During the first week of NORDIC WARDEN, the ten participant nations of the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) have intensified their cooperation and focus on the protection of Critical Undersea Infrastructure (CUI) in Northern Europe.

This includes dispatching air and sea assets to monitor so-called Vessels of Interest, whose behavior, past and present, warrants investigation.

NORDIC WARDEN, which started on 3 June and lasts about four weeks, follows similar activity at the end of 2023, called JEF Response Option (JRO) 3.2. Whether on the sea or in the air, seamless communication between JEF vessels and operators on shore is vital. CUI vulnerability can allow an adversary to use hybrid warfare techniques to destabilize targets by circumventing the methods of standard warfare. One aspect of JEF and NATO surveillance of CUI is to deter any attempt of sabotage.

The ten JEF nations have made more than 30 ships and multiple air assets available for NORDIC WARDEN. A typical follow-up to a report of unusual activity will trigger secure communications between JEF HQ and the JEF Participant Nations involved, often resulting in closer surveillance, including the dispatch of aircraft or ship as required.

The activity is conducted as Associated Support to NATO, and alongside multiple Alliance activities taking place around the same time in the Baltic region, in particular the 53rd iteration of the Baltic Operations Exercise (BALTOPS).

BALTOPS 24, which started on Friday 7th June, involves nineteen NATO Allies, more than 50 ships, over 85 aircraft, and approximately 9,000 personnel. They will participate in what will be the largest assembled coalition of amphibious forces in the exercises history.

The JEF is headquartered at Northwood Headquarters, located in the UK, where the newly established NATO Maritime Centre for the Security of CUI also sits. The center is dedicated to the security of thousands of miles of undersea energy pipelines and cables, which are vulnerable to attacks aimed at disrupting energy supply, global communications and economic activity.

In recent years, NATO has massively boosted efforts to enhance the protection of CUI. In early 2023, NATO announced the creation of a CUI Coordination Cell at NATO Headquarters, facilitating engagement with military and civilian stakeholders.