New Pact Gives U.S. Military Access to 15 Bases in Finland

December 21, 2023 8:27 PM
A FInnish Border Guard member on duty in FInnish Lapland near the Russian border in 2021. FInnish Border Guard Photo

The Defense Cooperation Agreement signed Monday between Washington and Helsinki will give the American forces access to 15 installations — five in the High North near Russia — and permission to store equipment and weapons on Finnish soil.

Russia will continue to be a global security threat, Finnish Foreign Minister Elina Valtonen, speaking at the Hudson Institute shortly after the signing, said. Finland is now officially a NATO, and how it organizes is important, Valtonen said.

Finland has supported Ukraine since the Russian invasion in February 2022. Helsinki also supported NATO operations in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan. In 20 installments, Helsinki has sent $2 billion in military and economic aid to Kyiv. Valtonen added its parliament is considering a new round of support.

The bilateral agreement with the United State “just makes it easier” to store agreed upon equipment, allow for pre-positioning at four air bases, one naval base and land force installations and the movement of troops, she said. While it does cover use of large training areas in the High North, the pact does not cover nuclear weapons, nor does it call for permanent American bases in Finland.

Valtonen added the Finnish Parliament is expected to quickly approve the new pact with the United States. She said all the Nordic countries, including Sweden — not yet a NATO member — will have signed a bilateral security and technology agreement with Washington by the end of the year.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at the State Department ceremony, “We now have a network of defense cooperation agreements that stretches from northern to southern Europe, from the Norwegian Sea to the Black Sea, providing security and stability for people all across the continent.’

“We strongly focus on our sovereignty” in the discussions with the Washington, Valtonen said. At Hudson, she referred to “our grandparents’ war” with the Soviet Union in 1939 and 1940 that sharply curtailed Swedish independence. Under the new agreement, “we are there to help each other.”

Russia is a concern for Finland, which shades an 830-mile border with the country. At the signing ceremony, Blinken referred to the 1939 Winter War between the two countries.

“Finland knows almost better than anyone what is at stake for Ukraine,” Blinken said.

Finland is spending 2.4 percent of its gross domestic product on upgrading its defense, and Valtonen did not expect that level of commitment to drop any time soon. She reminded other NATO members that the 2 percent goal established several years ago was an important target for collective defense. She pointed to Ukraine as an example of what can unexpectedly happen.

“This is not just an abstract number,” but “something that might be needed,” she said.

With its consistent defense and security spending, she added, “we are not free-riders at all” in the alliance.
In response to Finland’s becoming a NATO member and anticipating Monday’s signing, Russia created a new military district on the Kola Peninsula, home to Moscow’s Northern Fleet and responsible for the country’s northwest defense.

News reports quoted President Vladimir Putin as saying, “There were no problems [along the border], but now there will be, because we will now create the Leningrad Military District there and definitely concentrate military units there.”

In her Hudson presentation, Valtonen challenged Putin’s claim of no problems along the border. She said Finland had to close crossings because the Kremlin had “weaponized migration” as Russia sent hundreds of asylum seekers from Kenya, Morocco, Syria and Yemen to the border for processing.

When asked how the war should end in Ukraine, Valtonen said that was a matter for Kyiv alone to decide.
“NATO should be about and is about stronger deterrence,” she said.

The question for the alliance is “if Russia is not stopped now, what comes next?” she said.

Valtonen remained hopeful that the Turkish Parliament will approve Sweden’s membership in NATO by the end of the year and Hungary would also drop its hold on admission.

John Grady

John Grady

John Grady, a former managing editor of Navy Times, retired as director of communications for the Association of the United States Army. His reporting on national defense and national security has appeared on Breaking Defense,,,, Government Executive and USNI News.

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