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The Atlantic Council of the United States

Nordic-Baltic Security in the 21st Century:
Continued Transformation Toward a Larger Role in the World?

In Concert or in Competition?
NATO, the EU, and the Regional Security Agenda

Welcome and Moderator:
Ian Brzezinski,
Senior Fellow,
The Atlantic Council

Ann-Sofie Dahl,
Adjunct Fellow,
Center for Strategic and International Studies (Copenhagen)

Imants Liegis,
Former Latvian Minister of Defense

Kurt Volker,
School of Advanced Studies, Washington D.C.

Mindaugas Zickus,
Adviser to the President of Lithuania

Date: September 7, 2011 

Transcript by
Federal News Service
Washington, D.C.

IAN BRZEZINSKI: Good morning. My name’s Ian Brzezinski, I’m a senior fellow here at the Atlantic Council and I get the pleasure to serve as a moderator for this panel entitled, “In Concert or In Competition? NATO, the EU and the Regional Security Agenda.”

Let me start by expressing my appreciation to Ambassador Hafstrom and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in Sweden for supporting this effort this morning – and the entire program; and also, to Ambassador Henrik Liljegren for his effort to catalyze this effort here at the Atlantic Council.

You know, when Robert – when Bob asked me to chair this, I was particularly psyched for kind of four reasons. First – to kind of refer back to Jim – when you talk about the Nordic-Baltic region and security, you’re really talking about a collection of countries that have brought a perpetually youthful vigor and energy and enthusiasm and pragmatism to the security agenda. Now, that’s not very substantive, but it’s a genuine sentiment that I have.

Second, when you think about this region, it is a region that really understands the importance of interdependence and collaboration. Security independence is a fact of life in this region and they have embraced it. You see this through the regional cooperation, indigenous regional cooperation, the NORDEF cooperation – be it Baltic cooperation, the defense – Baltic Defense College, their roles in NATO, indeed, these countries punch above their weight in NATO operations, either as members or nonmembers, be it in the Balkans, Afghanistan and elsewhere. And they’ve given reality to the EU’s nascent efforts in the security realm, for example, through the EU Nordic Battle Group.

Third, as an American, I appreciate the appreciation this region brings to the trans-Atlantic link. It’s an appreciation that is consistent and enduring, even during differences in policy. I don’t think that can be said too much for the rest of Europe.

And then finally, thinking Machiavellianly, this is a region that seems to be an important constituency or group within NATO and the EU – a voting block that brings influence. And for the United States, we should be tapping into that and I don’t think we do that sufficiently.

The task of this panel is to better understand and to assess – help us assess the key security challenges found in the Nordic-Baltic Region and to examine the alignments of the roles currently played by NATO and the European Union. And we’ve got a great panel to kick off our discussion with speakers that reflect experiences from Latvia, Lithuania, Sweden and the United States.

And starting to my far left, we have Ann-Sofie Dahl, a professor at Lund University, an adjunct fellow at CSIS – I have a personal bias at CSIS – but has also been – has had relationships with Princeton, Georgetown, the Heritage Foundation and a lot of American institutions; is extensively published in Nordic-Baltic security; is currently a columnist also for journals in Denmark and Sweden. And she’s the founder of the Swedish Atlantic Council and served as secretary-general for a while.

Right next to me: Imants Liegis – longstanding member of the Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He’s served in Stockholm and the U.K. He’s led delegations to Spain and the EU. He was the head of their mission to NATO during a session. And his last post in government was as minister of defense. And he’s currently now back in parliament where he leads the European Affairs Committee and also leads their delegation in the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.

To my immediate right, Mindaugas Zickus is a foreign policy adviser to the president of the Republic of Lithuania. He’s been doing that since 2009. His portfolio includes – it’s much like a national security adviser – defense and foreign affairs. He’s served in the MFA since 2004 and spent quite a deal of time in NATO working issues, not including enlargement, NATO going global, NATO Afghanistan and such. And he brings great experience in that regard.

And then to my far right, Kurt Volker, who I’ve known now for almost 15 years – that’s kind of scary to say. He’s a senior adviser here at the Atlantic Council and managing director at BGR. He’s been – his last position in government was as our NATO – ambassador to NATO. And I can say that without going into his extensive resume, everything from NATO enlargement, NATO response force, NATO Afghanistan and very timely, the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative has had his fingerprints on it, as throughout his career in the Foreign Service. We also crossed paths when he was a Pearson Fellow serving Senator John McCain.

So let me kick off with Ann. I’m going to ask you – everyone here to keep your remarks to about five minutes – and I’ll be strict on that. Ann.

ANN-SOFIE DAHL: OK, great. Thank you.

Well, thank you to the Atlantic Council, to Ian and Bob and to the Swedish Embassy and to the Swedish Foreign Ministry for supporting this project and conference. It’s very important as I see it.

Sweden, Finland – my paper’s on Sweden, Finland and NATO – the two outsiders of the NB8 – the two countries that still are nonaligned – not neutral, but nonaligned. How come they remain – still remain on the outside as PFP countries, while in many ways they would be such natural allies – strong security providers, stable democracies as strong PFP countries? And it’s a solidarity declaration. What does that mean to – in this respect? Is it a step forward, is it one step towards change of doctrine for Sweden and Finland? It was signed, as you know, in 2009 by Sweden and Finland in an effort to coordinate policies with the Lisbon Treaty and the soft security guarantee of the Lisbon Treaty. And it states that the two countries will not remain passive if another EU member or Nordic country is the victim of an outside attack or struck by a disaster. And it was an additional Nordic declaration of solidarity in the spring, I believe.

Well, what does this mean? Well, on this experts disagree back home in the two countries. Some dismiss it as a nonevent – basically a nonevent. I quote in my paper, I quote a Finnish friend of mine and security expert, who says that this – he dismisses this as basically of no – very little value, unless it’s backed up by contingency planning, training, exercises.

And indeed, it is only words. It is primarily a statement of political intent. But even so, I would say that it does have significance and it does represent a step forward – especially, I would say, for Sweden. It is, after all, the first time that Sweden openly has declared a willingness to provide and receive assistance from the outside. And this is after decades, as we know, of top-secret military programs with NATO. So I would say that this is, in a way, quite significant. And I also quote another friend of mine, a Swedish security expert, who says that this might not be a – the solidarity declaration might not be a big step for mankind, but it’s a big step for Sweden.

