NORTHERN EUROPEAN PERSPECTIVES ON SECURITY, ECONOMIC AND ENVIRONMENTAL CHALLENGES [REPORT]
The NATO Parliamentary Assembly’s 74th Rose-Roth Seminar in Helsinki, Finland, from 17 19 June 2010, brought together over 100 participants to explore the unique security, economic and environmental challenges currently confronting the Nordic and Baltic nations. The Seminar, organised in co-operation with the Parliament of Finland, and supported by the Swiss Ministry of Defence, assembled nearly 40 parliamentarians from a variety of NATO member and non-member parliaments. They were joined by Finnish government officials and representatives from think tanks, embassies, and other international organizations.
I. INTRODUCTION: FINLAND AND THE ALLIANCE
1. The NATO Parliamentary Assembly’s 74th Rose-Roth Seminar in Helsinki, Finland, from 17 19 June 2010, brought together over 100 participants to explore the unique security, economic and environmental challenges currently confronting the Nordic and Baltic nations. The Seminar, organised in co-operation with the Parliament of Finland, and supported by the Swiss Ministry of Defence, assembled nearly 40 parliamentarians from a variety of NATO member and non-member parliaments. They were joined by Finnish government officials and representatives from think tanks, embassies, and other international organizations.
2. The Seminar topics covered a wide array of topics, including Security Challenges in the High North, Nordic Views on National Defence, Evolving Finnish and Swedish Relations with NATO, the Regional Relationship with the Russian Federation, Economic Prospects for the Nordic-Baltic Region, Nordic and Baltic Regional Integration, and Environmental Challenges.
3. Mr. Seppo Kääriäinen, the First Deputy Speaker of the Parliament of Finland, welcomed participants to the meeting and noted that, as a NATO Partner, Finland greatly appreciates the opportunity for dialogue the NATO PA affords. Finland is not a member of NATO but it enjoys a very close relationship with it. It is participating in NATO-organized crisis management operations and in exercises organized through the Partnership for Peace programme. It welcomes meetings like the Rose-Roth Seminar, which strengthen NATO’s capacity to work with partners. This has helped lay the foundations for deeper relations, not only with NATO as such, but also with Finland’s neighbours and partners. Finland’s sees its partnership with NATO as one means to fulfil its own responsibilities to contribute positively to regional and global security. He suggested that Finland’s leaders are convinced that NATO, the EU and the UN all have roles to play in regional and global security, and improved coordination among these institutions is accordingly essential.
II. THE NORDIC REGION
4. Europe’s northern region is essentially characterized by peace and prosperity. Most of the countries of the region are highly prosperous and enjoy great human freedom. Five of the world’s nine most peaceful states and three of the world’s seven most innovative states are located here. Yet it is also a region of contradiction and, perhaps in subtle ways, of fragility. In the estimation of Alyson Bailes, Visiting Professor at the University of Reykjavik, the Nordic States enjoy good relations, but they are not institutionally unified, particularly on security matters. The Nordic States have not made hard security commitments to each other and have not managed to cobble together a common security strategy. Yet, the countries of the region do share common foreign policy challenges, even though they deal with these in different ways. Iceland, Denmark and Norway tend to look towards the Atlantic and all have Arctic vocations. Sweden and Finland are oriented to the Baltic and neither has formally joined the Western Alliance. Denmark is in the EU but has legal opt outs, while Sweden is not in the Eurozone. Iceland, of course, is a NATO member but, for the moment, is not in the EU.
5. At the same time, the foreign policies of the five Nordic countries share a set of common values and a clear commitment to multilateralism. Yet, these countries are also significantly different due to their unique histories, cultures, geography and economic profiles. These myriad national experiences inform the divergent approaches each takes to NATO and the EU. Indeed, in terms of institutional linkages, the Nordic-Baltic region is one of Europe’s most diverse. Each of these countries enjoys a strong national identity informed by unique historical experiences, and this conditions cooperation among them, which is nonetheless significant. Of course, the region is highly democratic and this genuinely facilitates relations in the region. Yet, as Alyson Bailes noted “Nordic nations don’t hate or love their neighbours enough to seek deeper integration.” That said, defence co-operation among Nordic countries has significantly improved over the last couple of years. This is, of course, made possible by shared democratic values, but it is also a natural consequence of the post-Cold War reality and the need to husband scarce resources. Mounting challenges, such as crime, environmental degradation, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), migration, climate change and competition for Arctic resources may ultimately require the Nordic countries to revisit certain long-held assumptions about national foreign and security policies, a process that will likely lead to deeper cooperation among them.
