Vershbow: NATO and Finland Consult ‘at the Highest Levels’

Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow, Feb. 2, 2015Following our Wales Summit in 2014, Finland became one of NATO’s Enhanced Opportunities Partners (or EOPs), which means more co-ownership, more dialogue on cooperative security, and more interaction together. Since the launch of the EOP initiative, we have been working more closely with Finland on many challenges, including Baltic Sea security.

NATO values this relationship very highly. And Allies were extremely pleased that both Finland and Sweden participated so extensively in the Warsaw Summit – notably at the heads of state dinner where leaders discussed relations with Russia.

As Secretary General Stoltenberg quipped at the dinner itself: It’s up to Finland and Sweden to decide if they’re interested in more than dinner. There are many options on the menu.

EOP status enables NATO and Finland to consult politically at the highest levels, to share intelligence and develop joint situational awareness both militarily and politically, and in a broader sense, to work in concert to address common security challenges….

Interoperability is not just a military concept. It’s also important to achieve political interoperability through deeper cooperation on crisis management and contingency planning. Towards this end, Finland – as well as Sweden – participated in our annual Crisis Management Exercise, CMX 2016, earlier this year. This exercise included a simulated Article 5 collective defence response with challenges posed by hybrid warfare threats in the Baltic Sea area, complete with a range of realistic overt and covert military, paramilitary and civilian measures.

The inclusion of key partners reflected our shared security interests and demonstrated the potential added value to the Alliance of Finnish and Swedish contributions to defence and security in the Baltic region, even though these partners are not bound by NATO’s Article 5, mutual defence obligation….

Today, I believe partnerships are a necessity, not a luxury. And we want our partners – including Finland – to be even more involved in what we do at a sensitive time, and on subjects very close to our “core business….”

Finland can also play an active role from inside the European Union in expanding NATO-EU collaboration, building on the Joint Declaration signed in Warsaw by Secretary General Stoltenberg and Presidents Tusk and Juncker. And Allies could continue to benefit from Finland’s expertise in important areas such as civil preparedness, crisis management and hybrid warfare.

Of course, all of this cooperation would always be pursued in the spirit of a real co-ownership, respectful of Finland’s goals and desires as a militarily non-aligned country.

There will always be a line between members and partners, but there’s a great deal NATO and partners can do short of crossing that line to our mutual benefit. NATO looks forward to exploring these possibilities with Finland in near future….

Since 1949, NATO has helped to keep the peace in Europe by working closely with our partners and by forging an unbreakable bond of friendship and cooperation between Europe and North America. Our unity has been strengthened by our commitment to a common set of core values.

In a world with no shortage of challenges and a host of real and present dangers, the role NATO plays as a defensive bulwark of cooperative security cannot be underestimated. In the spirit of the Helsinki Final Act, let us do everything we can to strengthen our Alliance and our partnerships, to uphold our fundamental values, and to preserve the peace for future generations.

Excerpts from keynote address by NATO Deputy Secretary General Ambassador Alexander Vershbow at the 3rd Annual Helsinki Summer Session Finnish Institute of International Affairs.

Image: Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow, Feb. 2, 2015 (photo: NATO)