So does this mean that NATO membership is also around the corner? Is the solidarity declaration a step towards NATO membership? Well, in the 1990s, those of us who belong in the pro-NATO community in Sweden used to joke that Sweden would join NATO only after Albania did. And of course, Albania is now a member of NATO. So it’s not so much fun anymore.

But at that point, joining after NATO – Albania being a NATO member was the most unthinkable scenario we would imagine; we could come up with. But now, of course, Albania is a member of NATO and Sweden and Finland are still outside. So what then will happen?

Well, I think that the presidential elections in Finland are very important – the presidential elections next year. Finland is the most forward of the two countries, bolder of the two countries and there have been a number of government and academic studies studying the consequences of NATO membership for Finland. We have had nothing of that kind in Sweden. And there is also very little debate, actually, on the issue. And I would say also not very much interest from the government – surprisingly little interest from the government, considering that it’s a conservative, moderate alliance.

So for those of us hoping that Sweden will one day join NATO, I think we should continue to pin our hopes on Finland to be the first to join and for Sweden to follow. And that such a step would definitely benefit not just the two countries – you know, we would get security guarantees and we would get, of course, also the political influence from decision-making within that. But it would also benefit regional stability; it would also benefit NATO and the trans-Atlantic link when two stable democracies and security providers belatedly take their seats around the table.

Thank you.

MR. BRZEZINSKI: Thank you, Ann-Sofie.


IMANTS LIEGIS: OK. Thanks very much.

Can I also first off start off by really expressing my thanks and gratitude not only to the Atlantic Council and the Swedish government for inviting me to participate in the discussions today, but also for the focus that, you know, this conference and your work during the last year has put on the region of the Nordic-Baltic Region. And as Fred Kempe said, that this is a focus really on what is going right within the sort of international community within the Atlantic-European community.

At the same time, I was having a lunch with a Danish – one of the top Danish experts on the regional security who’s now Denmark’s ambassador in Riga, Per Carlsen. And Per Carlsen said to me that just over 20 years ago – of course, because of – during these weeks, we are marking the 20th anniversary of lots of, you know, reestablishment of diplomatic relations between our countries and Western countries with the re-emergence of our independence. And Fred – and Per Carlsen said, well, you know, before you guys appeared 20 years ago, Nordic security was very boring. You know, you had this yawn factor. Nothing was happening; everything was sort of quite clear. And I think the problem is in some ways that we don’t want to get into this yawn-factor situation again today. It’s right that, obviously, we would welcome being a very boring region where there are no problems, but on the other hand, we don’t want to detract from the concerns that do – that do continue within the region.

And so what I want to do is to address two groups of concerns, without wanting to overexaggerate them. And they relate to the elephant in the room, because nobody as yet has mentioned Russia. So I will address the question of less Russia and more America – so less Russia and more America. These are the, perhaps, concerns from our perspective, and so let me start with the question of less Russia.

When Lars Freden – also a well-known Swedish diplomat that was present in the region a couple of weeks ago; he was presenting his book about his experience – what he had experienced firsthand as a Swedish diplomat in Riga and the region 20 years ago. He said that Russia will only become a normal country when Russia comes to terms with its history.

Now, I think that this is an important reminder for us. Regrettably, Russia still needs to come to terms with its history. We have got bilateral issues related to this. Luckily, Poland – our neighboring country to the region – has gone – moved ahead because of the Katyn issue. We welcome that; we hope that we can also learn from that.

But at the same time, it is still clear that Russia does need to come to terms with its history. And this is the key to many of the issues that also affect our region – certainly from our perspective. So we do have some historical concerns. And these are important when it comes to the regional aspirations of Russia and probably what we have seen in many ways as a more assertive Russia over the last few years.

The assertive Russia has come about in terms of, of course, since the downfall of the Soviet Union for the first time they militarily invaded a neighboring country, Georgia, just over three years ago using the pretext of protecting their nationals in Georgia. Luckily, we have got over the freezing period of relations – both EU-Russia and NATO-Russia – concerning this. But it was a very pertinent reminder of the type of Russia that is still out there.

We have – and I think it’s important to remember geographically that we are countries that are neighboring a nuclear – a nuclear power – OK, one of the five members of the Security Council of the United Nations. But when we hear reports of Iskander rockets being placed in what is still called the Leningrad Region with a capability of reaching not only the three Baltic countries, but also Finland, then I think this is also – shows that there is still a lot of scope for mutual trust and confidence being built up between ourselves and our Russian partners.

The big question within the NATO-Russia relationship is, of course, missile defense and where we’re having the parallel U.S.-Russia discussions; NATO-Russia discussions. I was just reading a headline saying that it doesn’t look as if there’s going to be agreement on this issue. And this is important for us because, why? Because of the proposals that were made by our Russian partners, vis-a-vis taking a sectoral approach in dealing with missile defense, wanting quite clearly to become part of the decision making within the alliance without being a member of the alliance, and directly having the prospect of participating in decisions that clearly affect our own defense, because of the way in which this sectoral issue was raised.

We, of course, over the last few years have had large-scale military exercises held by Russia and Belorussia just across the border – the NATO border across from the Baltic countries – where the scenario was very much anti-NATO and cutting off the Baltics from the – from the rest of the allies.

There are a number of soft security issues. Later today we’ll be focusing on energy issues. At the same time, I don’t want to, you know, paint a totally black picture, because obviously, we are very concerned to have positive cooperation with Russia. The good news is that on the issue of this transit of nonmilitary goods through to the NATO operation in Afghanistan, we have very good cooperation – thanks to the engagement of the U.S.-Russia – so that a lot of transit goes through the Port of Riga, across Russia by rail, through to our NATO operation in Afghanistan. And it may be that, thanks to also Russia being on board, we can develop this into a sort of trade route as things become a lot better in the region, in Afghanistan.

And of course, we welcome – and I would say that we, as Latvia, have benefitted from the reset policy of the United States and Russia, even though, of course, there can be discussions as to the success of this policy.