6. The states of the region are, to varying degrees, active in sub-regional groups like the Arctic Council and the Council of Baltic States. In institutional terms, this is thus a very diverse region, a situation reinforced by strong national identities and unique histories in which some, like Sweden and Denmark, are old monarchies, while others like Norway, Iceland and Finland only gained their full independence in the twentieth century. For these countries in particular, there is a certain reluctance to forgo hard-earned autonomy.
7. This diversity is also reflected in the structure of military forces in the region. Finnish forces, for example, are structured for territorial defence; the Danish military is oriented to international crisis management; while Swedish and Norwegian forces have more or less followed the Danish model. For its part, Iceland has no military at all, although it is a NATO member. Still, according to Göran Lennmarker, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Swedish Parliament, growing regional cooperation is allowing the Nordic countries to punch above their collective weight. The region dedicates a large share of its military spending to defence investment, whereas many continental countries spend far more on personnel costs. The Nordic countries together have one of the largest arsenals of advanced fighter aircraft, main battle tanks, armoured personnel carriers and artillery pieces. This means that the region boasts formidable and diplomatically consequential defence capabilities.
8. The relatively small size of each of these defence markets is compelling ever greater levels of defence industrial and procurement cooperation and more frequent combined exercises, training, operations and logistics transfers. Command and control systems are being interlinked, and these are operating at a very a high standard. There are also efforts underway to jointly develop strategic capabilities like air refuelling, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) multi-role vessels, and amphibious platforms. All of this is bolstering Nordic capabilities and will result in greater Nordic influence in Europe and further afield. When seen in the aggregate, Nordic assets constitute a formidable capacity which will bolster the region’s global influence in the coming decades.
9. Yet, the persistent institutional divisions among these states are not likely to change overnight, in part, because there is no compelling and immediate reason to do so. Importantly, the governments of the region are able to work together in a highly pragmatic fashion. Indeed, cooperation has deepened in recent years, even in the more sensitive areas of security policy. A recent report by Thorvald Stoltenberg, a former Norwegian Defence Minister, has laid out 13 proposals to deepen this cooperation in matters ranging from cyber defence, foreign policy, pooling resources, operational cooperation, and peace missions. Some of these proposals are on the fast track for approval, while others are likely to be set aside because of the unwillingness of one or more partners to cede that particular policy area to collective decision-making. Still, the states of the region are now deepening collaboration on peacekeeping and defence industrial matters, as well as economic and cultural affairs.
10. All the Nordic countries are facing problems with their defence budgets and need greater scale to achieve a degree of cost effectiveness. Despite its stability and prosperity, the region is still beset by a range of security concerns. The Nordic States are relatively small in population, but they have large territories to defend and they are geographically close to Russia. Not surprisingly, the Western Nordic States are less concerned with Russia than those living near its borders. Climate change is opening up access to vast swathes of Arctic territory and waterways, and this introduces a range of security matters into regional calculations. Territorial concerns persist and territorial defence matters are often more of a priority here than in the rest of Europe. Energy is another area of concern, although here too the landscape is variegated, with Norway enjoying energy self sufficiency and Finland being highly dependent on imported energy.
11. As suggested above, the Arctic region is undergoing a profound transformation. Climate change is more apparent in the High North than anywhere else on the planet. The consequences are myriad and highly complex. For example, the shrinking polar ice cap will invariably facilitate the commercial exploitation of Arctic resources and render Arctic waters far more navigable than previously thought possible. Coupled with some unresolved territorial sovereignty issues, these trends might lead to rising tensions in this otherwise peaceful and remote region. Alexander Stubb, the Foreign Minister of Finland, suggested that it is the responsibility of policymakers to ensure that the potential for conflict does not become a reality. Regional cooperation is thus essential. Along these lines, he proposed that the Arctic Council be revitalized and endowed with a permanent secretariat. He also suggested that observers be given a role to play in that body, including the European Commission and Asian states, although there is some resistance to this notion among some member states. He also called for an Arctic summit engaging Hheads of Sstate to focus attention on Arctic issues - an idea that he himself will propose at the next meeting of the Arctic Council.
