“A new era for Nordic defence” with every Nordic country a member of NATO

22.11.22 | News
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Nordic co-operation on defence must be updated in order to bolster collaboration once Sweden and Finland join NATO. This was revealed at a recent meeting between the Presidium of the Nordic Council, the defence committee of the Nordic parliaments, and representatives of the body for Nordic defence co-operation, Nordefco.

“Nordefco is becoming all the more relevant now that all the Nordic countries are joining NATO. There’s now the opportunity to co-ordinate the defence of the Nordic Region. Nordefco has been a success and needs to be updated to cater for the new security policy reality,” said Håkon Lunde Saxi, docent at the Norwegian Defence University College, at the meeting.

The Nordic Defence Co-operation (Nordefco) was launched in 2009 in a completely different security situation than we have today. Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine as well as Finland’s and Sweden’s upcoming membership of NATO mean that Nordic defence co-operation needs to be adapted to today’s situation.

On the occasion of the new security policy situation and the imminent update for Nordefco, the Presidium of the Nordic Council invited the current chair of Nordefco, Norwegian Minister of Defence Bjørn Arild Gram, and the leaders of the Nordic parliamentary defence committees to an annual roundtable meeting on defence policy. This year’s meeting was hosted at the Norwegian parliament in Oslo with the aim of discussing what the future of Nordic co-operation on defence will look like.  

“Nordic parliamentarians are engaged in the ongoing development of Nordic co-operation on defence. It’s important to have an arena where we can discuss Nordic defence co-operation with the Nordic governments,” says Jorodd Asphjell, leader of the Norwegian parliamentary delegation to the Nordic Council and acting President of the Nordic Council.

“Co-ordinate the defence of the Nordic Region”

The defence chiefs of Sweden, Finland, Norway, and Denmark recently issued a joint advisory to their respective governments. In it they make a clear recommendation for how Nordic co-operation on defence can be organised once all the Nordic countries are members of NATO. They want to see closer co-operation.

“We recommend close co-operation with as much joint planning as possible to defend the Nordic Region, which should also include total defence,” says Eirik Kristoffersen, Norway’s Chief of Defence.

The meeting in Oslo on 15 November was a warm-up for the defence ministers’ meeting in Oslo this week, where work on the design of an updated Nordefco will commence.

“New era for Nordic security policy”

During the meeting of the Nordic Council, it was agreed at the political and military level that Sweden’s and Finland’s membership of NATO will lead to more opportunities for Nordic co-operation on defence.

“Just look at the map of the Nordic Region. Membership gives us the opportunity to use the airspace across borders. It gives us a much larger area to operate in, more bases to land at, and not least the opportunity to move our own forces from south to north through Sweden and Finland. And as members of NATO, this means that we have allies who are obliged to support each other,” explains Kristoffersen.

Like Kristoffersen, Norway’s Minister of Defence, Bjørn Arild Gram, emphasises how having all the Nordic countries in NATO will mark a new era for military co-operation in the Nordic Region.

“There’s no doubt that Sweden’s and Finland’s membership of NATO will herald a new era for Nordic security policy. A united Nordic Region in NATO provides huge potential for Nordic co-operation on defence,” he says.

New vision for Nordefco

“Nordefco must be updated within the framework of NATO. At our ministerial meeting in Oslo, we’ll commence work on a new vision for Nordefco,” says Arild Gram. 

The Nordic ministers for defence will start work on updating the vision for Nordefco this week. The new vision will be presented in 2023 and is expected to emphasise the co-ordination of Nordic defence within the framework of NATO.

A safer Nordic Region

Norway holds the Presidency of the Nordic Council next year. A safe Nordic Region is a top priority for the forthcoming presidency.

“In light of Russia’s attack on Ukraine and Finland’s and Sweden’s NATO applications, the security policy picture has changed. That’s why the debate on Nordic co-operation on defence is especially relevant right now. A safe Nordic Region will be a top priority for the Norwegian presidency of the Nordic Council in 2023,” says Asphjell.