Scandinavian defence union

The Scandinavian defence union was a failed plan to establish a military alliance between Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark after the end of World War II. Finland had fought two wars against the Soviet Union, Denmark and Norway had been occupied by Germany between 1940 and 1945, and Sweden, having been a neutral state throughout the war, had still felt the effects on either side. The four governments agreed that integration in the area of defence was needed, although specific arrangements and the nature of a defence union would be subject to later negotiations.

National positions and chosen strategies


Finland had fought two wars, the Winter War and the Continuation War, against the Soviet Union; and also one minor war, the Lapland War, against Nazi Germany. Before these wars Finland had close relations with the Scandinavian countries. After the Continuation War where the Soviet Union forced Finland to sue for peace, but failed in its goal of conquering and annexing the country (in a manner similar to the Baltic States), Finland became neutral and retained a democratic government and a market economy. However, as the country shared 1,300 kilometres of border with the USSR, the position of the Soviet Union could not be ignored in Finnish politics. Regarding the Finnish membership in the Scandinavian defence union, far reaching discussions at state-level were made with the other candidate countries. These discussions were abruptly ended, when Sweden made a specific requirement, that approval from the Soviet Union must be received if Finland was to join. The Soviet answer was bluntly negative and Finland stayed neutral. In 1948, Finland had signed the YYA Treaty with the Soviet Union, and according to the Soviet point of view, this agreement prohibited Finland's membership in any alliances that it could consider being of military nature, even in those created for defensive reasons.

Denmark and Iceland

Both Denmark and Iceland showed a clear preference for joining the Scandinavian Defence Union over NATO.[1][2] According to a 2018 literature review, the reasons why Danes preferred a Scandinavian military alliance over a North-Atlantic one were "ideology (pan-Scandinavianism), the domestic political situation, a strong belief in Swedish military power, and, especially given the different policies of the three Nordic countries, various lessons drawn from the Second World War."[1]

Norway and Denmark

The proposed union was discussed by a joint Scandinavian committee during the winter of 1948-1949, but the Cold War tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union, and preparations for a western alliance that would result in the North Atlantic Treaty proved that the efforts were in vain. When it became known that the western alliance would not be able to supply the Scandinavian countries with armaments before meeting their own pressing needs, this issue ultimately proved to be the turning point for Norway, which resigned from the talks. Denmark was still willing to enter into an alliance with Sweden, but the Swedes saw few advantages in this and the proposal failed. Norway and Denmark subsequently became signatory parties of the North Atlantic Treaty and members of NATO.


Sweden chose not to join NATO, despite a fierce debate on the issue. One of the strongest proponents was Herbert Tingsten, editor-in-chief of Dagens Nyheter, the largest newspaper in Sweden, who used editorials to argue why Sweden should join. He found a great opponent in the foreign minister of the time Östen Undén, who argued that Sweden should stay non-aligned and remain neutral in case of war. The position of Sweden as a member of the western world was not in doubt, but it could not, based on the choices it had made on foreign policy, join the western military alliance.

Later developments

Nordic Battlegroup

Whilst not a defence union, the Nordic Battlegroup is a multi-national military unit. It is one of eighteen European Union Battlegroups that support European Union defence and security objectives. It consists of around 2,500 troops from Sweden, Finland, Norway, Ireland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.[3]

Nordic Combat Uniform

Wanting a more integrated military in the Nordic countries, the Nordic militaries have begun a search for a Nordic Combat Uniform (NCU). The countries have each provided a list of demands to suppliers, wanting customization and ability to work in all climates. The NCU will be in MultiCam for the Danish military, while it will be possible for the countries to have a camouflage specific to their needs. The NCU is expected to arrive in 2020.[4][5]

Nordic Defence Cooperation

The Nordic Defence Cooperation (Nordefco) is an ad-hoc collaboration established between the Nordic countries in 2009.

See also


  1. Olesen, Mikkel Runge (2018). "To Balance or Not to Balance: How Denmark Almost Stayed out of NATO, 1948–1949". Journal of Cold War Studies. 20 (2): 63–98. doi:10.1162/jcws_a_00818. ISSN 1520-3972.
  2. "A THEORY OF SHELTER: ICELAND'S AMERICAN PERIOD (1941–2006)". Scandinavian Journal of History. 2018. doi:10.1080/03468755.2018.1467078.
  3. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-07-06. Retrieved 2015-07-11.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. "Ny nordisk kampuniform ind i ny fase" (in Danish). 29 August 2018. Archived from the original on 22 October 2018. Retrieved 22 October 2018.
  5. "Nordic Combat Uniform System". Nordic Defence Cooperation. Archived from the original on 13 March 2018. Retrieved 22 October 2018.
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