NATO Welcomes Scandinavian Air Patrols Over Iceland
November 15, 2012
NATO welcomes Nordic air surveillance of Iceland
HELSINKI, Finland: NATO welcomed plans by non-NATO members Finland and Sweden to patrol airspace over Iceland, the head of the defence alliance said Thursday.
“It is a concrete example of how to promote Nordic defence cooperation,” Anders Fogh Rasmussen said during a visit to Finland.
Iceland, a NATO member, lacks its own airforce and military. In 2006 the United States announced it would no longer station permanent defence forces in the North Atlantic country and closed its Keflavik air base.
Since then NATO members have taken turns patrolling Iceland’s airspace.
Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden have in recent years discussed closer defence cooperation, one area mentioned was air patrols over Iceland. Denmark and Norway are also NATO members.
Addressing a joint news conference with Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen, Rasmussen said the Finnish and Swedish planes would be unarmed while NATO planes would be in charge of “the identification of unidentified planes…though this did not happen often” over Iceland.
Rasmussen said if Finland opts not to take part in the air surveillance, the decision would not affect its relations with NATO.
Russian premier Dmitry Medvedev, who visited Helsinki on Wednesday, said it was up to Finland to decide where it wanted to patrol.
North Atlantic Treaty Organization
November 15, 2012
Finland: a valued Nordic partner
Finland is among NATO’s most active, committed and effective partners. The country currently contributes to the NATO-led operations in Kosovo and Afghanistan, and has also indicated its willingness to participate in the post-2014 follow-on mission to train, advise and assist the Afghan forces.
Beyond operations and missions, Finland actively participates in NATO exercises and a number of projects aimed at developing military capabilities and training. The NATO Secretary General visited the capital Helsinki on 14 and 15 November to discuss how to further strengthen cooperation.
Finland joined NATO’s Partnership for Peace in 1994 and has been an active member of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council since it was established 1997.
Addressing military personnel, defence officials and security experts at the Autumn Assembly of Finnish National Defence Courses, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen praised Finland as a “model partner” because of its strong commitment to cooperative security.
The Secretary General pointed to three main areas where he saw the potential for further strengthening NATO’s partnership with Finland: “First, helping Afghanistan to stand on its own feet; second, improving the ability of our forces to operate alongside each other; and third, working together to develop military capabilities.”
Contributions to NATO-led operations
Finnish soldiers have been working alongside Allied forces as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan since 2002.
Currently, around 135 Finnish personnel are deployed in the country, primarily with a Provincial Reconstruction Team in the north of the country – this is a reduction from the some 195 troops that were deployed in September, marking the start of a drawdown in forces as the lead for security is being transitioned from ISAF to Afghan forces. The focus of the Finnish contribution is shifting towards training and capacity-building of Afghan security forces.
Finland has indicated its willingness to participate in the NATO-led mission to train, assist and advice Afghan forces, which will be deployed at the end of 2014, once the transition to Afghan security lead has been completed and ISAF’s operation is terminated. Finnish representatives are currently participating in consultations on the shape and scope of the new mission.
Finnish forces have also played significant roles in securing peace in the former Yugoslavia. Some 22 soldiers are now operating with the NATO-led KFOR in Kosovo. In the past, Finland contributed a battalion to the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In the context of Nordic defence cooperation, the Finnish government recently expressed its readiness to contribute to air surveillance over Iceland, along with Sweden, as part of a Norwegian deployment in early 2014.
Developing interoperable forces
To ensure that its forces will easily plug into NATO-led operations, working alongside counterparts from NATO and partner countries, Finland regularly participates in exercises organized by NATO.
Most recently, Finnish personnel took part in Exercise Steadfast Juncture 2012, which took place from 1 to 8 November 2012 at the Amari Air Base, Estonia. This was a command post exercise, which focused on the command and control of a fictitious NATO-led crisis response operation involving the NATO Response Force (NRF). Finland makes valuable contributions to the NRF’s pool of forces and the NRF is expected to play a greater role in exercising Allied and partner forces in future.
Finland itself also makes an important contribution to training the forces of partner countries, particularly in peacekeeping, through the Finnish Defence Forces International Centre in Ninisalo, which NATO formally recognized as a Partnership for Peace Training Centre in July 2001.
Developing military capabilities
In these times of economic austerity, multinational approaches to generating military capabilities through pooling and sharing, prioritisation and specialization are essential. NATO is taking steps to address this need through projects launched under the Smart Defence initiative, and is hoping to explore opportunities with partners in this area.
Finland is already working with Nordic NATO Allies and partners on a number of projects in this area. These include the establishment of a joint multinational headquarters in Germany, a harbor protection system and a deployable system for the surveillance of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear agents.
Strategic airlift is another area in which Finland is making a valuable contribution to capabilities, participating along with Sweden and ten NATO Allies in the operation of three C-17 transport aircraft based in Hungary.