MILAN — U.S. forces could gain access to a number of military bases near Russian borders if ongoing negotiations with Finland on a Defense Cooperation Agreement (DCA) prove successful.
Finnish newspaper Helsinki Sanomat reported this month that the proposed agreement may allow for military infrastructure investments in the country, which could benefit the region’s fleet of Lockheed Martin-made F-35 warplanes.
“It is too early to speculate on this, but theoretically it [the DCA] could for example, include access to a maintenance hall for F-35 fighters,” Mikael Antell, deputy director general at the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, told the newspaper.
Helsinki placed an order last year to purchase 64 F-35s from Lockheed Martin to replace its F-18 Hornet fleet, with deliveries set to begin in 2026.
Last September, the United States and Finland announced plans to negotiate a pact to strengthen bilateral security cooperation. The agreement would provide a framework and legal basis for U.S. forces to obtain entry into the country and streamline the use of agreed facilities to conduct activities for their mutual defense. These could range from joint training to temporary maintenance of vessels and aircraft and could also include the temporary deployment of soldiers and storing of prepositioned equipment.
According to a statement published by the Finnish government at the time, negotiations are not expected to be completed before the fall and could go into the new year. Once finalized, the DCA will be submitted to the Finnish parliament for approval.
Matti Pesu, senior research fellow at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, does not expect much pushback from decision-makers regarding the endorsement of this deal.
“There is strong public and political support for NATO membership in Finland and the evolving defense relationship with the U.S. is also seen favorably,” he told Defense News. “There will likely be minor voices in parliament who’d like to keep a certain distance between the two, but any serious rejection is unlikely.”
Pesu adds that through closer cooperation with Washington, Finland’s “most important ally for potential reinforcements,” the Nordic country hopes to host more American troops for exercises to increase interoperability.
F-35-related investments are one of the advantages neighboring Norway is getting through a supplementary DCA it signed with the U.S. in 2021 that entered into force last year. This March, the Norwegian MoD revealed that Washington is investing USD $188 million into the Rygge airport – where some of the country’s F-35s are kept – to build four fighter hangars with associated facilities, warehouses, increased capacity for ammunition storage and fence parts of the air station with a patrol road.
Rygge is one of four agreed Norwegian areas that U.S. forces have “unimpeded” access to, per the agreement text. These facilities also include the Evenes and Sola air stations as well as the Ramsund Naval Station. The agreement has an initial term of ten years and is not a permanent deployment.
It remains to be seen how the U.S.-Finnish negotiations could come into play or help facilitate the recent goal laid out by Nordic nations to jointly operate their air forces and pool together their resources in the face of a heightened Russian threat.
Moscow is sure to be closely monitoring the growing defense relationship. However, Pesu says that besides indicating its displeasure of the DCA through diplomatic rhetoric or military signaling such as airspace violations, he does not anticipate any further response from the Kremlin.
Elisabeth Gosselin-Malo is a Europe correspondent for Defense News. She covers a wide range of topics related to military procurement and international security, and specializes in reporting on the aviation sector. She is based in Milan, Italy.