Northern Europe’s Arctic Defence Agenda


  • David Rudd Defence Research and Development Canada


The demise of the Soviet Union and the decade-long atrophy of the military capabilities of the Russian Federation significantly reduced the importance of the Arctic in the minds of Western defence planners. But even as the northern European allies and their non-NATO neighbours adjusted their defence spending to suit the new strategic environment, an awareness of the importance of co-operation across a broad range of security endeavours remained. In recent years a region widely considered to have been neglected by policy-makers and defence planners immediately after the Cold War has enjoyed something of a renaissance in the security discourse. This essay will explore the contemporary defence policies of select European Nordic states as they pertain to the Arctic, as well as the potential roles of two major international organizations in which these countries hold membership(s) - NATO and the European Union (EU). Following a brief examination of each state's view of the Nordic strategic picture and a review of contemporary policy guidance, the defence postures and future plans of each state and organization will be examined. The future of Nordic defence, including interactions with the EU and NATO, will be viewed through the lens of the Stoltenberg Report - the product of high-level consultations between the states under examination. The picture that emerges is one in which the Nordic allies and partners - Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Sweden, Finland - are intent on creating forces that are more usable and deployable than was the case under the previous system of mass mobilization. All more or less agree on the factors driving the new pre-occupation with the north, even if their level of military interest in the region varies. All states emphasize presence - that is, the ability of national authorities to freely operate in areas under which they claim sovereignty. All value the contribution of other government departments to overall security - in particular, para-military forces wielding what could be termed "semi-hard" power. The latter stems from a belief that northern security challenges are multi-dimensional, and that presence and control does not always require a display of kinetic strength, as was the case during the Cold War.

Author Biography

David Rudd, Defence Research and Development Canada

David Rudd is a defence scientist with the Centre for Operational Research and Analysis, Defence Research and Development Canada, in Ottawa. He is currently the resident analyst at the Canadian Forces' Operational Support Command (CANOSCOM) where he studies the implications of NATO and Canadian military transformation for operational support, NATO-EU relations, and Arctic security. Prior to joining the Department of National Defence, Mr. Rudd served as executive director and later president of the former Canadian Institute of Strategic Studies (now part the Canadian International Council). His latest work, "The Future of Transatlantic Relations: A Canadian View", is to be published in THE FUTURE OF TRANSATLANTIC RELATIONS: PERCEPTIONS, POLICY AND PRACTICE by Stanford University Press in 2010.