So this then leads me onto the question of –


MR. LIEGIS: Time, OK. Three words about U.S.: I was very happy and endorse the positive words that were said by previous speakers about the extent to which U.S. engagement in the region has been extremely positive. But I would like just to focus on what I thought was very important. The comment from a Finnish colleague and what Jim Townsend said, because of course it is very important that there is clarity that the United States remains committed to the region and has no intention of passing the buck of collective defense vis-à-vis the Baltic States. Because there are these theories out there that, in fact, one of the reasons why there is this increased interest by the U.S. in the Nordic-Baltic region is to perhaps give over the responsibility for collective defense of the region to the Nordics.

And on that, I’ll end. Thank you.

MR. BRZEZINSKI: Thank you.


MUNDAUGAS ZICKUS: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for the opportunity. And of course, it’s a great opportunity to be here in the Atlantic Council – the place that was founded at a time when I was not even envisaged in the most distant dreams of my parents. But indeed, the house that’s contributed so much to where we currently are – to where my country currently is – a full-fledged member of EU and NATO, now thinking strongly how to contribute to not only building a stronger Nordic-Baltic region, but also how to build a stronger trans-Atlantic link through closer U.S.-Nordic-Baltic cooperation.

And it is of course a great honor to be here in the U.S. discussing those issues. Also, because it’s quite symbolic, but since 2009 when President Grybauskaite, whom I’m an adviser to, since she entered the office, Nordic-Baltic direction’s been clearly identified as one of priority and the one that we want to clearly devote our attention to.

Before coming here, I incidentally got – but thankfully got – a copy of a recent report written by Damon Wilson and Magnus Nordenman. And I cannot resist the opportunity but to express my full agreement with one of the – with one of the thesis statements that was in there, that this is the region that gains by making small steps. And maybe its ability to actually move forward, thanks to small steps – of course, big ideas, including the reports that have been already mentioned here – are always there, but there has always been alongside those ambitious ideas that have always been present, clearly visible interest to work on small things that clearly make a difference.

Also, the name of Berkhausen (ph) was mentioned, also former Danish ambassador to Lithuania at the time when I was an intern in the Ministry of Defense in Lithuania. And I remember very well how much of assistance Denmark was in trying to actually lay the path to Lithuania’s succession to NATO and how instrumental they were in development of regional projects. One of them, BALTBAT, was mentioned. Some others are BALTNET (sp) and others. And those things, as small ideas, are always there.

And as you may know – well, this year, we just wrapped up our chairmanship of the Community of Democracies, a loose organization of more than 100 countries. We’re wrapping up our chairmanship of another – largest in the world regional organization, which is the Organization for Security and Cooperation of Europe. But as we do, we already now think about what we can do specifically and in concrete ways to contribute to Nordic-Baltic operation. Why? Because next year, Lithuania will be coordinating, will be leading the Nordic-Baltic operation; we will be chairing the EPINE – the Enhanced Partnership in Northern Europe – and we will be heading the Baltic Cooperation Institution. So this is a responsibility, but also an opportunity to think hard about how to contribute. And I must thank immediately already those who wrote reports sharing their ideas about what could be done.

The topic of our panel is “NATO-EU Regional Cooperation: Competition or Cooperation?” I would like to offer a third way, basically saying that in view of the challenges that we face – and Lithuania’s chairmanship of the Organization of Security and Cooperation of Europe has already offered this opportunity to get a very good grasp of what challenges that are out there. Some of them are covered, some are very clear and can clearly be identified. But it offers a very clear opportunity to identify a number of challenges that can also be furthered and worked on in the Nordic-Baltic framework.

One of them that already has been addressed in a very outspoken way during the last NATO summit in Lisbon last November was the cybersecurity or cyberdefense. The Stoltenberg Report speaks about cyber teams – cyber-expert teams in countries concerned, in countries interested, that could be prepared, that could be out there, trained, mentored and ready – ready to go, ready to accomplish certain tasks in certain fields.

I know that United States – and it’s in a very interesting way, because sometimes we do not say this, but there is a constant movement. And since NATO’s summit, the United States have also moved on cyber – cyberdefense, cybersecurity-related issues by updating their cyberdefense posture for the new cyber strategy, which gives a special importance to partners, to allies on those issues as the primary line of defense: forensics, early warning. There are a lot of rules that Nordics and nobody else than Nordics and Baltics are ready for. There is a cybersecurity center in Estonia that’s already working and it’s – I know it’s kicking the gear. We’re thinking about – it is quite clear with the level of importance it’s been given in the new NATO strategic concept that this is the issue that we will be moving on – defense, security, but maybe also some active measures. Let’s think about that, especially since also, former foreign minister of Norway and father of the current prime minister identify that. We hope prime minister of Norway also takes it forward.

There are other ideas, of course, as well. The report speaks clearly about the regional division between the Arctic and the Baltic, for instance. And it is clear that with the processes going on related to environmental change in the Arctic, what will be required is a sort of a division – more clear division of responsibility between the Arctic-exposed members of the Nordic-Baltic family and the Baltic, with more responsibility for the Baltic being granted to the Baltic. There are concrete ideas already that can be taken forward.

And as I said that, these are just few things – just few ideas that we can work upon and also, as we have Stoltenberg report for the Nordic Cooperation, we have got the Birkavs report for the Nordic-Baltic Cooperation, I have a feeling it could be the right time to think about maybe EPINE or maybe U.S.-Nordic-Baltic report – how to take forward U.S.-Nordic-Baltic Cooperation.

But as I said, as Lithuania will next year chair the EPINE cooperation, we will be proposing some discussions on not only how to continue, but also maybe how to upgrade the cooperation. And as we know, as long as the EPINE so far has been limited to political position, coordination, maybe one of the things could be indeed trying to take it from – as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Defense Townsend said – from talk to walk. And maybe this could be a – (inaudible) – framework also to take some of the issues that I mentioned forward as well.

But thank you again for the attention, and look forward to working with you. Thank you.

MR. BRZEZINSKI: Great. Thank you for the real emphasis on the kind of pragmatic initiatives. I’ll have to get back to you on that.


