(Bloomberg) -- NATO defense ministers gave political backing to establishing a multinational battle group in Finland, which is responsible for guarding the military alliance’s longest border with Russia. 

Finland is on track to become the ninth country to host a forward land forces contingent after ministers supported the move in Brussels on Friday. The decision includes setting up a command unit for land forces, according to a statement by the Finnish government.

“NATO’s multi corps land component command and the presence of land troops in Finland scaled to fit the security situation create a very strong deterrence and defense in Northern Europe, the Baltic Sea and the whole of NATO,” Defense Minister Antti Hakkanen said.

Ministers also supported shifting Finland and Sweden under the Joint Force Command Norfolk. Finland, which has been under the Dutch-based Brunssum command, has sought its affiliation to Norfolk, Virginia, to reinforce defense relationships with the US. 

Finland joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in April 2023, increasing the alliance’s border with Russia by more than 1,300 kilometers (800 miles). It has one of the strongest armies in Europe, having never dismantled defenses unlike most of its European peers. Sweden entered the alliance in March.

NATO’s other eight multinational battle groups are in Eastern European countries.

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