NATO, Russia and Nordic responses to the tense security situation in the Baltic Sea were all the subject of lively debate at a conference on defence and security policy co-operation hosted by the Nordic Council in Elsinore on Monday.
Associate Professor Ann-Sofie Dahl, defence expert Håkon Lunde Saxi and the President of the Nordic Council, Henrik Dam Krsitensen, debating Nordic co-operation on defence at the conference.
The idea for the conference came from the Danish delegation to the Nordic Council. Defence co-operation is one of the three main priorities for the Danish Presidency of the Nordic Council 2016.
The debate really livened up after a speech by the Swedish/Danish expert in international affairs, Associate Professor Ann-Sofie Dahl on “Russian aggression and Nordic responses”. While conceding that aggression may be a strong term, Dahl cited examples of what she considers signs of increasingly aggressive Russian behaviour towards its neighbours around the Baltic Sea, and expressed the opinion that it would be best if both Sweden and Finland joined NATO.
“Sweden and Finland joining NATO would be the best way to improve the security situation around the Baltic Sea,” Dahl said.
The other Nordic countries are already members of NATO.
Erkki Tuomioja, former Finnish foreign minister and now a member of the Social Democratic Group on the Nordic Council, strongly rejected Dahl’s proposal.
“I am not afraid of Russia but I am afraid of the type of bellicose rhetoric we have just heard,” was his retort.
Tuomioja would prefer to ask what is the best way for the Nordic Region to exert influence on international policy in a way that will help cut down on the hostile rhetoric.
“The Nordic countries should be proactively counteracting aggressive rhetoric, not further inflaming the situation,” he said.
The President of the Nordic Council, Henrik Dam Kristensen, noted the similarities between the current situation in the Baltic region and the days of the Cold War. He called for the Nordic and Baltic countries to work more closely together and display solidarity in the face of Russia provocation.
“We need to make it clear to Russia that provocation Is completely unacceptable,” he said.
Before the start of the conference, delegates sailed up the Sound on the Danish Fleet’s ultra-modern 140-metre frigate Iver Huitfeldt. The trip included a display of how the battleship works along with helicopters.
Three experts addressed the actual conference: Ann-Sofie Dahl, UN expert Kristoffer Nilaus Tarp and defence policy expert Håkon Lunde Saxi.
Further debate on security policy is expected when the foreign and defence ministers present their reports to the Session of the Nordic Council in Copenhagen, 1–3 November.
The conference in Elsinore was organised by the Danish delegation to the Nordic Council, the Danish Parliament, the Royal Danish Defence College, and the Danish Ministry of Defence.