norway nato exercise JOHAN FALNES/AFP/Getty Images

The End of Scandinavian Non-Alignment

Massive NATO exercises in Norway this fall will include forces from two key non-NATO countries: Sweden and Finland. With no time to waste, Scandinavia is finally breaking fully with the Cold-War era doctrine of neutrality, and embracing a more prudent and proactive defense policy.

STOCKHOLM – Having debarked from ports in western Sweden, military convoys from various NATO countries are crowding Swedish streets and prompting the police to issue traffic warnings. They are on their way to Norway, where some 50,000 soldiers, airmen, and seamen will come together for NATO’s largest military exercise in years. The operation – “Trident Juncture” – has a clear goal: to demonstrate the alliance’s ability to defend Norway against a foreign aggressor.

There is no need to name the potential aggressor. Obviously, it is not Sweden or Finland, both of which have contributed soldiers to the exercise. During the Cold War, Finland did occasionally come under Soviet pressure as the Kremlin sought to expand its room for maneuver. But it always remained firm in its commitment to defend its Nordic and Western identity.

Similarly, Sweden has always abstained from joining NATO, owing to its longstanding geopolitical neutrality, and out of solidarity with the Finns. And while Denmark and Norway did join the alliance, they long opted out of hosting foreign forces during peacetime.