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Putin nightmare: Hundreds of NATO troops mass in show of strength miles from Russia border

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said the four-day exercise, Vigilant Fox, involved a combined force of 750 personnel drawn from the three nations. The joint exercise is particularly significant given NATO earlier this month signed an accession protocol with Finland to join the military alliance, the first step in the ratification process.

Finland signed a mutual security assurance declaration with the UK in May, and is also a member of the UK-led Joint Expeditionary Force, a coalition of 10 nations.

The MoD said British troops based in Estonia as part of the British Army’s Project Unified Stance were flown into Finland in Royal Air Force Chinook helicopters as part of the exercise.

Defence minister James Heappey said: “Exercise Vigilant Fox has demonstrated the strength and interoperability of our armed forces with our US and Finnish allies and reaffirms our commitment to the defence and security of the Baltic Sea region.”

Wing Commander Stephen Boyle, the UK defence attache in Helsinki, said: “Our soldiers, sailors and aviators have received a warm welcome in Finland over the last few months.

“Exercise Vigilant Fox is the latest activity in an ongoing series of events across the domains.

“As Finland moves towards full NATO Membership, we will continue to seek opportunities like this to show solidarity with Finland, learn from each other and improve our ability to operate together.”

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“I am certain that we will be able to protect our interests, interests of our country, ensure its security and security of our citizens by all means necessary.”

On July 19, the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday backed Finland and Sweden’s accession to NATO, paving the way for the full Senate to vote on what would be the most significant expansion of the 30-member alliance since the 1990s.

The 22-member panel approved the expansion by voice vote, with just one member – Republican Senator Rand Paul – asking to be recorded as “present.”

The accession documents need to be ratified by all 30 members before Finland and Sweden can be protected by Article Five, the defence clause which states that an attack on one member is an attack against all.

The full 100-member US Senate is expected to approve Finland and Sweden’s membership by more than the two-thirds majority required.

Senator Bob Menendez, the committee’s Democratic chairman, said before the vote: “They are ideal candidates for membership and will strengthen the alliance in countless ways.

“Finland and Sweden will be excellent allies, will strengthen NATO politically and militarily and offer the alliance new capabilities, most specifically in the Arctic.”

Ratification by every member is likely to take up to a year but in the meantime Helsinki and Stockholm can already participate in NATO meetings and have greater access to intelligence.

The countries applied for membership in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but were met with opposition from Turkey, which accused the Nordic countries of supporting groups it deems terrorists.

Finland, Sweden and Turkey signed an accord at the NATO summit in Madrid last month to lift Ankara’s veto in exchange for pledges on counterterrorism and arms exports.

Turkey has said it will closely monitor the implementation of the accord to ratify its membership bids.



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