Friday, November 21, 2008

The World in 2009

My contribution here...

North stars
Edward Lucas, VISBY
From The World in 2009 print edition

Introducing the Nordic Atlantic Treaty Organisation

Designed to keep the Germans down, the Russians out and the Americans in, NATO will celebrate its 60th birthday in 2009 in a sorry state. Its campaign in Afghanistan is not going well. Its members are at odds about how to deal with Russia. But look north and the European security picture will be brightening.

Sweden and Norway, once prickly friends, are striking up a new defence relationship.

This might look odd: Sweden is non-NATO and a member of the European Union; Norway is a keen member of NATO, but has stayed out of the EU. But now those differences are being set aside. Co-operation on airspace monitoring, combined military procurement, joint training and co-ordinated intelligence work will all be bearing fruit in 2009.

Panting to catch up is Finland, neutral in theory but in practice also spooked by an increasingly assertive Russia. That's clever psychology by the Norwegians and Swedes: Finland would resist if it felt pressured to join in. But it hates being left out of anything its Nordic neighbours get up to. For the core three, 2009 will bring calls for higher defence spending and new efforts to extend Nordic security co-operation to other countries.

The two pressing tasks for the new Nordic security partnership (don’t call it an alliance, or you will get a very chilly Scandinavian scowl) are to work out how to help the Baltic states, and to make plans for what they call the “high north”, the energy-rich area that lies between Europe and the North Pole. The Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) have been full members of NATO since 2004. But the alliance has made no plans to defend them, not wanting to break the taboo on counting Russia as any kind of threat. That will change in 2009, as NATO’s bureaucracy in Brussels works out the practicalities.

But no NATO efforts to defend the Baltics in a crisis make sense without help from Finland and Sweden. As EU members, they will offer political support. And Sweden’s airspace would offer the best way to bring reinforcements if needed. The Baltics will be keen to join in the new Nordic nexus, starting with airspace monitoring.

America is watching the Nordic efforts with increasing interest, as is Canada, once a peace-monger but now deeply alarmed by Russian adventurism in the Arctic. Add Britain for good measure, beef it up a bit, and this could turn into a handy new outfit to deal with the hot­test spots of what some people are calling the new cold war. All it needs is a snappy name. What about the Nordic Atlantic Treaty Organisation?

1 comment:

stockholm slender said...

Well, they now propose increasing the defence budget, I certainly did not see that one coming. Halonen will surely not accept Nato but her last term is already midway: I would not be surprised - bar any dramatic security changes in Europe - to see a Finnish application. Whether that would be sensible or not is another matter.