NATO begins defense exercise of newly formed Nordic region

HELSINKI (AP) — NATO launched an exercise Monday to defend its newly annexed Nordic region in which more than 20,000 troops from 13 countries will take part in exercises that will last about two weeks in northern Finland, Norway and Sweden.

According to the Finnish military, with more than 4,000 Finnish troops, the Norwegian-led Nordic Response 2024 represents the largest participation ever by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization newcomer in an overseas exercise.

“For the first time, Finland will participate as a NATO member state in an exercise in collective defense of the alliance’s territories,” the Finnish Defense Forces said in a statement.

The Swedish Armed Forces indicated that approximately 4,500 personnel from its air force, army and navy would take part in the exercise, which is conducted in the harsh winter conditions of the Arctic.

Finland, which shares a 1,340-kilometre (830-mile) border with Russia, joined NATO in April 2023 in a historic move after decades of military non-alignment. Now that its candidacy has been approved by all NATO members, neighboring Sweden is finalizing the processes to join the military alliance as its 32nd member, possibly in March.

Both Sweden and Finland developed strong ties to NATO after the Cold War, but public opinion remained against joining the alliance until Russia invaded Ukraine.

Non-alignment was considered the best way to avoid tensions with its powerful neighbor Russia in the Baltic Sea region. But Russian aggression led to a drastic change in public opinion in both countries and they jointly applied for NATO membership in May 2022.

The pan-Nordic exercise is part of Steadfast Defender 24, NATO’s largest exercise in decades, involving more than 90,000 troops in a multi-month exercise that aims to demonstrate that the alliance is extending all its might to its borders with Russia. Can protect areas.

The countries participating in the current exercise, which runs till March 15, are Belgium, United Kingdom, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the United States.

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