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Navy League 2023: Finland's Arctic naval expertise cited for NATO operations

Exercises like ‘Cold Response' in Norway help NATO countries prepare for Arctic operations. (Janes/Michael Fabey)

NATO will benefit from Finland's Arctic naval experience, naval experts said on 3 April during the annual Navy League Sea-Air-Space conference 2023 held in National Harbor, Maryland.

The new NATO member will be particularly helpful as naval mining and countermine operations become a greater consideration, James Foggo, a retired US Navy (USN) admiral who is now the dean of the Navy League's Center for Maritime Strategy, said during conference panel.

“Finland still has more than one minelayer,” Foggo said. “Think about [the] tremendous capability for our naval alliance. We may have to use that in the future, should tensions increase.”

The very location of Finland – and Sweden, which also is looking to join NATO – will help with operations in the High North, particularly submarine operations, said USN Vice Admiral William Houston, commander of Naval Submarine Forces; Submarine Force, US Atlantic Fleet; and Allied Submarine Command.

He noted the “tremendous opportunity” for additional sea routes and “new passageways” in the region.

Operating under ice poses difficulties, he said. “It is different.”

Vice Adm Houston noted how valuable Arctic training had proved to be in places like Norway, where the US Marine Corps has participated in ‘Cold Response' exercises.

He said it would be “critical” to work on “resilience” in operating in the High North latitudes and “build up the infrastructure … it's not just Alaska, it's that North Atlantic area”.

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