US Marines with Combat Logistics Battalion 6, Combat Logistics Regiment 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, drive a Finnish G-Class landing craft while operating the Amy, an unmanned surface vehicle on the Baltic Sea, off the coast of Finland Nov. 25, 2022. Task Force Red Cloud, headquartered by elements of CLB-6, deployed to Finland in support of Exercises SYD 2022 and Freezing Winds 2022 to foster strong relationships between US and Finnish forces. US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jackson Kirkiewicz.
Hours before the Finnish government presented its formal presentation to lawmakers to join the defense alliance NATO, US sailors wrapped up a major exercise with Helsinki’s forces in the Baltic Sea.
The Freezing Winds exercise gathered troops from a dozen countries, including Finland, Sweden, the US, and NATO Allied Maritime Command’s Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 to train on both naval maneuvers and amphibious operations in often brutal weather.
“Our annual maritime defense exercise provides a unique opportunity to rehearse demanding combat tasks in the harsh November weather conditions of the Baltic Sea,” said Commodore Jukka Anteroinen, the chief of staff of the Finnish Navy Command, in a prepared statement on Friday, Dec. 2. “The involvement of the US partners is a very welcome enhancement to the Finnish Navy’s Freezing Winds 22 exercise. High-level assets such as USS Paul Ignatius, P8 Poseidon and the always professional Marine Corps personnel bring a great add-on value to our maritime operations with significant capabilities they provide. Our combined training will increase the stability and security of the entire Baltic Sea region.”
Homeported in Rota, Spain, the Arleigh Burke-class Paul Ignatius arrived for the maneuvers on Nov. 25 and participated in exercises designed to streamline communications, formation steaming, air and missile defense, surface warfare, and strike attacks alongside the Royal Danish Navy Absalon-class frigate Esbern Snare and the Royal Netherlands Navy De Zeven Provinciën-class frigate Tromp.
The US Navy's guided-missile destroyer Paul Ignatius arrived in Helsinki, Finland, Friday, Dec. 2, 2022, marking the completion of the ship’s participation in the Finnish Navy-led exercise Freezing Winds 22. US Navy photo.
“My crew and I are thankful for the fantastic exercise facilitated and led by our Finnish partners. Freezing Winds 22 provides an excellent platform for multiple nations to further integrate and enhance our lethality at sea,” said Cmdr. Aaron Arky, commanding officer of Paul Ignatius, in a prepared statement “The stability and security of the Baltic region depends upon the strength of our navies. The Finnish Navy is a world class organization, and my crew was honored to sail with them in true cold weather environments.”
US training with Finland is becoming a routine occurrence.
On Aug. 5, the flagship Kearsarge and its amphibious ready group, including the embarked 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, began bilateral training with Finnish forces.
And on Sunday, Dec. 4, Finland's defense minister, Antti Kaikkonen, toured the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship Arlington in Norfolk, Virginia.
“It was a pleasure to visit the USS Arlington on this sunny Sunday afternoon,” said Kaikkonen in a prepared statement released Monday. “I was impressed by the capabilities of the ship and the expertise of her crew. The United States is a close and important partner with Finland and we look forward to working together as allies in the future to promote security in the trans-Atlantic area.”
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US Marine Corps Cpl. Adam Obreque, a combat engineer with Combat Logistics Battalion 6, Combat Logistics Regiment 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, completes a littoral reconnaissance patrol for Freezing Winds 22 in Syndalen, Finland, Nov. 27, 2022. US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jackson Kirkiewicz.
Sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February and ongoing threats from Moscow to unleash tactical nuclear weapons on Kyiv’s forces, both Finland and Sweden moved to formalize increasingly cordial ties with NATO by joining the alliance.
Neither Sweden nor Finland possesses nuclear weapons.
But the US, the United Kingdom, and France deploy a nuclear umbrella to deter atomic strikes on any NATO member.
An attack on one is an attack on all.
US Marine Corps Cpl. Cameron Morrison, a landing support specialist with Combat Logistics Battalion 6, Combat Logistics Regiment 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, joins Finnish soldiers with Helicopter Battalion, Utti Jaeger Regiment, while prepping for the Freezing Winds exercise in Syndalen, Finland, Oct. 18, 2022. US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Meshaq Hylton.
Monday’s pitch by Prime Minister Sanna Marin to the Finnish parliament urged lawmakers to ratify both the North Atlantic Treaty and the Ottawa Agreement, the bedrock accords that bind the 30-member alliance to defend each other if one of them is ever assaulted.
A simple majority vote will approve Finland’s entry into the alliance, but Helsinki still must await decisions by two NATO members that haven’t approved the accession, Turkey and Hungary.
Hungary has indicated it favors Finnish membership, but Turkey continues to hold out over concerns that the Nordic nation harbors “terrorists,” which Ankara equates with political dissidents.
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Carl Prine is a former senior editor at Coffee or Die Magazine. He has worked at Navy Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He served in the Marine Corps and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. His awards include the Joseph Galloway Award for Distinguished Reporting on the military, a first prize from Investigative Reporters & Editors, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.
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