Finland and Sweden conduct military exercises with NATO in Norway

Around 30,000 troops take part in Cold Response 2022 as tension rises in Ukraine after Russian invasion

AP/OLIVIER MATTHYS  -   NATO Headquarters in Brussels

Norway is hosting NATO's Cold Response 2022 manoeuvres in which the Swedish and Finnish armies are taking part. The aim of the training is to help allies and partners of the international body train their troops to be prepared for cold situations on land, sea and air, according to NATO's Joint Warfare Centre. Around 30,000 troops from 27 countries in Europe and North America will take part in the exercises, which are expected to conclude on 1 April. 

Although the exercises are taking place in the midst of tensions with Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, the operations, according to NATO, have been planned since they were announced more than eight months ago. So much so that they are a regular exercise that Norway organises every two years and are therefore not related to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. 

AFP/KARL MELANDER / TT NEWS AGENCY - Soldiers from the Gotland regiment patrol in the port of Visby on 13 January 2022. - Russia's mobilisation on the Ukrainian border and the harsher tone between Russia and NATO have prompted the Swedish defence to increase its visible activities, including on Gotland in eastern Sweden.

For Sweden and Finland, however, it is an important event to participate in these exercises, as they have done with 1,600 Swedish and 680 Finnish soldiers. Due to the similar climate these countries share with Norway, their participation in Cold Response 2022 would not be aimed at manoeuvring in difficult conditions, as other countries do, but rather at boosting their 'interoperability' or ability to fight a war alongside other Western countries. 

Added to this is the factor of its position vis-à-vis Russia. "It is clear that with the security situation we have now, we are sending an important signal that there is cooperation and preparedness to defend our territory," Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said when she visited the troops. The Swedish army's head of exercise planning, Lieutenant Colonel Stefan Hedmark, also commented on the exercises, saying that "they are even more important this year because of Ukraine and the situation in our part of the world". 

AFP/ OLIVIER DOULIERY - North Atlantic Council (NAC) meeting at the Foreign Ministers' session at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, 4 March 2022

While Helsinki and Stockholm's association with the Atlantic Alliance is nothing new, since Russia's invasion of Ukraine it has pushed these nations to cooperate even more with NATO, especially after Russia's threats against the two countries. Just a few weeks ago, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova announced that it was "obvious that Finland and Sweden's NATO membership would have serious consequences". 

These recent developments have, for the first time, led to a majority of Swedes and Finns speaking out in favour of joining the Atlantic Alliance. Several military officers from the two nations insist that when the time comes for NATO membership, they will be ready. "I can assure you that on a daily basis we already have close cooperation and participation in this exercise is a strong signal," said General Jorg Vollmer, who commands NATO's flank.