12. The Canadian Ambassador to Finland, Christopher Shapardanov, characterized the Arctic as a region of peace and international cooperation and stressed the importance of the Law of the Sea for mediating conflicting claims in the region. He and several other speakers did not detect emerging military threats in the Arctic and argued that the goal for all countries in the region should be to ensure safety and security in the High North. The Arctic Council’s work on search and rescue is particularly important in this regard. Canada’s northern strategy is premised on exercising sovereignty over its territory, promoting economic and social development, protecting the region’s environmental heritage and improving governance. Canada is working to settle outstanding border disputes with the United States and Denmark and it sees the Arctic Council as the primary vehicle for dialogue in the region. It does not see the need, however for new legal architecture. Ambassador Shapardanov argued that direct NATO engagement in the region was unnecessary and could complicate inter-state relations in the region. He suggested that the Alliance has many other more pressing priorities. The Arctic States themselves need to address a set of challenges in three key areas: climate change, search and rescue, and increased commercial activity.
13. The impact of climate change on the Arctic region is both highly consequential for the planet and complex. According to Olav Orheim of the Research Council of Norway, over-fishing and long distance transport pollutants are two direct consequences of warming and melting ice. Pollutants tend to become highly concentrated in the Arctic food chain and are stored in the fat of the region’s fauna. The region is certainly cleanrer than Central Europe but there are more pollutants in its food chain, and this affects both the animals and the indigenous people living there. The growing season in Arctic regions has increased by three weeks in recent years and this will likely increase as the earth heats up. This has environmental, bio-diversity and, of course, commercial implications. Ice retreat is very evident and old ice is rapidly melting. Never has there been so little ice in the Arctic as there is today. Few models foresaw the pace of this change. It is likely that soon there will be a month of open sea sailing in Arctic waters and this will bring a significant increase in commercial shipping in the High North.
14. Rear Admiral Henrik Kudsk, Head of Greenland Command, noted that Greenland will undergo significant changes as a result of burgeoning maritime activities and exploding mass tourism in the Arctic. Exploration for oil and the related scientific research has increased within the Greenland Exclusive Economical Zone, and last year 42 cruise ships operated along the Greenland coast. Yet there are clear risks involved in this activity due to the scarcity of infrastructure in the region and particularly the lack of search and rescue facilities and teams in the High North. Invariably, accessibility to the Arctic, which is again linked to melting ice, will increase search and rescue (SAR) requirements in poorly charted and under-patrolled waters. According to Admiral Kudsk, Denmark sees NATO as an enabler of existing cooperation, although there is only one mention of the High North in Madeleine Albright’s recent Strategic Concept document.
15. Increased economic activity in the region is not only generating a higher degree of environmental risk, it could also introduce criminal activities including human trafficking, commercial and narcotics smuggling and even terrorism. At the same time, the combination of climatic change and increased economic activity could trigger new problems for indigenous peoples living in the Arctic. Suvi Juntunen, Advisor to the President of the Sami Parliament, described a range of these challenges. She also suggested that Sami people are strongly opposed to the militarization of the High North and suggested that they do not want to see increased NATO activity in the region.
16. Several speakers suggested that the Arctic Council represents the premier international institution-advancing cooperation in the region. The Foreign Minister of Finland, Alexander Stubb, has recently advocated strengthening the Arctic Council, partly through the establishment of a permanent secretariat; extending the Arctic Council's remit; expanding the number of observers from Europe and Asia in the Council; and creating an Arctic information centre as proposed by the EU. The Minister has also proposed an Arctic Summit Meeting engaging heads of state and governments.
17. Dialogue and co-operation within the existing legal frameworks governing activity in the Arctic is also essential. Rear Admiral Henrik Kudsk, for example, discussed the relevance of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and the Ilulissat declaration which was adopted by all five coastal states bordering the Arctic Ocean in May 2008. In that declaration, signatory states – four NATO members and the Russian Federation – agreed to use UNCLOS mechanisms for the delineation of the outer limits of the continental shelf. Importantly, all of the littoral states remain committed to the orderly settlement of outstanding claims. In this regard, the recent resolution of the Norwegian-Russian dispute over borders in Arctic waters represents a watershed that will reduce tensions in the region and certainly lead to oil and gas exploration in those waters.
