The main tool for Nordic-UK military cooperation has been the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF), comprised of 10 Northern European countries. Since it includes the Baltic states, the framework is also a link between Baltic defence and the changing Nordic security environment. Launched in 2012, the Joint Expeditionary Force is seen as an agile provider of a rapid military response should Russia attack one of its members.
JEF can already be seen as the embodiment of the shared challenges of the Nordic countries and the UK, and it is precisely these threats that this force is preparing for. During the ministerial meeting in summer of 2021, ministers from JEF member states signed the JEF Policy Direction document, which provided an overarching policy framework for the Joint Expeditionary Force. Further, it set key principles for cooperation, such as the principal geographic area of interest in the High North, North Atlantic and Baltic Sea region.
The bilateral and multilateral defence cooperation between respective Nordic countries and the UK has also contributed to the interoperability of the armed forces. The latest example of this is from May 2022, when British land forces participated in the ARROW 22 exercise in Finland.
The Bastion of the North
A challenge, thus far, has been that all these defence arrangements have had to take into consideration all the defence solutions and allegiances that the Nordic and Baltic countries, as well as the UK, have. This has limited the depth of defence cooperation to some extent, but at the same time, it has emphasized and arguably increased the interoperability of these armed forces and paved the way for even closer cooperation.
With advanced militaries, Finland and Sweden would be net contributors to NATO security in the North. If all Nordic countries were members in the Alliance together with the UK, NATO would be able to cover both the Northern and Eastern flanks in Europe. Moreover, the Nordics would, together with the UK, be able to increase the stability and security in the Arctic, Nordic, and Baltic regions.
The UK has capabilities that would help to secure the region and deter Russia. It could be an invaluable partner for the Nordic countries, supplementing their strengths.
Taking into consideration the proximity of these countries as well as their cultural and historical ties, this Northern group (Nordics + the UK) could form a well-functioning force structure that would outrank any other European power.