When I started working on this article I had the idea of writing more about the background of things around Lapland but Karlis Neretnieks beat me to it so I will not repeat what he already wrote. So to better understand the situation in High North I suggest you read this http://karlisn.blogspot.com/2018/10/nato-and-scandinavian-strategic.html?spref=tw.
As the title implies the focus will be regionally around arctic circle and above. I will take a look at the units and compositions of both Nordic armies and Russian army in the region, how the three Nordic countries are entwined with each other through different organizations and how they could improve their interoperability and prepare for the worst.
Santa and Ded Moroz are arming
Finland, Sweden, Norway, Russia, USA and UK are the key players in Lapland region. Nordic countries and Russia through their geographical location and USA&UK through the troops they have deployed or will deploy to Norway. USMC has currently about 300 soldiers on rotation in Norway which will be ramped up to 600 in upcoming years and UK will station 800 Royal Marines in Norway by end of 2019. USMC also has prepositioned stocks for entire Marine Brigade in Norway. Norway itself is planning to set up a new mechanised battalion in Finnmark region. Standing peacetime units as of 10/2018 are in the picture below. Only land and air units are accounted for.
Norway has improved combat capability of Brigade Nord substantially by introducing both new and upgraded CV9030 MKIVs into service and is in the process of receiving South Korean made K9 self propelled howitzers. The question about future of Norwegian heavy armor remains open because no decision about whether to scrap or upgrade current Leo 2A4s or buy entirely new tanks has not been made. 331. squadron together with 332. will relocate to Orland in the upcoming years leaving only a small QRF detachment in Evenes.
Sweden’s major units in north are I 19 which consists of two mechanised battalion, ranger battalion and a number of HV and other units. Close by is A9 which is the sole artillery unit in Swedish Army and it’s equipment consists of Archers. While capable system the two battalions operate only 24 howitzers in total. F 21 in Luleå holds two squadrons worth of Jas 39s.
Finnish units in arctic region include Jääkäriprikaati which also consists of ROVITPSTO ( Rovaniemen ilmatorjuntapatteristo, Rovaniemi anti-air battalion), Lapin Lennosto (Lapland Air Command) and Ivalo Borderjäger company. Jääkäriprikaati is training brigade whose peacetime strength consists of approx. 140 professional soldiers and 900 conscripts. The brigade also has a readiness unit (Fi. Valmiusyksikkö, more on the subject here https://corporalfrisk.com/tag/readiness-units/). As evident by the picture below the unit sports a wide assortment of capabilities: tanks, heavy artillery and anti-air missiles. Ivalo Borderjäger company trains recon and guerrilla troops to Border Guard wartime reserve.
On the Russian side we have three combat brigades, aviation base and AA brigade. Northern Fleet Joint Strategic Command was founded in 2014 and command the units that were parts of Western Military District until that. 80th MR brigade was only recently brought back into service and has been in built up phase for few years and not yet fully functional as a brigade though it might be able to field a high readiness battlegroup.
Nordic countries are heavily involved in training with each other. Most of the cross border training has been between air forces of the three countries and Finnish and Swedish armies. Last year in Rovajärvi in Joint Fires Exercise all three were present, Norwegians with FIST teams and Swedes with Archers. We’re slowly seeing cooperation take deeper meaning and shaping up to actual interoperability between Nordic countries.
Next step is logically to increase common training, deepen partnership and develop better understanding of the world around us and of each other. With this also comes problems from the political side of things. While we have excellent dialog with each other we’re all also depending on different organizations and things in our national defence. Norway being NATO member has benefit of article V while Finland and Sweden don’t. Developing better interoperability could at some point require common upper echelon under which all the units in Arctic region would operate. There were some common features in Finnish and Swedish operational planning during WW2 and Cold War but those never came to fruition. As shown in the Venn diagram below Finland, Sweden and Norway all stem from slightly different conditions.
Common EU defence is not deep rooted right now and most likely will never be a thing with most of the EU members being part of NATO at the same time. Joint Expeditionary Force which is lead by UK is, as name implies, aimed towards expeditionary missions but can be used for national defence. Does JEF have some sort of independent HQ is unknown and also unlikely. Any JEF operation would very likely be UN or NATO operation acting under those conditions. While not entirely matter for the military alone, the political side of joint FISENO HQ could be a sore topic in some of the countries. For good or bad, Russian militarization of the North has also caused ripples in Nordic countries becoming more open to bigger military spending and perhaps much deeper cooperation.
My proposition is to set up a joint and cross border regional HQ that plans and executes all combat operations at Arctic circle and above. Looking at the options as to under what organization the HQ could fall under they look bleak. Finland, Sweden and Norway have no other common military background other than JEF which I’m slightly doubtful of. Therefore at the moment the best option would be to set up one on their own. A quasi Nordic NATO, you say? Well, it kind of is. It would be foolish not to seize any opportunity to deter Russian aggression. With this step we could create a venerable force in Arctic region that is much more than the sum of the three countries’ forces up there. If at some point Finland and Sweden join NATO it would fluidly become a NATO command.
Table of units, their approximate strenght and equipment
|Brigade Nord||Full||100+ CV90s, ~40 Leo 2A4s, 18 M109s|
|Jääkäriprikaati||900 conscripts + 140 career soldiers||BVs, towed mortars, ZU-23-2s, Crotale, 155 K 83-97, Leo 2A4s|
|Ivalon RJK||100?||Snowmobiles, ATVs|
|A9||2 BNs||~24 Archers|
|I 19||~2200||2x Armoured BNs (CV9040s, Leos), Ranger BN|
|80th||50-70%||MLTBs, BVs, T-80s, 2S19s, BM-21s|
|200th||Full||MTLBs, BVs, T-80s, 2S19s, BM-21s|
|61th||Full||MTLBs, BVs, T-80s, 2S19s, BM-21s|
|F 21||2 Squadrons||Jas 39|
|Lapin Lennosto||1 Squadron||F/A-18 C/D|
|331. Squadron||1 Squadron||F-16|
|6964th Aviation base||?||SU-24|