18. Russia itself has claimed 1.2 million square kilometres of the Barentsering Sea and Arctic Ocean sea beds based on the principles delineated in the International Law of the Sea. Russia is not the only state expanding claims and there have been border disputes between Norway and Russia (now settled) and between the United States and Canada, and Canada and Denmark.
19. Some of the region’s security challenges are new and reflect the emergence of borderless communities and networks, most of which are welcome, but some of which are highly dangerous. Al Qaeda, for example, has built a network culture and is building a common identity, and recruiting via the internet. Virtual communities operating on line have increased the potential for asymmetrical attacks. In theseis casess a few dedicated protagonists can wreak havoc on critical systems upon which governments, industry and people depend. The digital world has thus helped fashion a new order, but it has also introduced compelling and complex new problems.
20. The Nordic countries are among the most digitally networked countries in the world and in the region there are justifiable concerns about cyber-crime and cyber-terrorism. Jyrki Kasvi, a Member of the Finish Parliament’s Committee for the Future, discussed an array of security and privacy challenges linked to the information revolution. The profound changes introduced by this revolution, including the emergence of global social networks, are recasting the way we look at security, often in unanticipated ways. The medium posses a range of opportunities for those dedicated to engaging in asymmetrical struggle against open societies, and this, of course, demands innovative responses. The Nordic States are open, technologically advanced, and politically compact and are thus well-positioned to play a leading role in the broader effort to minimise security risks of this revolution.
21. These networks are structured in such a way that local issues can become global. Digital networks are also changing the way society organizes itself and the way in which political protest is planned and expressed. Demonstrations today are often both leaderless and spontaneous; the prevalence of social networks makes this possible. This poses real dilemmas for those charged with settling disputes. To take one example, with whom does one negotiate when social protests are essentially leaderless?
22. All of this suggests that protecting vital networks will be essential, and most governments are lagging behind in this area. Professional hackers are highly sophisticated and many are employed by hostile governments, terrorist organizations and criminal groups. Co-ordinated attacks launched through the internet have become more common and the damage can be significant, as Estonian authorities can confirm. Open societies are going to have to deal with this problem and it will never be fully solved. Vigilance and creativity will be required.
23. Hans Tson Söderström of the Stockholm School of Economics noted that the Nordic countries have just been through the deepest recession since the 1930s. The crisis has now entered a new phase with both Europe and America undergoing a public finance crisis, partly as a result of the stimulus packages needed to keep national economies afloat last year. With the exception of the energy exporting nation Norway, the Nordic countries have all been struck to varying degrees by the global financial and economic crisis. Finland, Sweden and, to a degree, Denmark were relatively more resilient in the face of the crisis due to lessons learned during the severe financial crisis in the early 1990s. Iceland, of course, has suffered enormously as its banking sector had assumed such a large share of that country’s economy. With the exception of Iceland, the Nordic countries were well-prepared to weather the current crisis. The business sector in the region has been highly consolidated, and over the last decade it grew more competitive. Public finances are sound and significant foreign exchange reserves were generated over the last decade. This is a marked contrast with economic patterns in southern Europe. In Italy, for example, unit labour costs rose by 30% over the past decade without any significant increase in productivity. In contrast, Finland has had low wage and high productivity growth. Finland also ran continuous budget surpluses during the growth years which left it in a strong position during the downturn. This gave it leeway to respond to the crisis with fiscal tools. Obviously, countries like Italy have had far less leeway. These numbers are important and go far to explain the current crisis in some of the Mediterranean countries and the contrasting relative strength of the Nordic countries.
24. The sometimes surprising fragmentation in Nordic countries’ approaches to the international system is also apparent in monetary policy. The landscape here is highly variegated, as Finland is the only Euro member, while the other countries pursue independent monetary policies. Thus, there are five different Nordic national approaches to exchange rate policy. This is particularly paradoxical as the Nordic region meets all the criteria to constitute an optimum currency area, which is hardly the case in the Euro area. Despite this range of institutional approaches, one can nonetheless speak of a Nordic economic model, which is characterized by an embrace of globalization, openness to free trade, high factor mobility, strong labour market organizations, comprehensive social safety nets, significant investments in human capital, high employment rates and sound public finance. This system has built in social stabilizers which have helped these countries weather the downturn. It also implies a degree of collective risk-sharing that lowers the burdens on individuals in a downturn. This has helped build resilience in the face of crisis.
