What Finland and Sweden would do in Iceland - It’s clear for NATO

Torstaina, 15. marraskuuta 2012     0 kommentti(a)

If identification flights are needed they would be taken care of by a NATO member – Norway

Finnish Air Force Hornets, Picture: Henrik Elo Finnish Air Force Hornets, Picture: Henrik Elo

During the past months Finnish security policy debate has focused on potential Finnish and Swedish participation with Norway, in NATO’s Peacetime Preparedness Mission over Iceland. The debate has reached dramatic proportions, as the Finnish Parliament has demanded a selonteko – effectively a tool for a vote of confidence – prior to giving its support to Finnish participation. What has made this even more unusual is that one of the two major parties in the government, the Social Democratic Party, has joined the opposition parties in demanding this heavy approach.

It is not surprising that the average Finn is confused, as government officials (and subsequently other commentators, myself included) have spoken about the nature of Finnish participation in so many different terms, ultimately obscuring what appears to be a simple reality. The major issue is whether Finland was going to participate in training and exercising (T&E) or actually also perform identification flights, if unidentified planes approached Icelandic / NATO airspace. This confusion is somewhat understandable considering the mixing of NORDEFCO (Nordic Defence Cooperation) efforts and a NATO mission but is notable when compared with how clearly NATO views the matter.

NATO welcomes Finnish and Swedish participation in its Peacetime Preparedness Mission, as a part of the Norwegian effort. Nordic Defence Cooperation, which is the umbrella under which Finland and Sweden would join Norway in Iceland, is in NATO’s view an excellent example of regional Smart Defence. NATO sees the efforts over Iceland as air surveillance with a focus on training and exercising. Under NATO standards, this kind of training and exercising occurs unarmed. If identification flights are needed (a rare occurrence) they would be taken care of by a NATO member – Norway.

For Finland the conclusions are clear: Finland and Sweden can train with a NATO member (Norway) and while expanding Nordic Defence Cooperation, also improve interoperability amongst themselves. Because the Finnish and Swedish planes would not be doing identification flights, or otherwise taking over tasks of Alliance members, they would simply be training and exercising. This is nothing new. Finland, Sweden and Norway train over each other’s airspace almost weekly. The only new twists are a new geographic location and potentially some new scenarios within the exercises.

Once the NATO Council approves Finnish and Swedish participation, both Finland and Sweden should be able to proceed with planning. The government and President both having made the political commitment to participate, it seems inconceivable that the Finnish Parliament would vote to reject participation. After all, Finland has done considerably more demanding things under the aegis of NATO, and cross-border training between the countries involved is frequent. What Parliament might ask is, how can such a simple thing (from NATO’s perspective) be communicated so convolutedly – how would we fair if a real security policy crisis broke out?

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