Northern Europe’s Arctic Defence Agenda

David Rudd


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.

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