25. The economic dynamic in the Baltic States is quite different according to Ramunas Vilpisauskas, Director of the Institute of International Relations and Political Science in Lithuania. Excessive domestic spending and borrowing during the boom years left the Baltic States very vulnerable to the global economic downturn. Wages also soared and were essentially delinked from productivity gains. The situation was unsustainable and the global downturn rapidly exposed this fragility. Moreover, that the three Baltic governments steadfastly refused to devalue in the face of the crisis only exacerbated the recession. The Latvian economy ultimately shrank by 17% while the crisis has been somewhat less deep in Lithuania and Estonia.
26. All three countries aspire to Euro membership and therefore their leaders determined that the adjustment ought to occur in the real economy rather than through exchange rates. However, the governments of those three countries have painful but necessary austerity policies that have actually paved the way for a recovery. Real wages and prices have subsequently fallen, but this will boost the region’s competitiveness and help drive the recovery. All three now enjoy positive current account balances. Prior to the crisis, the Baltic States were the fastest growing economies in Europe and were quickly converging with the longer established democracies of Europe. They are now returning to growth, although the torrid pace of development is not likely to be repeated.
27. Edward Lucas, a journalist writing for The Economist, distinguished the Nordic five’s views of Russia from the views of the Baltic three. Put simply, the Nordic countries do not feel an existential threat emanating from Russia, while the Baltic States invariably do. For the latter, the Soviet annexation in June 1940 constituted a national catastrophe which has impressed itself deeply on the psyche of the Baltic people and their leaders. Russian propaganda, cyber attacks against Estonia, energy and transport cut-offs, the sometime bellicose language of Russian leaders and, of course the Georgian war, have only reinforced these views. The war in Georgia demonstrated that Russia has the will to conduct war against contiguous states. Russia’s sometimes provocative military exercises have reinforced this impression and created a landscape of worry and concern.
28. The United States has recently signalled to the Baltic States that they remain a priority for US policy. It has organized a number of military exercises, far smaller than recent Russian exercises, to make this commitment more tangible. There has also been new contingency military planning to give added weight to this commitment. According to Mr Lucas, this is reassuring and should break a cycle in which Baltic fears of Russia tend to cloud other matters on the transatlantic and European agenda, which in turn, foments no small degree of frustration among the Baltic countries’ Western partners. In short, the Baltic States are more secure today than they have ever been and this should instil in them a greater degree of confidence in the international arena.
29. At the same time, some positive changes are evident in Russia. Some of the old rhetoric has been scrapped and reconciliation with Poland, partly predicated on a Russian reassessment of the Katyn Forest massacre, has been a particularly welcome development. Arkady Moshes, of the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, noted that the level of military forces in the Baltic region has fallen and that the Baltic region was no longer a “grey” security zone like Ukraine and Georgia. Russia is increasingly engaging in regional bodies like the Council of Baltic States, and concerns about Kaliningrad seem to have diminished. It is now generally perceived as another Russian region and not a black hole in the region’s security landscape. There are, however, some persistent problems. Although the relationship with the United States has improved, relations between Russia and the EU remain poor.
30. Russia plays an integral role in northern and Arctic security and its role there has evolved substantially since the Cold War. Among conference participants there was a strong agreement that Russia needs to be engaged, although there are persistent concerns arising out of Russia’s lack of democracy and the way it employs economic leverage for political ends. Russian participants, including the Head of the Duma delegation to the NATO PA, Lubov Sliska, stressed that Russia pursues a consistent, peaceful foreign policy in the Arctic and has historically maintained positive and pragmatic relations with Nordic countries. Several speakers and participants, however, noted that Russian military patrols in the region have increased, incidents of cyber attacks have taken place and that Moscow sometimes uses language that some in the region see as threatening. Several Seminar participants likened the language of the Kremlin, at times, to Cold War rhetoric, although the Russian Military Analyst Aleksander Golts suggested that such statements should not be given too much weight.
31. There was consensus that Russia is facing severe challenges, particularly with regard to its economic and financial situation as well as its demographics. Arkady Moshes said that Russia needs to modernise technologically and strive to adopt economic rules and regulations more in line with those of the EU. Several non-government Russian observers agreed that the fight against corruption would be central to the country’s modernization but there was a sense that the lack of alternation in government has only entrenched corrupt elements within the state and within the national economy. This view was not shared by Russian parliamentarians participating in the meeting.
