Western Military Capability in Northern Europe 2020: Part I Collective Defence


  • Eva Hagström Frisell
  • Krister Pallin
  • Johan Engvall
  • Albin Aronsson
  • Jakob Gustafsson
  • Robert Dalsjö
  • Michael Jonsson
  • Björn Ottosson
  • Bengt-Göran Bergstrand
  • Viktor Lundquist
  • Diana Lepp
  • Anna Sundberg

Publish date: 2021-03-11

Report number: FOI-R--5012--SE

Pages: 132

Written in: English


  • NATO
  • EU
  • regional cooperation
  • bilateral cooperation
  • security and defence policy
  • military expenditures
  • collective defence
  • armed forces
  • military policy
  • military doctrine
  • military capability
  • readiness
  • war game
  • net assessment


The conclusion of our analysis of Western military capability in Northern Europe in 2017 was that the West had several shortcomings compared to Russia when it came to high-intensity warfighting. Considerable resources and time would be required before the West could change the situation. In 2020, three years later, our wish was to enhance the analysis and perform a first cut net assessment of the force balance between the West and Russia. The aim is to identify important characteristics of the force balance with respect to relative strengths and weaknesses. We also suggest some keys to improving Western defence of Northern Europe. In order to maintain Western cohesion, there is a need to show solidarity in handling Russia as well as other strategic competitors and non-state threats. NATO allies and partners should also prepare for action in smaller coalitions to enable rapid reaction. In addition, Western strategy should include flexible response against a range of enemy actions. Russia's means of power are limited compared to a united Western alliance, but the country could pose a serious threat on NATO's eastern flank. Given likely funding constraints, improvements in the defence of Northern Europe should focus on the near term, while still keeping an eye on the future. Relatively limited and inexpensive measures can make a considerable difference.