Q&A about the DCA

Why has Finland negotiated a bilateral agreement with the United States although we have joined NATO?

  • The negotiations between Finland and the United States for a Defence Cooperation Agreement (DCA) started in March 2023 towards the end of the previous government term. The DCA is part of a sustained approach to long-term cooperation between our countries and it will deepen our alliance significantly.
  • The DCA supplements our membership in NATO; it is not alternative or comparable to our membership. Finland’s membership in NATO allows us to further deepen our bilateral and multilateral relations.
  • The DCA’s objective is to streamline cooperation between Finland and the United States in all security situations. This is all the more important because of the changes in our security environment.
  • The DCA will strengthen Finland’s defence because it enables the presence and training of US forces and the prepositioning of defence material in the territory of Finland.

What other NATO countries have a similar bilateral agreement with the United States?

  • The United States has a number of defence cooperation agreements with both NATO countries and non-NATO countries. The titles and content of these agreements vary.
  • The United States has a defence cooperation agreement similar to our DCA with nine other NATO countries. These are Bulgaria, Czechia, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland and Slovakia. Sweden signed its DCA on 5 December 2023 and Denmark has recently concluded its negotiations.

Why does the United States negotiate bilateral agreements with its NATO Allies?

  • Having an agreement on an up-to-date framework for operations creates for the United States predictability and a set of clear rules for cooperation in different kinds of situations.
  • The DCA with Finland facilitates cooperation and improves the conditions for US forces to operate regionally, as the United States has already negotiated similar agreements with countries in our neighbouring region. In this sense, the Nordic countries form a uniform defensive entity.
  • The DCA also takes into account the significant role of contractors as providers of support services for US forces.

In what ways does the DCA show the United States’ commitment to NATO and to bilateral cooperation?

  • Support for NATO remains strong across political lines in the United States. However, burden sharing within the Alliance is essential, and all Allies should invest at least 2% of their gross domestic product (GDP) to defence spending and 20% of their annual defence expenditure on major new equipment.
  • The United States has concluded bilateral defence cooperation agreements with NATO Allies to support the implementation of commitments under Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty.

What is the most important content of the DCA?

  • The DCA includes a Preamble, 30 Articles and one Annex (listing the agreed facilities and areas).
  • The DCA deals with matters such as US access to and use of the agreed facilities and areas; prepositioning of defence equipment, supplies and materiel in the territory of Finland; entry and movement of US aircraft, vessels and vehicles; ensuring the protection, safety, and security of US forces and the facilities and areas they use; criminal jurisdiction; and diverse practical matters related to the activities of US forces in the territory of Finland.

Does the DCA specify the areas where the cooperation with the United States would primarily focus on?

  • Yes. The basic principle for selecting the agreed facilities and areas listed in the Annex to the DCA was to reinforce Finland’s defence and to base the selection on the existing infrastructure of the Finnish Defence Forces.
  • In the DCA, Finland authorises the United States unimpeded access to and use of the agreed facilities and areas for activities listed in the DCA, such as visits, training and exercises, support, transit, and staging of forces and materiel.
  • Finland and the United States will have joint access to and use of the agreed facilities and areas except for any facilities or areas specifically designated by the parties for the exclusive access and use of US forces.
  • The DCA enables the United States to invest in the construction and development of the agreed facilities and areas based on plans drawn up in cooperation.

Why did Finland and the United States see it necessary to list 15 areas in the Annex?

  • Finland’s location has military-strategic significance. The Annex lists military bases in the east and west and the north and south. This will add flexibility to the cooperation with US forces for example in areas that are particularly suited for exercises.
  • The number of agreed facilities and areas in Finland is comparable to their number in Sweden, for example.
  • The DCA does not necessarily affect the normal activities in the listed areas, but it will make it easier to develop cooperation where necessary.

Does the DCA mean that the United States will establish military bases in Finland or deploy forces to Finland?

  • The United States will not establish any military bases in Finland. Under the DCA, US forces may use existing facilities and areas of the Finnish Defence Forces as agreed.
  • The primary reasons of the presence of US forces in Finland are training and exercises or similar cooperation that does not require permanent presence. There have been US forces in Finland almost throughout our NATO process especially for training and exercises.
  • Finland’s membership in NATO will mean a stronger presence of NATO forces in our territory, too.

What does the DCA say about the entry of aircraft, vessels and vehicles?

  • As a rule, aircraft, vessels and vehicles of US forces may enter, exit and move freely within the territory of Finland.
  • In entry and movement, US forces will respect the relevant rules of air, maritime and land safety.
  • US forces will coordinate entry with Finnish authorities. Finland and the United States will agree on relevant coordination and notification procedures to support flexible, seamless and safe activities and promote national situation awareness.