32. Russia’s importance to Europe as an energy provider is beyond dispute and, of course, this is a primary source of influence for the Kremlin, which exercises enormous influence over the energy sector. Sandor Liive, CEO of Eesti Energia, suggested that the development of a more integrated European energy market and the construction of additional gas lines and electricity transmission grids would be essential to bolster energy security of the continent. Regional co ordination strategies among the Baltic and Nordic States would have to be part of this broader effort. Meanwhile, the development of shale gas technology is recasting the energy outlook for Europe and for North America, and it will compete with Russian gas and reduce European reliance on Russian gas.
33. Boris Nemtsov, Co-Chair of the Solidarnosc Movement and former Deputy Prime Minister of Russia, arrived in Helsinki just days after Russian authorities confiscated one hundred thousand copies of his report on the situation in Russia. Copies of that report are available at http://nemtsov.ru/. Mr. Nemtsov noted that while the coal and oil industries in Russia are subject to competition and therefore do not pose a problem, this is not the case in the gas industry. The lack of competition is undermining Russian interest and endangering those countries that are dependent on Russian gas imports. The Baltic States and Finland are particularly vulnerable in this regard. The absence of competition in the gas sector has allowed corruption to take root and this has undermined investment and added significant costs to Russian production. Asset-stripping has become common and this has actually put Gazprom’s viability at risk. The problem is that this has removed resources needed for investment and Gazprom is simply not investing sufficient levels of capital to produce the gas it needs to meet market demand. Because of the company’s lack of transparency, foreign investors are extremely weary of playing in the Russian gas market. Mr Nemtsov suggested that the Nord Stream project could prove too commercially unviable if there is not sufficient gas to move through it. The Southstream project is even more questionable as the effort to avoid Ukraine alone will cost Gazprom 25 billion euros. He added that Nabucco confronts similar problems. Gazprom is also locking in long-term contracts, which are not in its long-term interest. These are political contracts and they put Gazprom at a long-term disadvantage. Finally, none of these matters are being discussed openly in Russia. According to Mr Nemtsov, Gazprom should be left out of the political game, but it continues to play a central political function as a resource for the political class. Adjustment to this turmoil is taking place outside of Russia. Shale gas in Poland will provide an alternative source for several countries and Europeans will be diversifying their gas supplies with shale and Liquified Natural Gaz (LNG).
34. Mr Nemtsov also suggested that Russia’s economy is highly inflexible and uncompetitive, and this could ultimately provoke a genuine economic and political crisis in Russia itself. Russian firms have signed highly uncompetitive deals with other suppliers in order to corner certain energy markets, but these deals have locked Russia into highly unfavourable terms that are ultimately not in its interests. Mr Nemtsov indicated that one cannot understand Russian energy market activity without fathoming the murky business practices that are characteristic of the domestic market. He called for a liberalisation of Russia’s domestic market as the last and best chance to build a more transparent, flexible and wealth-generating economy. Economic changes must go hand-in-hand with political ones, Nemtsov said. While he did not anticipate significant political changes in the short-term, he was guardedly optimistic that they would occur over the long-term, as the ever mounting gap between rich and poor will invariably push the political leadership to action.
35. Nuclear deterrence strategy, as practiced during the Cold War, elevated the strategic importance of the Arctic region. Any intercontinental ballistic missile exchange would have employed Arctic air space, while nuclear submarines typically plied Arctic and Nordic waters. The demise of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War has significantly diminished the strategic function of the Arctic which is now seen more through the lens of economic interests and environmental concerns. NATO has withdrawn its forces and bases from the region. The closure of the US base in Keflavik, Iceland, in 2006 is one of the more noted cases. It had been the base for Maritime Patrol Aircraft, rescue helicopters and fighter aircraft operating into the far North Atlantic. A number of speakers suggested that it would be mistaken to re-inject a significant military presence in the region and several of the littoral countries would prefer that NATO not develop an Arctic vocation. Ambassador Chris Shapardanov made this case in very clear terms.
