Security expert: Nordic military initiative largely a symbolic step (10)
Research fellow Emmet Tuohy from the Tallinn-based International Center for Defense and Security (ICDS) told ERR News that the Nordic defense ministers' call for closer defense cooperation and increased solidarity with the Baltic states is a "declaration", not a binding agreement.
The defense ministers of Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark and Iceland made a joint statement on Thursday, calling Russia's actions the biggest challenge to the European security. The statement, published in Norway’s daily Aftenposten, called for more joint exercises and exchange of intelligence information between the Nordic countries and Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania.
Tuohy told ERR News that Nordic defense ministers' initiative is a largely symbolic step. “While it certainly doesn't do any harm, especially from a Baltic perspective - the ministers' public criticism of Russia's aggressive moves on the Baltic countries' borders is helpful - it doesn't reflect any fundamental change, either.”
Tuohy pointed out that Nordic countries have already been able to increase their defense capacity through cooperation in for example coordinating joint exercises and joint participation in international operations, as well as in areas such as joint procurement (something in which Finland and Estonia have also seen some success).
“Nonetheless, the underlying security calculus of each of the Nordic states remains rather divergent. Despite slowly growing public support for NATO membership, traditionally neutral Finland and Sweden continue to look towards the EU, while Norway and Denmark prioritize the security guarantee provided by the Alliance. And even within the "neutral" group, in Finland there is widespread support for conscription and for extensive defense investments across the political spectrum, while in Sweden capabilities have continued to decline, with projects subject to considerable political volatility,” Tuohy added.
Estonian defense experts and politicians have long argued for more extensive cooperation between the Nordic countries and Baltic states, calling also Sweden and Finland to join NATO. The ICDS, Estonia's leading think tank on geopolitical issues, recently warned that Baltic independence is directly related to Sweden's NATO membership status or its ability to defend itself, pointing also out that Sweden has become militarily so weak that it could not guarantee its own national sovereignty, let alone the security of other countries.