KURT VOLKER: All right. Ian, thanks. Great to be here; thanks to Bob for inviting me, even though I failed to deliver on the paper that I had hoped to do. I took a few notes of things that I expected to talk about today and I’ve put them aside, because as I look around the audience here, this is largely a Nordic-Baltic audience with Americans who are interested in the Nordic-Baltic region. There are few exceptions, I see our Canadian, Slovakian and Russian friends here, but mostly that’s it.

So basically, if we’re talking among ourselves, which is what I think this is, then I’m going to pick up where Jim Townsend left off and say, well, what should we be doing then? What’s the tasks that we haven’t done? And Imants touched on this too. I’ll just list a few of them.

One of them is we have not worked and successfully worked, not succeeded, in getting NATO and the EU to have an honest and realistic and coherent policy on dealing with the East – whether that’s Russia or whether that’s Ukraine or whether that’s, you know, where – you know, where the boundaries of Europe are. We haven’t done it. There are huge divisions within NATO and within the EU over this.

And this is something I think is vitally important for us. So we need to work on that, as we look at the institutions. How do we develop a more honest – and I think from the Nordics and the Baltics in particular, we get very clear – forceful, clear statements and analysis, just like we heard from Imants on the panel here. That’s good stuff. But we then have to take that and say, that’s not just us talking among ourselves. We have to figure out, how does that fit into a European strategy.

Second, and related to that, the momentum toward a Europe whole, free and at peace has been lost, and we have to recapture it. We did very well after the fall of the Berlin Wall in integrating Central and Eastern Europe and the Baltic States and some of the Balkans into a Europe whole and free.

There is nothing on the horizon right now that’s going to continue that process. And I think that’s also something we should be working on. And I would add that that should include Russia. We want Russia to be part of a Europe whole and free, but we’ve got to get the momentum back into that process.

Otherwise, we will have a divided Europe with pockets of instability and risks of conflict and pockets of poverty and dislocation, and areas of organized crime, and all the ills that go with that that we’ve seen. So we’ve got to get that momentum back.

Third – I have a Sven Mikser story too. That same visit – he was here on vacation as defense minister, and I must have had lunch with him the day after he had lunch with Jim Townsend. And I decided to be provocative, and I asked him, so, if you’re the defense minister of Estonia and you’re here on vacation, and if Estonia is attacked while you’re here, what do you do? (Chuckles.) And he said, oh, well, you know, we have our chief of defense and we have our military. I said, but really, I mean, who calls you and who do you call?

And he – it was a deliberately provocative and unfair question, but the point I was trying to make is there’s nothing you can do alone. There’s nothing any one of these countries can do alone. And, therefore, the strategy that the Baltic States have followed, and I think quite successfully – it answers Jim Townsend’s question of where Kadri’s think tank is going and why it’s there. It is to embed ourselves with each other, so the Nordics and the Baltics and the NATO countries, so that we are all part of one thing and we respond together rather than disparate things. So embedding has been a very good strategy for the region. We should keep going further.

For example, I would like to see a deeper and more permanent air policing structure that we can count on, exercising that we can count on. If I were a Baltic defense minister, I would want not my own air force, but I’d want personnel in the air forces of some of my neighbors so that I developed the capacities and the expertise to know what –

When Imants was defense minister here, I made a suggestion to him about we’re going to need Russia expertise among the NATO countries for some time to come. Create a home for that because you’re right there; you have lots of Russian speakers; you can do a language training. It would be a good place for foreign-area officers to go to do some service. So things like that, but work on the embedding. Keep going.

Fourth, for the Americans here, we don’t have a strategy into which the Nordic-Baltic region fits. It’s one thing to have a Nordic-Baltic strategy. It’s another to have a broad national security strategy. We don’t have either one right now where we know what we’re trying to do. And I think that’s something we should be thinking about as well.

I take Imants’ point that we – you know, sensitivity about off-loading counter-defense responsibilities from the U.S. to Nordic countries or other Europeans. That process, however, is going on, that the U.S. is reducing its footprint in Europe. It’s focusing more on other parts of the world.

But we’re doing it, I would argue, somewhat thoughtlessly rather than in a strategic fashion. We do care about the security in Europe, and we do care about the ability of our European allies to contribute to broader security.

So we’ve got to make sure that even if we do reorient our approach to other hot spots in the world, and where the U.S. has capacities that maybe some of our allies don’t that, that we don’t leave a gap or a vacuum. We have to do it with a sense of strategy. So I think, for the Americans here, we do need to figure out our global strategy insofar as where does NATO and where does the Nordic-Baltic region fit as we look ahead?

And, finally, we have not succeeded in taking the security agenda away from pure military security. Baltic States in particular are good examples of where you need a whole-of-nation approach to security. That would include your military but also cyber but also energy, also critical infrastructure, economy.

This is still very controversial in most of the rest of Europe, that there’s a wall around what’s the EU’s versus what’s NATO’s. There’s a wall around, well, that’s military and defense and the rest of it is somebody else’s. It’s the interior ministries, it’s the infrastructure, it’s telecommunications. It’s whatever.

But for all of us, in the world that we live in where threats are much more diverse, much more flexible, and very, very dangerous, we need to have a much better whole-of-nation approach to securities that we assign responsibilities to protecting ourselves across the whole government. And that’s something we have not succeeded in convincing our wider community either.

So, talking among ourselves that way, that’s what I would put out as some of the agenda we should be trying to achieve.

MR. BRZEZINSKI: Great. Well, despite the forbidding sounds behind – I’m just very optimistic about U.S.-Nordic Baltic cooperation.

Our speakers have shared with us some interesting insights into Swedish and Finnish relationship with NATO, the realities posed by Russia. They’ve reflected some unease about America’s commitment to the region. They’ve made some calls for very pragmatic areas of collaboration, particularly in the cyber area. And Kurt put out an interesting list of what priorities should shape the U.S.-Nordic-Baltic relationship.

Let me first turn to Ann-Sofie. You made a strong call for Swedish-Finnish entering into NATO. It’s something that I certainly support. But if you were Jim Townsend or Masha and you were sitting there, what’s the thing that you would look for that would trigger that decision, be it in Finland or Sweden, to actually push them to transform themselves from essentially de facto members to real members?

