Three exercises, one scenario: Russia
The three exercises are:
- Joint Viking
- Joint Warrior
- Arctic Forge
Joint Viking and Joint Warrior include some 20,000 soldiers from seven NATO members, plus Sweden and Finland. While Joint Warrior is British-led and takes place at sea, Joint Viking includes warfare training on land. The majority of the troops participating are Norwegian and the exercise is the largest in 2023 in the European Arctic. Most activity will be concentrated in Ofoten and Troms.
Allied deployment to protect North Norway, good preparedness and well-trained military forces are more important than ever before, the Norwegian Armed Forces state ahead of the kick-off on March 6.
Russia’s all-out war in Ukraine has deteriorated the security situation in Europe sharply over the last year. Up north, Finland and Sweden have decided to join NATO, making the area one theatre in potential war operation if Moscow should decide to escalate its conflict with western neighbors.
The three Nordic countries are already planning for sharing joint forces, but details on locations and responsibilities for air forces, navies and army structures are still to be decided.
Next March will see the largest NATO exercise since the Cold War up North. Governments of Norway, Sweden and Finland are already planning, but two things are made public; the exercise will be larger than Cold Response 2022, and the name will be Nordic Response 2024.
With Finland’s membership, NATO’s frontier with Russia will more than double, from today’s 1,200 km to 2,575 km. From Poland, Kaliningrad by the Baltic Sea to Norway-Russia by the coast to the Barents Sea.
Although not yet a full member, Finland’s cooperation with NATO has intensified with US troops present at one exercise followed by the other since early 2022, as previously reported by the Barents Observer.
Simultaneously as Joint Viking starts in Norway are light infantry and battalion headquarters’ elements from the US Army in Lapland, training with the Jager Brigade in Sodankylä.
“The training event is on a continuum of long-term cooperation between the Finnish Army and the US Army that further intensified in 2022. The objective of joint exercising is to develop our tactical interoperability in the arctic conditions of Northern Finland,” Commander of the Army, Lieutenant General Pasi Välimäki.
The US Army participation in Lapland is part of Arctic Forge, a drill aimed to train U.S. contributions to partner-hosted exercises, like the ones happening in northern Norway and Finland. The exercises are separate in structure, but with a common aim: Training allied reinforcement of northernmost Scandinavia in case of a conflict with Russia.
Enforcement of northern Finland in case of conflict will automatically involve the northern regions of Norway and Sweden as allied weaponry will be landed on the Norwegian coast and sent through Sweden towards Lapland.
Joint Warrior is a navy exercise training to protect the Norwegian Sea, including landing operations related to the Joint Viking. Led by the United Kingdom, 16 warships and 58 aircraft from 14 nations will participate.
NATO commanders will visit Russian border
Although Joint Viking takes place in Troms, some 400 km west of Norway’s border with Russia, some NATO commanders will fly east and with their own eyes see over the border towards the Kola Peninsula.
“Military leaders from NATO and partner nation Sweden [will] meet in the northernmost part of NATO to further enhance security cooperation in the High North,” a statement from the Norwegian Armed Forces informs.
The visit to the Pasvik Border Station will take place on March 9 and will be followed by a media event.
Key leaders from NATO command structure, USA France, the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden will drive snowmobiles on the frozen Pasvik River, the waterway that forms the Norwegian-Russian border in the area.
This will be the second year in a row that top NATO leaders make a visit to the Pasvik border station. Last winter, during exercise Cold Response, the two commanders of the Allied Joint Forces Command Brunssum and Joint Force Command Norfolk went on a snowmobile tour along the Russian border together with the Chief of Norway’s Joint Headquarters.
Read the Barents Observer’s recent story from patrolling the Pasvik River with Norwegian border guards.