. The Chief of the Norwegian Air Force has emphasized that the United States and the United Kingdom are natural partners for this initiative, highlighting the importance of international cooperation in addressing regional security challenges.

Enhancing cross-border security cooperation has emerged as a critical regional defense concern within the Nordic Council. With Norway assuming the rotating presidency in 2023, it underscores the region’s dedication to bolstering security measures. The Nordic Council’s 75th Session is slated to take place in Oslo, providing a platform for addressing these issues.

As Russia’s military actions and strategic maneuvers continue to raise concerns in the Nordic region, Denmark has taken a proactive stance by pledging to donate an additional 45 tanks to Ukraine, reflecting their commitment in in bolstering Ukraine’s military resources. This act comes in the wake of a highly publicized event where Denmark transferred F16 fighter jets to Ukraine, with President Zelensky in attendance during the ceremony held in Copenhagen.

Some of the concerns rely on experts who suggest that Russia is fortifying its Leningrad military region, which includes areas of potential operations, notably Estonia and Finland. This involves the establishment of new military bases along the border and reinforcement efforts. As Finland has applied to become a NATO member, its region has transformed into a focal point for strategic considerations. Accordingly, NATO, recognizing the evolving security landscape, convened its Military Committee in Oslo from September 15th to 17th. This conference, attended by chiefs of defense from NATO’s 31 member countries, addressed critical issues related to deterrence, defense posture, and the ongoing security challenges in Europe, as the war in Ukraine has prompted NATO to reevaluate its strategic priorities.

In line with these developments, Denmark has adopted a forward-looking defense strategy that places an enhanced emphasis on the Arctic, encompassing Greenland and the Faroe Islands as integral countries under their jurisdiction. Consequently, Denmark has resumed the production of its own munitions to replenish depleted stocks, due to the ongoing conflict. Furthermore, Denmark is actively pursuing closer defense cooperation with fellow Nordic countries to safeguard critical infrastructure and address the hazards, particularly in the Arctic and Baltic Sea regions. In June 2022, Denmark and the Faroe Islands agreed for installing an early-warning radar system on the archipelago. Lately, the Faroe Islands have also extended their ban on Russian vessels from entering their ports. This move aligns with the Danish government’s commitment to defense, with a proposed investment of 143 DKK billion over the next decade, with Minister of Defense Troels Lund Poulsen emphasizing the high priority given to the Faroe Islands and Greenland.

Likewise, Norway’s Chief of Defense has affirmed a dedication to fortifying military capabilities in the northern regions. This commitment mirrors the nation’s strategic deliberations and security imperatives in the Arctic and its border territories. Key measures encompass the arming of the Brigade Nord and the reinforcement of the land defense in Finnmark with short-range air defense systems tailored for countering drones. Furthermore, collaborative training sessions involving American and Finnish air forces are underway in Lapland, in Northern Finland, with the primary objective of enhancing the Finnish Air Force’s capacity for host nation support. Conversely, the Russian Northern Fleet’s destroyer Admiral Ushakov engaged in live-fire shooting exercises in the Barents Sea, while the anti-submarine ship Onega was practicing its skills in submarine hunting within the White Sea.

The Nordic resolve to enhance military capabilities in the High North aligns with the backdrop of tensions along Arctic trade routes, especially in the vicinity of Russia. A US scientific expedition has dispatched the Coast Guard icebreaker Healy to the East Siberian Sea, where it encountered cargo vessels navigating Russia’s Arctic waters. Although the vessel’s presence in an area that Russia claims as its Northern Sea Route is significant, it’s essential to exercise caution before drawing any assumption regarding US’s intention in the region.

One conceivable implication pertains to Russia’s supply chain dynamics. The Black Sea plays a key role in facilitating the export of Russian oil to global markets. Notably, approximately 60 million barrels of crude oil, equivalent to a third of Russia’s total exports, are dispatched through the port of Novorossiysk on a monthly basis. Recent developments and heightened tensions in the Black Sea region could potentially expedite Russia’s endeavors to leverage the Northern Sea Route for transporting crude oil, particularly in reaching Asian markets. Traditionally, shipping traffic along the Northern Sea Route experiences its peak during September and October, leading experts to anticipate a surge in oil shipments to China within the next two to three months.

In tandem with this vision, there are ongoing efforts to outline a new Nordic defense doctrine. This doctrine aims to foster closer military collaboration among Nordic countries, complementing collective European and transatlantic defense initiatives. Consequently, one of the primary concerns for the Nordic countries is to proceed cautiously in response to regional developments near their borders while also managing the reduction of military presence to ensure that deterrence capabilities remain intact.

About the Author
Nir Levitan is a Ph.D. from Bar-Ilan University's Graduate Program in Conflict Resolution, Management and Negotiation. Currently, he is a research fellow at Europa Institute and a research affiliate at Center for Cold War Studies at the University of Southern Denmark