MS. DAHL: The thing that the U.S. could do?

MR. BRZEZINSKI: What we could do, but also, what would we look for? What’s the political development? What’s the international – is it international crisis? Is it a switch in parties? Is it a – what trigger mechanism are you looking – should one be looking for from here in the United States?

MS. DAHL: Well, to be cynical, I mean, in some ways the best thing – the best thing that could happen if you are pro-NATO in Sweden and Finland would be a crisis with Russia. We don’t want that, obviously, but that would sort of trigger it. But, on the other hand, that would be too late, of course. I mean, we can’t act when the crisis is already there.

But, as I said, I believe that there is a momentum, particularly in Finland, and I believe that – well, there are more than two candidates for president right now, but the two prime candidates are both in favor of NATO membership.

And I think that, you know, there is a willingness to discuss also what you mentioned, what I would call the “R” word, Russia, in Finland, and to – you know, with the presidential elections, that if that is on the agenda – and I’m pretty sure it will be –


MS. DAHL: – yeah, then, you know, things will happen from there. And I find it very hard to believe that Finland would be a member – or one of the two countries would be a member of NATO and not the other one to follow. And I find it hard to believe that Sweden would be the first to act right now. So that’s the thing to look for, the presidential elections, or –

MR. BRZEZINSKI: Presidential elections.

MS. DAHL: – or Russia.

MR. BRZEZINSKI: Imants, your theme was less Russia, more America. And I kind of cut you off before you kind of got more into the more of America call. That seems to kind of reflect a concern that America is – a concern that America may be withdrawing from Europe and not paying enough attention.

You know, administration types would come out and say, well, that’s not quite true in the Baltic region. I mean, we have the exercises. U.S. airplanes just recently – we still are policing – a part of the policing mission over there. At the same time, some people say that perhaps the way the United States has conducted itself in NATO’s operation in Libya is reflecting a certain amount of disengagement, and that the alliance’s kind of vapid response to what happened in Georgia in 2008 is another sign of that.

How do you see America’s commitment to NATO and to your region evolving? Were you reflecting a concern that there is a process of increased disinterest occurring here in Washington?

MR. LIEGIS: Well, I think, yeah, I didn’t quite get onto those points, but I think what sparked off the concerns is the letter that was signed by our keynote speaker today with other sort of leading Eastern European figures when we had the new administration coming in saying, look – drawing the attention to the fact that our region and Eastern Europe is not necessarily a – you know, a job finished, and that, you know, I think the concerns were there from the beginning of this current administration that there would be this focus being moved away.

And we’ve had discussions in our capitals in conferences about the way in which this has, in some ways, been manifested. We’ve got the decision, OK, the Obama administration made the decision not to reduce the force posture in Europe by the number of brigades that the Bush administration decided to withdraw by. At the same time, we haven’t had a signal, as far as I’m aware, that this is not going to be the end of the drawdown.

And when the Eastern European leaders met recently – I think it was in Warsaw – with President Obama, I wrote a blog saying – giving some advice, theoretical advice, to our then-president, saying, what should we be seeking from – what should we be saying to President Obama? And one of the things that I said was, concerning troops in Europe, don’t move out; move east. And, I mean, there is this concern that, you know, there’s a drawdown and we’re being sort of left sort of slightly exposed within the alliance.

On the other hand, you know, it is right that even during the period when I was minister of defense for about a year and a half, I witnessed – and in some ways this was thanks to the Georgia factor. It was post-2008 August, which sort of made everybody start. And then we had a plethora of visits of a high-ranking military to the region. We had some very important regional exercises with the full support of the United States, U.S., Baltic, with other NATO allies participating.

We had, of course, the issue of the plans resolved within NATO, which haven’t been addressed by the previous administration. And these were very positive things. But at the same time, you know, there was a certain amount of clumsiness with the way in which the missile defense issue was dealt with vis-à-vis the changeover by the administration, the timing of the announcements.

And so, there is still a need, I think, for the focus on things like exercises within NATO. There’s an important exercise in 2013, which an Article 5 exercise, which, you know, there will be allies that are concerned about whether this is necessary to be held within the region. It’s important that the U.S. administration takes a forward-leading approach on those issues.

Host nation support is extremely important, not necessarily only in our countries but, you know, in the regional countries vis-à-vis – and we don’t expect a military attack, but there are, you know, studies that have been carried out by the Swedes and the Fins about the eventuality – what would the military do if there was an attack? And, you know, to what extent is the infrastructure ready – capable of receiving support? And these are very practical issues that I think Jim was referring to in his address, where we need to sort of focus on those.

And these are – you know, they may be mundane, but they’re extremely important issues, and they’re below the sort of – the level of the headlines, but, you know, it’s important that we see that the U.S. people in the State Department and Department of Defense are there, focusing on these issues so that the contingency plans, which of course brought us in with Poland to the region, are not just sort of there deep in the safe of NATO military headquarters in Mons.

MR. BRZEZINSKI: Mindaugas, let me kind of follow up on that issue, drawing on your experience in NATO and also in the defense realm.

When Imants talks about these kind of needed areas of action by NATO, when we sit back and we look at kind of, you know, the air of austerity and NATO’s calls for defense collaboration capability development, sometimes one gets a feeling it’s a little bit more rhetoric than reality, particularly when you start comparing that to the kind of pragmatic cooperation that one tends to see a little but more deliver on among the Nordic States, and to a certain degree among the Baltic States, and possibly coming down the pike in the Nordic and the Baltics through Nordefco cooperation.

What is the primary driver of regional cooperation in the security sector now in the Nordic-Baltic region? Is it NATO? I don’t think it’s the EU. Is it now indigenous? Has regional dynamics proven to be a more important driver of collaboration than the broader European framework that’s been created through NATO?

MR. ZICKUS: I won’t be able, I think, to hide the fact that certainly a large degree of sensitivity that drives the understanding for the necessity to have more cooperation among the Nordics, to have more cooperation with the United States, you have more involvement of NATO, that this sensitivity comes to the realities and to certain symptoms that, from time to time, we see to the east from our borders.

