The British Army has participated in Exercise Vigilant Knife alongside Finnish and Swedish troops to strengthen force interoperability in anticipation of their accession to NATO.

The exercise was held at Rovaniemi and Rovajärvi in northern Finland from August 29 to September 2, following Exercise Vigilant Fox in July.

More than 2,000 troops, including 80 from the British Army’s C Company 2 Rifles Battlegroup, practiced delivering and receiving international assistance and improving technical operations.

The UK provided sniper, reconnaissance, and anti-tank capabilities to test the cooperation between the Finnish and Swedish forces.

The heavily wooded terrain in northern Finland provided a challenging experience for the participants.

“Whilst there is war in Europe, it is more important than ever to strengthen our international partnerships,” UK Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace said. “We welcome Finland and Sweden’s application to join NATO and will continue to exercise together so we are ready to face shared security challenges.”

“Exercise Vigilant Knife is an invaluable opportunity for UK personnel to develop their skills and experience of warfighting in cold weather conditions, enabling them to be effective on the battlefield alongside their Finnish and Swedish counterparts,” Wallace added.

Bolstering Defense in Northern Europe

The deployment of the British Army to the exercise is among the UK’s contributions to a joint security agreement with Finland and Sweden signed in May, which aims to “reinforce their security and fortify northern Europe’s defenses in the face of renewed threats.”

The three countries plan to accelerate joint military training, intensify intelligence sharing, and improve security. They will also address traditional and new geopolitical challenges such as hybrid and cyber threats.

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The agreement also pledges UK support to the Finnish and Swedish armed forces should either encounter a crisis or be attacked.

“We are steadfast and unequivocal in our support to both Sweden and Finland and the signing of these security declarations is a symbol of the everlasting assurance between our nations,” UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said at the time. 

“These are not a short-term stop gap, but a long-term commitment to bolster military ties and global stability, and fortify Europe’s defenses for generations to come,” he added.

Finland and Sweden are members of the UK-led Joint Expeditionary Force. It comprises 10 countries committed to security and stability in the Baltic Sea Region, North Atlantic, and the High North.

Both countries have played a key role in supporting Ukraine in defending itself against Russia’s invasion.