The seminar was opened by its chair Dr Teija Tiilikainen who stressed the topicality of the seminar due to the current crisis in Ukraine. According to her, an analysis of its implications on security and how the crisis affects different actors in the area has not yet been completed. Questions such as will there be changes in defence policy in Nordic or Baltic countries and will the crisis have implications on transatlantic relations are particularly topical at the moment.
First, the floor was given to the Minister of Defence of Finland, Carl Haglund, who in his speech focused on the impact of the current events on Finland’s security and defence policy, and also on what kind of effects they have on NATO and the EU. He began by saying that Northern Europe has experienced decades of peace and that the developments of the Ukrainian crisis came as a surprise for Finland. Retrospectively thinking it should have been expected, but the negative transformation of Russia has been underestimated while the focus has largely been on positive developments. Minister Haglund stated that the Ukrainian situation has long-term effects. At the moment there is a ceasefire, which is of course a positive sign, but the arrangements in Eastern Ukraine are still worrying and rather impalpable. For Europe, Crimea is the most difficult part of the crisis and its handling must be considered carefully. It does not seem likely that Russia will give up on Crimea and this cannot be accepted by the EU or the US, which means that the sanctions must be retained. Minister Haglund noted that there are also other crisis situations ongoing around the world: for instance the civil war in Syria, ISIS, problems in Gaza and Northern Africa.
According to Minister Haglund there is a will to develop Nordic cooperation: Nordic cooperation now includes common exercises and training, crisis management cooperation and a political dialogue – in the future the cooperation will also include capacity building. The main intention, however, is not to build a defence alliance. Regarding the Nordic-Baltic cooperation Minister Haglund stated that it is not very extensive yet and there are possibilities to do extend it. Because of the Ukrainian crisis the US would like to have a larger presence in the Baltic countries, which would enable new forms of cooperation. Finland has no intention to take responsibility for defending the Baltic countries – this task should be taken solely by NATO, and in Minister Haglund’s opinion this sets limits on Nordic-Baltic cooperation.
The NATO summit that concentrated on the crisis of Ukraine and its implications to the countries had a very positive outcome, at least from the Finnish perspective: the partnership will be deepened, although before the summit there was a concern that due to the current events cooperation would diminish. Minister Haglund reckoned, however, that Finland is not joining NATO in the near future since this would require a stronger public support.
Minister Haglund also evaluated the implication of the current crisis on the EU’s foreign and security policy. The EU and the NATO have different roles and the importance of the EU security and defence cooperation has not increased, even when the crisis in Ukraine started. According to Minister Haglund the reason is that the EU countries that are members of NATO are not interested to develop EU defence policy. In general, according to Minister Haglund, there have been positive developments in the EU’s foreign and security policy during the past ten years.
To conclude, Minister Haglund stressed that Nordic-Baltic cooperation will be enhanced in the future. Finland must also take into account Finland’s history as Russia’s geographical neighbour – which means that smart foreign and defence policies are needed. Domestic defence policy will be developed in cooperation with Nordic, Baltic and EU countries.
The second speaker, Professor Daniel Hamilton, concentrated on explaining the findings of the recently published book ”Advancing U.S.–Nordic–Baltic Security cooperation”. According to him the US is interested in cooperating with the Nordic and Baltic countries, because this relationship is a value added relationship – the relationship is advantageous to both sides. For two reasons there is urgency for this particular relationship: firstly, the idea of an era of calm and peacefulness that started after the end of the Cold War has dramatically changed recently, and secondly, there are significant changes going on in the Arctic. Recent developments mean that the post-Soviet succession continues and significant turbulence exists. According to Prof. Hamilton the situation in Ukraine is rather a symptom of the post-Soviet succession than an episode that is passing by. Prof. Hamilton stressed that this is not a black and white situation, and in reality the challenge is the increasing ‘twilight’ zone between the East and the West.
Prof. Hamilton presented some policy recommendations for Finland and for the US-Nordic-Baltic cooperation. He stated that the best option for Finland would be to join the NATO. Baltic countries should be involved in Nordic defence cooperation and in Hamilton’s opinion Baltic countries prefer this cooperation – they do not expect that Finland or other Nordic countries would defend them. Professor Hamilton continued by talking about the US entering Europe as an energy actor, which is why exploring the energy issues in the framework of US-Nordic-Baltic cooperation would be useful. The Nordic and Baltic countries have not considered energy issues strategically. Regarding Arctic cooperation much remains left to develop.
Lastly, Prof. Hamilton mentioned the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Although TTIP is seen primary as an economical agreement, it has a geopolitical aspect, and in this sense the free-trade agreement is related to security issues and should be mentioned in this context.