And certainly not always the level of transparency that we would like to have, not always the level of dialogue and communication that we would like to have with our eastern neighbor actually contributes to any lessening of those sensitivities. And I would say this is one of the driving forces.

But on the other hand, one cannot sidestep – and maybe Mr. Volker, the former ambassador to NATO, can confirm it. One cannot ignore one fact that’s taken place over the last few years in NATO, but it’s been gaining indeed – maybe not so much in terms of overall acceptance, but in terms of importance and the attention it was receiving, it was getting more and more of attention. I mean the new threats.

And when you speak new threats, I think the track record of not only us as the countries on the border, but the track record of – well, I would single out Estonia, of course, where we know what happened with the cyberattacks. But the track record of some of the Western countries as well, of Brussels recently, of United States. It does not always say that those attacks, if I can say, come from Russia.

And what I want to say, by having said that, is that when you see the whole menu of the threats that now come to the region, and now NATO as a whole because we also have to take into account, we have to think as part of the larger family as well, is that there is a bunch of new threats of new instruments that can be used for action, and action that would ultimately undermine our sovereignty. And one I mentioned is cyber. We’re not necessarily the source, as I mentioned.

Another is energy. For instance, I can raise a legitimate question. If we start to think about crisis and we start to think about what leads to the crisis, I think many of us would agree that, different to what it used to be, now the crisis may be triggered not by the movement of tanks or by the increase in the regularity of military exercise, which must be observed and, if possible, which must be contained.

And we look forward, but in this way I want to say we don’t look forward, of course, to the exercise that should happen, I understand this year, of similar kind, as it used to be in 2009. Whether it is the center or, again – (inaudible) – we will see.

But I want to say by having tried to point to the new threats, I want to say there is a – in my point of view, an emerging understanding that certain capabilities need to be developed and developed fast to the extent that we, many of us, understand we don’t have any of those, and not at the level we want.

And so, when we say, what’s the source, what’s the driving force for the regional cooperation, I tend to say yes, to a large extent, and our ongoing experiences. For instance, currently I think we are in a stage of full-scale confrontation in energy as we’re trying to implement – as we’re trying to implement the EU’s “third package,” energy package that would allow us to become a little more independent, a little more independent from one supplier.

We see that pointed effort is being made in order to delay, protract or maybe undermine. But as I’m saying, this understanding that there are new threats – and this has been written strong into NATO’s new strategic concept, that – I’m still a believer. I believe in NATO. Many may say NATO will not survive 10 years. I believe it will. And I believe it will survive many more.

We know what challenges NATO went through. And one has mentioned intellectual capacity that many of us have. I am sure we will step up and I am sure we will do whatever is possible to maintain that alliance and maintain that alliance strong. And I hope Nordic-Baltic dimension will add strongly to that in excellence, in know-how, in innovation, just any. Indigenous it is as well.

MR. BRZEZINSKI: So kind of both.


MR. BRZEZINSKI: Kurt, you put out a pretty aggressive agenda, and it almost looks like a summit agenda. And it reminds me back of the days when we were collaborating and I was in the Pentagon and you were on the National Security Council, on upcoming summits.

And this might be a rather prosaic question, but here we are where – was it eight months, nine months to the Chicago summit, and you had this community here, the Nordic-Baltic and U.S. group of nations. Looking at the agenda that you kind of put out, and thinking about other things you might want to see delivered at the summit, what steps should the Nordic and Baltics in the United States be taking between now and May to kind of drive this agenda forward?

MR. VOLKER: Well, that’s a great question, Ian. I think, if I had my druthers, I would pitch it above the level of the Nordic-Baltic region and say, what about NATO? And I would say, we need a forward agenda.

Everything that I have heard thus far about the agenda for Chicago, what people are talking about, is backwards looking, which is we have done this; we are getting out of Afghanistan; we finished the job in Libya, thank goodness. But what is NATO supposed to do? You know, where are we going to go from here?

And I wrote a piece about this not long ago where I identified what I thought were some of the problems that NATO needs to overcome, which is clarity on mission, leadership, capabilities, execution and solidarity.

So if I were shaping an agenda for the 2012 summit, I’d want to figure out, how do I define these in a way that our leaders believe and our publics can support? We’ve been doing things lately that I don’t think our leaders believe and our publics don’t support. (Chuckles.) And that’s a problem because you can’t keep doing that time after time.

So I think there may be some bit of getting back to basics, sort of pruning NATO’s ambition back, but then making it real so that we really do deliver and re-establish some credibility for the alliance and answer the question that our Lithuanian colleague here put forward of, that’s how NATO is going to survive 10 or 15 or 20 years from now because it’s going to be doing things that we think are meaningful and important.

I would suggest that, taking a page out of where we came from Libya, a NATO that focuses more on Article 5, that does whole of nation defense, of getting into the cyber, the energy, the economic infrastructures, that focuses on real defense, focuses primarily on the allies themselves and where we look at expeditionary missions as ones that may, in fact, be done by small coalitions, because they’ll be the ones with the capabilities to do it.

But maybe with some backup support from NATO but not NATO lead is probably a more sustainable way to go than the way we’ve done some things in the last several years. But I would want to define a positive role for NATO and make that the centerpiece of the summit.

For the Nordic-Baltic community, this is – as other people have said, this is smart, serious, intellectually – it has – intellectual integrity group. You’ve got to force everybody else to think – (chuckles) – and say, what are we really going to do?

So I would try to develop a Nordic-Baltic initiative, perhaps, with some others to pitch the bigger playing field of where are we going to be with NATO in the future?


Let me open it up to the group here, and let me just ask that you state your name and your affiliation. Please put your question briefly.


Q: Thank you. Ramunas Vilpisauskas, Vilnius University.

I’m glad Minister Liegis raised the issue of Russia because I really missed it during the first session. And it’s not because – since I’m EU – (inaudible) – people think that both – (inaudible) – still view to history about Russia. But I would like to add one more aspect to what the minister said, and also to respond to James Townsend’s question about what Baltic-Nordic cooperation can offer to others.

