Summary

This Finnish Foreign Policy Paper examines NATO’s evolving role in Northern Europe. It tracks the development of the alliance’s foothold in and approach to the region from the early Cold War years to the present era. Moreover, it contextualizes the region within NATO’s politico-military decision-making system, characterized by diverse threat perceptions and strategic divergences. The study also sheds light on Finland’s contribution to NATO’s collective defence in Northern Europe and beyond.

Northern Europe has become a central arena for NATO’s deterrence and defence efforts, in stark contrast to its Cold War role as a subordinate flank of the Central European theatre. Finland has a key role in this emerging allied regional architecture. It is a militarily capable Baltic-Arctic bulwark protecting its allies in the Western and Southern directions. Although Finland’s defence mindset will continue to be marked by a notable national orientation, Helsinki is seriously seeking to build a middle-ground approach that strikes a functional balance between national and collective defence tasks and contributions.

Research Fellow
Senior Research Fellow
Visiting Research Fellow
Senior Research Fellow
Henri Vanhanen
Research Fellow