36. This view, however, was not universally shared. While NATO has significantly reduced its military presence in the High North, General (ret.) Klaus Naumann, former Chairman of NATO Military Committee, suggested that political and military attention will again be focused on the region, although for reasons very different than those that inspired regional deployments during the Cold War. During the Cold War, the potential for a nuclear exchange over the Arctic strongly conditioned the Western and Soviet deployments in the Arctic, which was also seen as a vital sea lane. The Greenland, Iceland, United Kingdom gap constituted a key strategic line of defence for the Alliance, and intelligence stations in Greenland, Norway and Canada were monitoring Soviet military activity. When the Cold War ended, this region soon slipped off the political radar. NATO’s focus shifted to the Balkans and bases in the region were abandoned or sharply down-sized.
37. Today, global warming, demographic changes and resource scarcity are resuscitating political attention. Ice melt is likely to turn the region into an important shipping lane and open up the region to resource extraction and fishing. Global economic growth will push commercial activity into the region but this could expose the region to serious environmental threats. The High North could become a theatre for non-state actors with military-terroristic ambitions.
38. These new challenges could result in renewed Allied activity in the region, but so far NATO has not issued a specific statement on Arctic security and there is no specific mention of Nordic security issues in the Albright Report. General Naumann stressed, however, that any increased profile for NATO in the region should not be directed against Russia. Indeed, co-operation with Russia would be essential to meet shared security concerns. He suggested that one ambition should be to make the Arctic a nuclear free zone as a follow-on to the START talks. The Alliance and Russia could devise criteria to agree on these shared threats and possible responses to them. This would be particularly important in areas like WMD, missile defence, Afghanistan, and terrorism.
39. Mr. Golts suggested that Western views of Russian military intentions and capabilities in the High North have been exaggerated. If Russian strategic bombers have recently patrolled in that air space, the number of patrols does not even begin to approach the frequency of such flights in the 80s. In fact, there are very few Russian military forces in the Arctic region. He therefore indicated that the notion of military rivalry in the region is somewhat overstated.
40. Seppo Kääriäinen, First Deputy Speaker of the Finnish Parliament, underlined his country’s close collaboration with the Alliance in many areas, as well as its important contribution to NATO-led operations. While co-operation between the Nordic non-NATO countries with the Alliance is deepening, membership is currently not on the agenda. According to Finnish Foreign Minister Stubb and Göran Lennmarker, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Swedish Parliament, there is no clear consensus among the main political players in either country regarding eventual NATO membership. Both speakers suggested that as a precondition for joining NATO, Sweden and Finland would require the support of a clear majority of their respective peoples. Minister Stubb suggested that it is important both to keep the NATO option alive and to ensure that Finland continues to play an important role as a key NATO partner. It should be noted that Finland has some 500 soldiers deployed abroad and 80% of these are engaged in NATO operations including ISAF. The minister noted that the Finnish ISAF contingent will be increased. Finland and Sweden would both also want to coordinate closely if the prospect of NATO membership were to draw near.
41. Although there is currently no consensus in Sweden about membership in NATO, there is broad agreement in that country that NATO is fundamental to European security. Like Finland, Sweden would like to see deeper cooperation between the EU and NATO on security matters. Sweden would not be passive should one of its fellow EU member countries be attacked. Swedish troops are also operating within ISAF and Mr. Lennmarker suggested that this mission must be conceived as a long-term engagement and not a short-term deployment. In terms of the number of troops engaged in active operations, both Sweden and Finland are clearly punching above their weight. Indeed, Finland is the largest contributor to NATO operations in proportion to the size of its forces.
42. Mr. Kääriäinen concluded that the challenges that the countries of the region are facing do not respect national boundaries. Genuine opportunities for intensive collaboration are opening up. Indeed, solutions to the key challenges can only be achieved through close bilateral and multilateral co-operation.
43. In her keynote address, Alyson Bailes posed the question, why does the Nordic region matter to non-Nordic people? She answered that rhetorical question by suggesting that Europe needs a northern region that is stable and peaceful. In fact, that region has built a clear and firm frontier with Russia and this border is serving the needs of both sides, thereby ensuring a high stability and cooperation there. The Nordic States also are critical to Europe’s identity and, if anything, need to push their interest more strongly in European and transatlantic fora. The Nordic States provide Europe with highly talented Ambassadors and military commanders who play vital roles in delicate situations across the world. They are reassuring figures who derive a degree of leverage from the absence of their countries’ colonial heritage. This is extraordinarily helpful to the EU and to the international community as a whole. Finally, the Nordic countries provide a model for other countries as they have managed to construct a zone of peace and prosperity where neither was foreordained.