I think since 2004, Baltics have been very active in the eastern neighborhood countries on the premise that after they joined trans-Atlantic community and the EU and NATO, their duty is to help and assist other neighbors also to integrate more closely to these organizations.

And I think what we see since then is clearly growing influence of Russia in eastern neighborhood partnership – eastern partnership since 2009 countries. And I think unfortunately EU has been too slow to respond to this.

We see a competition between norms, between rules, regulations, in some cases very technical regulations related to visa issues, to trade issues. But Russia is clearly using its interdependencies with these countries to extend its sphere of interest. EU and the U.S. is trying to, first of all, extend their values. And we see this kind of competition, which has been already described in many studies, where I think EU is too slow to respond.

And it’s not a question what I wanted to say but my, rather, comments to the U.S. that I think U.S. role and attention to what’s happening in these countries is crucial, and it’s also in the interests of Baltic-Nordic countries to have safe, free, prosperous neighborhoods. It’s our duty to help these countries.

But what we see currently is the struggle not just of values; it’s struggle of interests against values. That’s how I would put it. Thank you.

MR. BRZEZINSKI: Kurt, do you want to comment on that since you focused on kind of the agenda in the East?

MR. VOLKER: Well, I just very much agree. That’s why I brought up the Europe whole and free, because the momentum toward that is what helps all of us establish and live in a safe and secure and prosperous community. If we let go of the momentum on that, we see backsliding, we see lots of social ills, and it affects countries in the East among the allies, you know, most directly, but it’s also going to be bad for the United States as well.

So what’s why I do think we need to have a strategy aimed at developing a Europe whole and free and keep continuing to go forward because that’s what’s actually going to make it safer and easier for all of us without any kind of growing risks and risks of conflicts in the future.


Q: Thank you. I just wanted to pick up a question about the motivations for Nordic-Baltic cooperation, particularly the Baltic angle, because, first of all, there’s some ambivalence within the region about the value of Nordic-Baltic cooperation, but there’s a particular angle for the Baltic State side of this.

Of course, much of this began as a result of Nordic work together among themselves. The Baltic element came secondary. Follow the Stoltenberg Report, obviously, with the Birkavs-Søren Gade report that you mentioned.

As part of our work, we had a good session with Valdis Birkavs, who helped write the Baltic component of this cooperation idea. And his argument is, on the one hand, the reason why it makes sense for Baltic States to be pursuing aggressively Nordic-Baltic integration cooperation is essentially about societal resilience, that you’re really not worried about a Russian invasion of the Baltic States. It’s over. We’re not – that’s just not the scenario we’re really talking about.

But you are concerned about the resilience of your economy, of your media networks, of your energy independence, and that by being more thoroughly integrated with your Nordic partners, it was a way of ensuring greater economic stability, greater diversity of your energy sources, a way of ensuring banking systems, media, all of this was a bit more integrated into European norms, a bit less vulnerable to potential manipulation.

Yet what I’ve heard from you a little bit, Imants, and others, is that there is ambivalence about Nordic-Baltic cooperation because does this then begin to weaken the sense of NATO’s responsibility for Baltics and the security? Does this begin to weaken the sense of U.S. responsibility for security in the Baltics?

So I just wanted to push a little bit on whether this whole concept of Nordic-Baltic cooperation and integration is actually a good thing or a slippery slope for the Baltic States when you’re thinking about security. But I tend to think about your security in broader terms than hard security.

MR. LIEGIS: This is a very important question. I think, first of all, I would like to thank you for your article, which, when I read it, you know, it was a very positive – and the way in which you termed the Nordic-Baltics being able to punch within the global sphere, you know, I think this was – it was very – I mean, it was very focused, and I liked the way that you identified the pull for us, for the Baltics, of Nordic security and stability in many ways – and this is what you’re asking, I think – is being a counterweight to, say, the influence of Russia in soft security issues.

And I would say that, on balance, I would much rather risk – I would much rather for Latvia to fully integrate into Nordic-Baltic cooperation because I don’t think that that integration would be so much of a threat to – you know, vis-à-vis NATO’s engagement and U.S. engagement. I think it’s more important to do that rather than be somewhere in a gray area.

And this is actually an issue that’s – you know, we’re in the run-up to an extraordinary general election in a week-and-a-half’s time where, you know, the party that I’m a member of held its founding Congress in Volga, which is just on the border of Estonia. And for Latvia, I mean, we’re even looking at more integration with Estonia and looking at the Estonian successful model because, within the three, you know, there is a recognition that Estonia is in the lead there with members of the euro at the moment, although that could be a controversial topic in itself.

But I think that for us, within Latvia these are fundamental issues where, you know, one of the main political parties has a cooperation agreement with – not with any European affiliation party, but with Russia’s Putin party and the Communist Party of China. And, you know, this is a party that is out there in the current elections, and there’s talk of them being part of the ruling – a coalition government.

So these issues are very sensitive, and that’s why, from my perspective, it’s extremely important that we continue to be pulled into the Nordic model of cooperation and stability and becoming – you know, as people in Estonia has often said, you know, becoming a “boring” Nordic country. (Chuckles.) We would love to join the club so that we don’t have the sort of contradictory issues that do still, unfortunately, crop up now and again in Latvia.

MR. BRZEZINSKI: And, Sofie, do you want to comment on that?

MS. DAHL: Yes, I – well, actually I would like to say something about sort of the drivers behind Nordic defense cooperation and Nordic integration – Nordic-Baltic defense integration. (Background noise.) Oh, my goodness. (Laughter.) That’s very – well, what is that message?

Yes, one shouldn’t overestimate or exaggerate the Russia threat, but we should not forget that Georgia was an eye-opener in many ways, and there have been a number of happenings in the last few years. We have Georgia, we have cyberattacks, we have developments when it comes to energy, we have the High North, what’s happening in the High North.

And we should perhaps also remember that when we talk about Nordic-Baltic security, we really talk about two different parts. I mean, we have the Baltic Sea security, things happening there, and we have the High North, the Arctic, and some of these issues are very close and very closely related, but they’re also differences.

