The next edition of the NATO exercise ‘Northern Coasts 2023’ in the Baltic area started on 9 September and is intended to last two weeks[1]. It is an important part of shaping and improving collective defence between the Allied States. Participating in the exercise are Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, France, Canada, Italy, the USA and new NATO members Finland and Sweden[2]. The acquisition and exchange of experience in international cooperation is a particularly important link in the increased NATO presence on the eastern flank, initiated by the Warsaw Summit in 2016[3]. In addition to the presence of battalion battle groups on the alliance’s geographical land border, increasing situational awareness, interoperability, and rapid response capabilities at sea and in the air is an important element. The NATO Madrid Summit resulted in an increase in the presence of land forces from battalion to brigade level but was a milestone for the membership of Sweden and Finland – countries with a large coastline, expanding the possibilities for cooperation in the Baltic Sea[4].

More than three thousand soldiers from 14 countries, almost 30 ships, and 20 aircraft are taking part in this year’s exercise[5]. The command post is located in Rostock. Several scenarios are the subject of the maneuvers[6]. The main theme involves a growing crisis situation in the Baltic, fuelled by the activities of sabotage groups and ultimately resulting in an open assault on one of the Allied States. Particularly important for NATO’s eastern flank are elements such as the landing of troops in the Baltic States or attacks on critical infrastructure at sea, including the disarming of undersea improvised explosive devices. Another important scenario is to escalate tensions by blockading a merchant ship in order to create an opportunity to attack alliance ships. Obtaining a non-transparent media incident may determine the initial information advantage of the provoking party and specific political or military advantages. It can also have the effect of increasing tensions and obtaining a pretext for a broader military response. It culminates in the scenario of a ‘realistic’ open attack on one of the member states and the response of the relevant maneuver units. The NRF (NATO Response Force) includes components capable of maritime operations and is designed for a 5-30 day response. The spearhead component (referred to as ‘spearhead’) is to have a response capability of 2-7 days[7].

Poland’s growing role in participating in the exercise is worth noting. Since July this year, a Polish commander, Lieutenant Commander Piotr Bartosiewicz, has been posted as the head of staff, commanding the allied SNMCMG1 group. As part of the group, our country sends three ships to the team: the command unit ORP ‘Kontradmirał Xawery Czernicki’ and two minesweepers – ORP ‘Drużno’ and ORP ‘Hańcza’. Although the Polish commander also had an adequate role in 2021 and 2022, the participation of the Polish ships took place after a six-year break after obtaining the appropriate certification[8]. The task of the naval team is to maintain the safety of navigation by searching for, detecting, and destroying dangerous underwater objects. Ship teams of this type are among the most effective elements for the NRF. During the Northern Coasts 2023 exercise, three ship groups are under Polish command[9]. Among other things, they will perform the mission of paving the way for the landing party on board the USS ‘Mesa Verde’ (where more than 500 marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit are located)[10]. Another interesting aspect is the combat operation HODOPS (Historical Ordnance Disposal)[11]. It involves the search for and neutralization of dangerous remnants from the Second World War.

Particularly important for security in the region is the participation of Finland and Sweden in preparations for their tasks as NATO members despite their previous participation in exercises[12]. The two main consequences of the enlargement of the alliance’s territory are the very large land border in Finland and the wide coastline in the Baltic Sea area, which brings with it major challenges. The smooth integration of the military capabilities of the two new members is a milestone for NATO to achieve control of the territorial waters, which will ensure adequate security. Security of the basin is a prerequisite for conducting effective collective defence and support of states from the sea. It should be borne in mind that new members are not only a benefit but also a challenge under the principle of reciprocity in international relations and the principle of ‘pacta sunt servanda’ in international relations so that every citizen of allied countries feels equally safe. Therefore, in the words of Admiral Stephan Haisch, the exercise “will be as realistic as possible”[13]. Under German command for the entire exercise are, among others, the Finnish mine destroyer ‘Vahterpää’ or the modern Swedish corvette ‘Nyköping’. In the SNMCMG1 group under Polish command, ways of detecting and clearing mines are trained together with Swedish ships. An identified threat of particular relevance to the development of cooperation with northern partners is submarines and their ability to sabotage and block trade routes[14]. The Swedish fleet, with more than 350 ships, has virtually no submarines currently in service, while the Finnish fleet, with more than 250 ships, has about five submarines[15]. Although the new NATO partners have participated in various exercises, a new chapter has now opened in the process of building security in the Baltic Sea and shaping new capabilities.


[1] Mohr, M.  Northern Coasts 2023: As realistic as possible. [accessed: 13.09.2023].

[2] NATO navies hold annual Northern Coasts collective defence exercise in the Baltic Sea [accessed: 13.09.2023].

[3] NATO’s military presence in the east of the Alliance [accessed: 13.09.2023].

[4] Ibidem. [accessed: 13.09.2023].

[5] Rozpoczęły się manewry “Northern Coasts 2023”. To wyraźny sygnał dla Rosji. (en. The ‘Northern Coasts 2023’ manoeuvres have begun. This is a clear signal to Russia.) [accessed: 13.09.2023].

[6] „Northern Coasts” – trzy grupy okrętów pod polskim dowództwem. (en. “Northern Coasts” – three groups of ships under Polish command.) [accessed: 13.09.2023].

[7] Mizokami, K.  NATO Is Expanding Its Quick-Reaction Force to Over 300,000 Troops. [accessed: 13.09.2023].

[8] Polacy ponownie na czele natowskiego zespołu okrętów. (en. The Poles are again leading the NATO team of ships.) [accessed: 13.09.2023].

[9] Trzy grupy okrętów pod polskim dowództwem- Northern Coasts”. (en. Three groups of ships under Polish command- Northern Coasts) [accessed: 13.09.2023].

[10] Ibidem. [accessed: 13.09.2023].

[11] NATO szuka min [accessed: 13.09.2023].

[12]  ORP Kormoran na ćwiczeniach Northern Coasts 2021. (en. ORP Kormoran at the Northern Coasts 2021 exercise.) [accessed: 13.09.2023]

[13]  Trzy grupy okrętów pod polskim dowództwem- Northern Coasts”. (en. Three groups of ships under Polish command- Northern Coasts [accessed: 13.09.2023].

[14]  Northern Coasts: Germany’s invite to Baltic Sea exercices [accessed: 13.09.2023].

[15]  Largest Navies in the World 2023 [accessed: 13.09.2023].

Tekst powstał w ramach realizacji zadania publicznego zleconego w ramach Rządowego Programu Rozwoju Organizacji Obywatelskich na lata 2018-2030 r. „Bezpieczna Polska jutra – rozwój działań misyjnych Alioth Foundation”.