The United States military and NATO forces are wrapping up a joint training exercise in Finland called Bold Quest 19.1, conducted in April and May. It’s part of a larger effort to convince Finland to join NATO, which most people in the country oppose. Despite the outcome, the US intends to build stronger “interoperability” with Finland and Scandinavia having a particular goal of targeting Russia. Finland, of course, shares a large border with Russia and has a history of fighting against the Soviets in WW2 along side with Nazi Germany.
If Finland does not join NATO, the US is still building interoperability with them. So what does interoperability mean? According to NATO’s website, interoperability is defined as
NATO’s interoperability policy defines the term as the ability for Allies to act together coherently, effectively and efficiently to achieve tactical, operational and strategic objectives. Specifically, it enables forces, units and/or systems to operate together and allows them to share common doctrine and procedures, each others’ infrastructure and bases, and to be able to communicate. Interoperability reduces duplication, enables pooling of resources, and produces synergies among the 28 Allies, and whenever possible with partner countries.-NATO
Without the fancy lingo, interoperability is a code word for accessibility and control over another military’s capabilities, resources, and information. The US and NATO use the term as if it represents an equal relationship between nations, to “act together”. In actuality, the US controls NATO and any other nation who shares information and thus gives up sovereignty. NATO countries and non-NATO countries who follow this ‘interoperability policy’ is under the US umbrella of full-spectrum dominance. When the US says jump, interoperability says how high?
The Not-So-Bold-Quest Military Exercise in Finland
Bold Quest 19.1 is a “multinational joint fires interoperability demonstration and assessment event sponsored and facilitated by the United States Joint Staff.” US troops began arriving in Finland for the Bold Quest 19.1 exercise in late April and early May. The US Joint Chiefs of Staff says, “approximately 2,200 troops, civilians, and contractors from the US and 14 partner nations, including Finland, will participate” in this exercise, with “about 700 of those being Finnish Defense Forces.” The testing phase of this exercise kicked off with “18 days of data collection.” Bold Quest was conceived in 2001 with the US and just four nations. Today, it consists of 18 partner nations and NATO Headquarters.
The goal of Bold Quest is to demonstrate and assess the command and control interoperability of joint fires sensors and related systems in a multinational operating environment. The event tests and demonstrates the functional and technical interoperability of ground, sea and air-based intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and joint fires systems. Some of the demonstration fires will be live-fire exercises and some simulated.-Finnish Defence Forces (Puolustusvoimat) website
The official website of the Finnish Defence Forces gives a detailed description of Bold Quest. But for even more information, they send you to their official YouTube channel where they upload weekly videos of the military exercise. The videos are filled with hard-rock music, fancy shots of weapons being fired, and troops from several nations working together. Here’s the official promotional video:
Why would Finland be used in 2019 as the location to conduct training exercises for the US and NATO?
Finland shares a large border with Russia. The US wants its military to become familiar with this region. In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past two years, Russia has been target number one for the US. Corporate media, politicians, president and beyond have been attacking and demonizing Russia day-in and day-out. Conducting large-scale military exercises on Russia’s doorstep is a continuation of this attack.
Climate change, or should we call it pollution crisis, will inevitably melt the Arctic icecaps. This allows new trade routes to open up for shipping companies. That’s a huge cost-saver. In addition, the Arctic holds large oil and gas deposits which have yet to be accessible. The oil and gas industry is just waiting to get their hands dirty. If we know anything from US foreign policy history, it’s that the US military is the force which fights on behalf of US corporate interests (the ruling class).
Cyber-warfare is becoming increasing important for military operations. Our planet is wrapped with fiber optic cables sending information at speeds the human brain can not truly understand. Many of these cables leave Russia traveling to Europe and beyond, but first they go through Finland, Scandinavia, and the Baltic Sea.
The Baltic Sea is seen to many in the intelligence industry as an important theater in the new cyber-warfare arms race. Norway previously helped the US in intercepting information from these cables. In November of 2013, the Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet reported that Norway was providing the NSA with tens of millions of communications every month focusing primarily on Russian politicians, military, and energy targets. Convincing Finland to join in US/NATO’s ‘communications-intelligence’ would significantly help the US intercept data from Russia.
In June 2017, key nations in the Baltic Sea participated in Exercise Baltic Ghost, a series of cyber workshops designed to “build, sustain, and/or enhance cyber partnerships between EUCOM, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania [and the US].” The primary objective of Baltic Ghost 2017 is “to test cooperation between the three Baltic States and the US.” If you look at a map, these three countries are in the Baltic Sea where fiber optic cables travel and share a border with Russia’s landmass. In 2018, NATO took part in the largest-ever cyber-warfare exercise, an “electronic offensive drill,” named Cyber Coalition. This exercise was conducted in Estonia, about 30 miles from Russia’s border.
