Talks are ongoing between the U.S. and Finland to allow the American military to build military bases in the land of the newest NATO member.
A NATO member that shares 832 miles of border with Russia.
Newsweek reported that Finnish Foreign Ministry official Mikael Antell revealed the countries are working towards a Defense Cooperation Agreement to permit U.S. military installations in the Nordic nation.
According to the Finnish official, the proposed agreement would allow U.S. forces to enter the nation, establish their presence, store military materials and make infrastructure improvements funded by the U.S. Congress through the Pentagon.
It remains to be seen how the Finnish public will respond to foreign troops on their soil. Public opinion swung strongly in favor of NATO membership after Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine.
However, a January poll showed only 39% of the populace favored establishing a permanent NATO base in the country.
The agreement to finally join the mutual security organization was reached in April. This drew Finland’s many decades of neutrality to a close and brought it directly into the European security zone.
Sweden also experienced a seismic shift in public sentiment and is waiting on final approval before joining the NATO alliance.
Specifics are still being ironed out for the military agreement between the U.S. and Finland, and negotiations are expected to extend into 2024. One particular proposal concerns a maintenance facility for F-35 fighter jets.
The country in 2022 approved the $9.4 billion acquisition of 64 of the advanced fighters to replace its current F-18 multirole fighters.
Antell noted that the deal being hammered out “defines the facilities and areas where the cooperation would be focused.” He explained they are predominantly military areas and garrisons, and there may be more than one when the final agreement is reached.
Newsweek interviewed Matti Pesu, a senior research fellow at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs. He told the outlet that even a small-scale U.S. presence in the Baltic nation is significant as a deterrent to possible Russian ambitions.
As he explained, “If you’re looking at the major benefits of NATO membership, obviously it’s the allied relationship with the U.S. and the benefits that that status may entail.” Pesu said the nation’s leadership is well aware of the deterrence benefit to a U.S. presence.
He explained further that it is unlikely that a large U.S. footprint in Finland will be a permanent fixture.