Will US forces observe US legislation when they are in Finland?

  • In conduct of activities in the framework of the NATO Status of Forces Agreement (NATO SOFA), the forces of the sending nation (e.g. the United States) will be subject to the laws of the sending nation. However, the forces of the sending nation must respect the laws of the receiving nation (e.g. Finland).
  • The DCA separately confirms this obligation to respect the laws of Finland.

What are the key differences between the DCA and the NATO SOFA?

  • One difference between the two agreements is that under the NATO SOFA, the entry of forces will always be based on a separate decision or agreement.
  • Another difference is that the NATO SOFA concerns the status of the forces of a NATO member country and other relevant matters concerning those forces while in the territory of another NATO member country. The NATO SOFA is a mutual agreement and has provisions concerning both sending nations and receiving nations.
  • The DCA focuses on the status of the forces of the United States and other relevant matters concerning US forces when they are in the territory of the other party.

Which agreement applies to US forces, the NATO SOFA or the DCA?

  • The NATO SOFA defines the minimum level. However, the DCA may deviate from the provisions of the NATO SOFA.

Who has criminal jurisdiction over members of US forces?

  • The right to exercise criminal jurisdiction over members of US forces would be divided between Finland and the United States. The decision on who has jurisdiction will be decided based on the provisions of the NATO SOFA and the DCA.
  • Neither of the two agreements exempt members of US forces from criminal liability; instead, they define when jurisdiction is exercised by the receiving nation and when by the sending nation.
  • Under the DCA, Finland waives its primary right to exercise criminal jurisdiction over members of US forces in cases where the right to exercise jurisdiction is concurrent under the NATO SOFA. Finland may withdraw this waiver in specific cases of particular importance to Finland.
  • Offences where Finland may withdraw its waiver to exercise criminal jurisdiction could include socially significant offences, sexual offences and offences against life and health. However, Finland’s decision to withdraw its waiver would always be made on a case-by-case basis.
  • The United States would have primary right to exercise criminal jurisdiction over members of US forces who are suspected of committing an offence in performance of their official duty.

What safeguards are there to ensure that Finland can respect its international obligations and the provisions of the Constitution of Finland with regard to the ban on capital punishment?

  • Finland and the United States have exchanged bilateral notes to ensure that the Governments of Finland and of the United States agree that the NATO SOFA would apply in cases where Finland’s international obligations concerning the ban on capital punishment have relevance.

In what ways do Finnish laws or international obligations restrict the prepositioning of different types of weapons in the territory of Finland?

  • The Finnish Nuclear Energy Act prohibits the import of nuclear explosives as well as well as their manufacture, possession and detonation in Finland. Likewise, it is prohibited and punishable to transport nuclear weapons through Finland. The Finnish Criminal Code criminalises a nuclear device offence.
  • The Biological Weapons Convention prohibits the development, production, acquisition, transfer, stockpiling and use of biological or toxin weapons in the territory of Finland.
  • The Chemical Weapons Convention, too, prohibits the stockpiling of such weapons.
  • Finland is also a party to the Ottawa Convention prohibiting the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel mines.

What has been done to examine how the DAC relates to the Constitution of Finland?

  • Some of the DCA provisions have particular importance for sovereignty and fundamental rights. These include ensuring the protection, safety and security of US forces, the agreed facilities and areas, entry and movement of US forces, and criminal jurisdiction (capital punishment).
  • The Constitutional Law Committee of Parliament will in due course give its position on whether Parliament should accept the DCA by simple majority or by at least two thirds of the votes cast.
  • The statement of the Constitutional Law Committee on the government proposal concerning the NATO SOFA (90/2023) will have relevance when examining the relationship of the DCA and the Constitution.

What happens after the signature of the DCA?

  • The DCA contains provisions of a legislative nature. This means that it is subject to acceptance by Parliament before its implementation can start.
  • After the signature of the DCA, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs will begin preparations for a government proposal for the acceptance and approval of the agreement and for the enforcement of its provisions of a legislative nature.
  • Parliament has been regularly informed of the progress of the negotiations, including the content in the outcome of the negotiations.

What are the key elements of the DCA implementation?

  • The United States will conduct all its activities under the DCA with full respect for the sovereignty, laws and international obligations of Finland, including with regard to the stockpiling of certain types of weapons on Finnish territory.
  • Consultation, coordination and exchange of information are essential elements of the implementation of the DCA.
  • Separate national arrangements or bilateral agreements and arrangements may be prepared to carry out the key provisions of the DCA and to ensure the proper implementation of the DCA and a sufficient situation picture of the implementation. Ensuring the protection, safety and security of US forces, prepositioning of defence materiel, and entry of US forces into Finland are among these key provisions.