Washington, Dec 19 (IANS) The US and Finland signed a defence cooperation agreement (DCA), enhancing military collaboration between the two countries by obligating Helsinki to open its military bases to US forces and allowing the two militaries to conduct joint training, among other measures.
During a signing ceremony at the US State Department, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday that the agreement, when becoming effective, will enable US and Finnish militaries to collaborate more efficiently and effectively, provide the troops with more opportunities to train together, and bolster NATO’s interoperability.
Finland officially became a NATO member in April, Xinhua news agency reported.
The two countries have had security cooperation over the last three decades in areas like counter-terrorism, Blinken said, adding that such cooperation has also boosted Finland’s defence capabilities, including through the recent purchase of F-35 fighter jets by Finland from the US.
Also attending the signing ceremony, Finnish Foreign Minister Elina Valtonen said the signing of the agreement marked “a great milestone” in bilateral relations between the two countries, and “strengthens the security of Nordic and Baltic regions”.
For his part, Finnish Defence Minister Antti Hakkanen said the DCA “is a strong sign of US commitment to the defence of Finland and the whole Northern Europe”.
But the Finnish side does not “expect the US to take care of the defence of Finland,” and Finland will “continue to invest in our defence and shared burden in our area and beyond,” he added.
“However, this agreement significantly enhances our ability to act together in all situations in military, security, defence fields,” Hakkanen said.
According to the text of the DCA published by the Finnish government on Thursday, the deal will grant US soldiers access to Finland’s air force bases, naval bases, garrison areas, training areas, storage areas and Border Guard barracks.
In addition, the DCA would enable US forces to preposition defence equipment, supplies and material in the territory of Finland, and would allow for the entry and movement of US aircraft, vessels and vehicles.
Since the DCA contains provisions of a legislative nature, it is subject to approval by Finland’s Parliament.
In August 2022, Finland opened negotiations with the US on a DCA which were concluded in October 2023.
In the wake of the Russia-Ukraine war that broke out in February 2022, the US moved to significantly enhance bilateral defence cooperation with Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark, which, plus Iceland, are collectively known as Nordic countries.
Washington amended an existing DCA with Oslo in 2022, signed a new defence agreement with Stockholm earlier in December, and will ink a similar pact with Copenhagen later this week, Blinken said at Monday’s ceremony.