NATO in Transatlantic Security Policy

By invitation only
Further material
Alexander_Vershbow.mp3 (MP3, 13.20 Mb)
Ann-Sofie_Dahl.mp3 (MP3, 12.07 Mb)
Otto_Saxen.mp3 (MP3, 9.99 Mb)
Teija Tiilikainen / Photo: Alvar Aalto-Setälä Teija Tiilikainen / Photo: Alvar Aalto-Setälä
Alexander Vershbow / Photo: Alvar Aalto-Setälä Alexander Vershbow / Photo: Alvar Aalto-Setälä
Ann-Sofie Dahl / Photo: Alvar Aalto-Setälä Ann-Sofie Dahl / Photo: Alvar Aalto-Setälä
Otto Saxén / Photo: Alvar Aalto-Setälä Otto Saxén / Photo: Alvar Aalto-Setälä
Photo: Alvar Aalto-Setälä Photo: Alvar Aalto-Setälä

Thu 1.9.2016 at 10:00-12:00
Hotel Kämp, Peilisali
Kluuvikatu 2, Helsinki

NATO remains the key transatlantic security institution. It is also a vital part of the Baltic Sea balance of power. However, the post-Cold War balance in the region is increasingly under challenge, and unpredictability increases either by strategic intent in the East or because of political chaos in the South. The recent developments can undermine the focus needed in addressing common threats. What is the state of the transatlantic solidarity which is being challenged by different forces and actors? What is the role of the Nordic-Baltic region in the production of the shared security? How to make the best possible use of the cooperative-security tools? What are the possible roles for non-NATO members in regional security and crisis management? How should the burden be shared in the new unpredictable environment?

Keynote speaker: Alexander Vershbow, Deputy Secretary General, NATO

Panelists: Ann-Sofie Dahl, Adjunct Fellow, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)

Otto Saxén, Director, Defence Policy Unit, Ministry of Defence of Finland

Chair: Teija Tiilikainen, Director, Finnish Institute of International Affairs

The speech of Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow: 

Summary of the seminar

NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow spoke primarily about the challenges that the Alliance was facing and what it had done during the past four years, frequently with partners, to address them. In general, DSG Vershbow noted that NATO is facing its biggest and broadest set of challenges since the end of the Cold War, listing the continuing instability in the Middle East, Baltic Sea region and war in Ukraine as all demanding attention.

Regarding its actions in Ukraine in 2014, DSG Vershbow stated that Russia had torn up the Helsinki Final Act (CSCE 1975) but that difficulties with Russia by no means had started only then. He then listed the abandonment by Russia of the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) agreement, the Vienna Document and the NATO-Russia Founding Act as examples of earlier actions that had contributed to the current poisoned atmosphere.

The Deputy Secretary General briefly spoke about instability in the Middle East, ISIL, Syria, the large migrant flows and the wave of terrorist attacks in Europe. Leading into the third theme, security in the Baltic Sea region and what NATO was doing with partners, DSG Vershbow also noted the threats posed by longer-range ballistic missiles, cyber attacks and hybrid threats.

Decisions made at the Wales Summit (2014), to speed up decision making and initial responses through the creation of the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) and NATO force integration units (NFIUs), as well as the initiation of the Expanded Opportunities Partner format contribute to NATO’s response to the changing security environment that the Alliance finds at its borders. Decisions made at the Warsaw Summit (2016) that further contribute to this include per DSG Vershbow the enhanced forward presence-related actions of stationing rotational and multinational battalion-sized groups in Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland, as well as a multinational brigade framework in Romania.

The Deputy Secretary General underlined that these measures were purely defensive, meant to deter and not provoke aggression, noting that NATO did not seek confrontation but had the responsibility to protect alliance members. Yet, he noted, NATO sought to continue a two-track approach, where defence preparations occurred in tandem with dialogue with Russia on such issues as flight safety and increasing transparency of military exercises.

Seeking to remind the audience that NATO would continue to engage itself in the Alliance’s three core tasks (collective defence, crisis management and cooperative security), Vershbow mentioned providing support to Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine, training hundreds of Iraqi officers in Jordan and continuing the largest defence capability missions – Resolute Support in Afghanistan – beyond 2016.

Deputy Secretary General Vershbow’s final comments related to where cooperation between NATO, Finland and Sweden might go in the future. Here he started by noting that "today partnerships are a necessity not a luxury,” and that the 28+2 format would continue to look at Baltic Sea security issues. Increasing what he termed "political interoperability” and strengthening resilience through military and civilian cooperation were increasing priorities in this cooperation. In the (near) future DSG Vershbow say more integrated contingency planning, increased intel sharing and efforts at risk reduction as being interesting areas of cooperation in the 28+2 format. Finland itself could build from within the EU to strengthen NATO-EU relations, and had many things to teach allies regarding civil preparedness and countering hybrid actions.

The keynote speech was followed by comments by Ann-Sofie Dahl, Adjunct Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, as well as Otto Saxén, Director of the Defence Policy Unit at the Finnish Ministry of Defence.

Ann-Sofie Dahl started by arguing that the Alliance should focus on the Baltic Sea region, because Russia’s actions in the region were subtler than for example Syria, so it would be more difficult for NATO members to assess when Article 5 may be applicable. Her main point was that the quickest thing Finland and Sweden could do to increase regional security would be to join NATO. She then noted that some in Moscow see Sweden as the weakest link in the region, particularly as it comes to capabilities to defend her territory. The current two-pillar policy of partnership with NATO and multiple bilateral agreements was seen by her as similar to the model used during the Cold War, when Sweden had close but secret cooperation with Denmark, Norway, the UK and US as well as some unofficial coordination with Finland.

Otto Saxén provided a Finnish perspective on the NATO Warsaw summit, with the overall assessment being that things had gone very well. As evidence of this he cited the fact that even as a non-member Finland had been invited to many fora and meetings at the highest possible level (heads of state and ministerials). The two-track approach with Russia – Deterrence and Dialogue – suits Finland well, as a better relationship between NATO and Russia would serve Finland well. More specifically he commented on three aspects of the Warsaw meetings and decisions made there. First, the decision to establish a multinational battalion-size presence was a very significant decision. It is seen by Finland as a well calibrated and measured stabilizing action by NATO, signaling that the alliance is ready to defend all its members.  Second, it was good that NATO and the EU were able to agree on a political declaration on countering hybrid threats. Here he felt that Finland has much to contribute due to its comprehensive societal security approach. Third, the 28+2+1 (Alliance members, Finland, Sweden and EU) format to discuss regional security at heads-of-state level serves Finland very well.