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The West’s Arctic Forge 23 Drills Unsettle Russian Military


The West’s Arctic Forge 23 Drills Unsettle Russian Military
.By John C. K. Daly

As Russia’s assault on Ukraine gradually descends into a stalemate, the Russian government is increasingly concerned about Western responses to its aggression, particularly military exercises in formerly quiet and largely neutralist Scandinavia. Arctic Forge 23, a joint month-long Western military exercise in Finland and Norway, which began on February 16 and concluded on March 17, has been reported with concern by the Russian media, with particular condemnation of a flyover by an American B-52H Stratofortress over North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) members Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania (Izvestiya, March 13).

According to the United States Army Europe and Africa, Arctic Forge 23 was a U.S.-led “umbrella exercise” for U.S. contributions to exercises in Finland and Norway, “focused on building Arctic military capabilities and cooperation” (, accessed March 27). The scale of the exercise was not insignificant, as it involved troops from 16 of NATO’s 30 member states.

Sweden’s and Finland’s intentions to join NATO represent an extraordinary departure from their traditional historical neutrality. In Sweden’s case, this dates back to the Napoleonic wars. Finland, which only achieved independence from the Russian Empire in the wake of the 1917 revolution, subsequently endured a troubled history with its giant hostile neighbor, intensified first by the 1939–1940 Russo-Finnish “Winter War” (Talvisota) and followed by Finland’s measured participation in Hitler’s Operation Barbarossa against the Soviet Union, referred to as the “Continuation War” (Jatkosota). Both instances imposed harsh territorial losses and heavy reparations on Finland, which led to a postwar policy of strict neutrality. More than three decades after the Soviet Union’s collapse, the abandonment of traditional diplomatic neutrality by these two Nordic nations is a direct consequence of the stark aggression embodied in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “special military operation” against Ukraine, which began in February 2022.


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