NATO’s newest member, Finland, which shares a border with Russia, is to sign a bilateral defense cooperation agreement next week with the United States in a deal that allows Washington to send troops into the Nordic country to bolster its defense and store weapons and military equipment there, among other things.
Finnish Foreign Minister Elina Valtonen told a news conference in Helsinki on Thursday that Defense Minister Antti Häkkänen will sign the so-called Defense Cooperation Agreement, or DCA, in Washington on Monday, Dec. 18.
The pact, which must still be approved by Finnish lawmakers, “is very significant for Finland’s defense and security,” Häkkänen said, stressing that the deal is judicially binding on both sides.
“It bears a very strong message in this time. The United States is committed to our defense also in a tough spot,” Häkkänen told reporters.
Finland joined NATO in April after decades of military non-alignment as a direct result of Russia’s assault on Ukraine that started in February 2022. The nation of 5.6 million shares a 1,340-kilometer (830-mile) border with Russia that makes up a significant part of NATO’s northeastern flank and acts as the European Union’s external border in the north.
Under the deal, Finland will allow U.S. soldiers access to 15 military areas and facilities covering the entire Nordic nation all the way from a key southern naval base and inland air bases to a vast remote army training area in Lapland, in the Arctic north.
American troops are allowed a permanent presence and regular exercises in Finland but there are no plans to establish permanent U.S. military bases in Finland, officials said.
Several NATO countries currently have similar bilateral defense agreements with the United States.
Last week, Finland’s close Nordic neighbor Sweden, which is on the brink of joining NATO, signed a comparable deal. Alliance member Denmark is expected to do so in the near future.
Source: AP News