NATO is quite clear when it comes to issues surrounding Russia and Finland:
In the current security context of heightened concerns about Russian military and non‑military activities, NATO is stepping up cooperation with partner countries Finland and Sweden, with a particular focus on ensuring security in the Baltic Sea region. This includes: regular political dialogue and consultations; exchanges of information on hybrid warfare; coordinating training and exercises; and developing better joint situational awareness to address common threats and develop joint actions.-NATO
Some history of Finland and NATO relations:
- Finland first participated in a NATO-led operation in 1996 when it contributed a battalion to the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
- Since 2002, Finnish soldiers have been working alongside Allied forces in Afghanistan – first as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which completed its mission at the end of 2014, and currently as part of the follow-on Resolute Support Mission (RSM) to further train, assist and advise the Afghan security forces and institutions.
- Finland is one of NATO’s most active partners and a valued contributor to NATO-led operations and missions in the Balkans and Afghanistan.
- Finland is one of five countries (known as ‘Enhanced Opportunity Partners’1 under the Partnership Interoperability Initiative) that make particularly significant contributions to NATO operations and other Alliance objectives. As such, the country has enhanced opportunities for dialogue and cooperation with the Allies.
- In the current security context of heightened concerns about Russian military and non‑military activities, NATO is stepping up cooperation with partner countries Finland and Sweden, with a particular focus on ensuring security in the Baltic Sea region. This includes: regular political dialogue and consultations; exchanges of information on hybrid warfare; coordinating training and exercises; and developing better joint situational awareness to address common threats and develop joint actions, if needed. Both partners participate in the enhanced NATO Response Force (NRF) in a supplementary role and subject to national decisions. Additionally, both partners have signed a memorandum of understanding on Host Nation Support which, also following a national decision, allows for logistical support to Allied forces located on, or in transit through, their territory during exercises or in a crisis.
The Fight Against Militarism in Finland
The will of the people in Finland is strong and unremitting. I recently was invited to Rovaniemi, Finland to participate in a demonstration against NATO and the Bold Quest exercise. Rovaniemi is a small city in the northern part of the country. The local peace group, affiliated with the Finnish Peace Committee, organized a speaking event for me. They organized these events with limited resources and a short amount of time, which shows their skills and persistence in keeping peace on the agenda.
I spoke about my military past, focusing on my experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan. I also discussed the US empire, its current state of affairs, and some trends to look for in the future. Alongside me was Finnish author, Pentti Sainio. His recent books expose Finland’s military leadership, the weapons industry, and participation in Afghanistan. He’s a well-known critic of Finland’s military spending, NATO, and US wars.
The FPC was founded in 1949 with the goals of promoting peace, disarmament, tolerance, human rights, and global equality. They emphasize international common responsibility and see social justice and an unpolluted environment as important factors for the security of the citizens of Finland. The FPC sees that “Finland should stay out of military alliances, and is against membership in NATO as well as against militarization of European Union.”
My trip was organized by Kerstin Tuomala, a dedicated peace activist, organizer, and member of the Finnish Peace Committee (FPC). She’s very worried about what is to come after these US/NATO exercises in Finland. She tells me these drills are occurring more frequently and warns of the consequences for Finland. Both Kerstin and Pentti work to educate the public on issues surrounding militarism.
NATO was created in order to contain the Soviet Union in the Cold War. The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, so why does NATO exist? There are several reasons like getting nations other than the US in sharing the costs of a large military empire and spending on weapons production. But the main reason that often gets left out of peace circles is that NATO provides a way for the US to make unilateral decisions on an international scale. The US can invade any nation on Earth, drag its NATO buddies along, and not have to deal with the United Nations Security Council. Avoiding international law is America’s doctrine. The US is the rogue state of the 21st century.
As more nations join NATO, it becomes more dangerous. Every membership increases the power of the United States, and the empire gets hungrier and craves more. Finland is no different than any other imperialist nation if they join NATO. The last thing we need on this wretched Earth is more imperialism. As Kerstin has warned before that if Finland joins NATO, they’ll be on the same losing path as before:
We who are now old and have lived during the cold war, have a very strong belief that it is possible to live in peace and mutual cooperation with our big, eastern neighbor. We have also seen, that for a small country it is much more secure to rely in diplomacy and dialogue – not in raw force. Every time Finland has had aggression with Russia we have lost, but negotiating we have won peace and security. That is not told in the NATO or military tales, where they lie that our independence has been won by guns. It is not true.-Kerstin Tuomala, Finnish Peace Committee