But, I mean, we shouldn’t forget about that. Those are some very basic facts of life. And then, on the other hand, there are also very pragmatic reasons why I think – on Nordefco, for example. I mean, a lot of that is a matter of – even though Sweden is number two on the list of the World Economic Forum, we are all under fiscal constraints. I mean, we all have budget cuts. We all have cuts in our military. And it just makes pragmatic sense for us to divide roles between us and to incorporate.

So there are a number of reasons behind this, the drivers behind integration, defense integration. And then, of course – and I would also like to see that this might be a way for Sweden and Finland to enhance cooperation with NATO rather than sort of a substitute for cooperation with NATO.

MR. BRZEZINSKI: You know, I’ll make one comment and then I’ll turn to the ambassador for a question.

This issue has permeated I think both discussions this morning, which is, wow, if the region becomes more militarily capability, it will result in reduced American interests and commitment to the region. You’re kind of left between two scenarios. You don’t develop capability and theoretically become more vulnerable. I’m not convinced that’s going to create a huge sucking sound that’s going to pull the United States in. In fact, I think it will make the United States even less engaged in the region and, in time of crisis, less willing to jump in.

The other alternative is, you know, we develop more capability. There is certain risk that the United States goes, oh, it’s a beautiful region, it’s prosperous, secure; we don’t have to worry about it anymore; we’ll pull out our Marine elements in Norway; we’ll let others do the policing in the Baltics.

That’s possible. But there’s also a positive side to it in that by becoming more capable, you are able to cooperate with the United States more within the region and around the world. And there is the possibility that people in Washington have greater appreciation that there is a bargain here and that we’ll lose that bargain, because that’s a force multiplier. That means less burden on the United States if we can turn to partners. You don’t have that in the first scenario.

And so that’s why I think that this thinking about, you know, we’re more capable; the United States will be less willing to engage is something that I think needs to be punctured pretty quickly.


Q: Yeah, shortly. The title for this is Nordic-Baltic security, and the panel has focused on national defense and so forth. What has happened since 2007? It has not been – (inaudible) – from towards Russia towards the Nordic-Baltic area. It has been the economic crisis.

And now it seems we are all part of the family. I mean, let’s take the solidarity from the Nordic and the EU countries vis-à-vis each other, and how we are safe. I mean, Latvia was a close call, no doubt about it. Iceland was very much in tough waters. We will probably never know how close we were from not having the situation. But of course we managed within the family, within the political and economic solidarity to keep the family together. And now we have a prosperous state going forward.

So I think this is a dimension that we have missed. We used to say that – the people in the Swedish – (inaudible) – used to say that a good day is a dull day. (Laughter.) I think that’s a very good theme for how we are working with not just security defense but security when it’s come to economic and financial investments.

Thank you.

MR. BRZEZINSKI: It’s a great point. And why don’t we close on that point by giving – because we’re already a bit over time here – by working from Kurt backwards, if anyone happened to have any final comments.

MR. VOLKER: I just want to agree with that. I think what Ambassador Hafstrom said is exactly right, that we have to think of a whole approach to security, not just military security, and that is very much the financial system, the economy. I appreciate Imants’ comment that Estonia is doing well despite being a member of the eurozone. (Chuckles.) But I do think that’s right.

And the risks to that are ones that we tend to deal with in isolated ways. So you’ll deal with the financial risk in one way, you’ll deal with economic issues through the EU, you’ll deal with military security another way. That’s where, I think, within the region and then from the region into our institutions, we can build a better concept of sort of a whole concept of security rather than a reduced or a piecemeal set of security.

MR. BRZEZINSKI: Mindaugas?

MR. ZICKUS: Just to try to pick on the point the ambassador made, as well as a reminder of the point that you tried to make, that a more capable Nordic-Baltic region may mean less interest from the United States. But just trying to put those two together – and also thank the ambassador of course for putting the whole issue also in a broader perspective because we cannot forget what general economic station we find ourselves in.

But, thanking the ambassador, I cannot miss the opportunity just to say how much I hope also people in D.C. grasp the importance to have the Nordic-Baltic region as an ally, not only when we speak about missions, or Libya, where you speak about contributing fighters, ammunitions; when you try to think about the post-conflict rehabilitation, because there is another idea in Stoltenberg Report.

There is the idea about stabilization, of course, about rule of law, about police, about so on and so forth that United States, if we carry on with the missions we have in different regions – and there will be many, with the military conflict component or without. But the necessity to have somebody to lean on – and please do not hear this as saying to lean on as being in a weak position so you need somebody to lean on.

But you have to have somebody, and to help somebody become stronger by continuously reinforcing this mutual link and also through regular multifaceted dialogue, having a true, true allied relationship.

And this is why I was not very comfortable with this formulation of the panel, EU-NATO regional cooperation, because I think the understanding of day-to-day, the reality suggests that even if none of those existed, we would have to figure out a way forward.

MR. LIEGIS: Just very briefly, I’d fully agree that it’s right that, you know, perhaps we have focused a little bit too much on defense, but of course the next session is on economic and energy issues. So I think it was useful, you know, to sort of linger a little bit on the security, the harder security topics.

And when I was asking Lars Freden a couple of weeks ago about whether he felt that today Sweden’s role can be compared with what it was, say, just under 20 years ago when, you know, there were ad hoc meetings taking place in Stockholm and there was the group of course which the Baltics themselves weren’t participating in, whether he sees any parallels with Sweden’s role today; you know, this yearly project of focusing on Nordic-Baltic security. Now Sweden has its “Solidarity Clause,” which is pretty – a fundamental change, I think, within Swedish security policy.

So all I can say is that, you know, we’re very grateful for the interest and the expertise that Sweden offers. And in those days it was, I think – the way Lars Freden presented it was that the U.S. was, in many ways, looking towards Sweden for their knowledge of the region, their expertise, which was perhaps lacking here in Washington, but also at the same time being the important mediator, for example in the withdrawal of troop question – the troop withdrawal question, a very important security issue at the time.

So, you know, I think we’re still there and we’re still very grateful for our Nordic-Swedish and other Nordic colleagues’ efforts and support in broadening the security debates here in Washington and elsewhere to include our region.

MR. BRZEZINSKI: Sofie, you get the final shot.

MS. DAHL: Yes, thank you – final word.

Well, absolutely I agree with Ambassador Hafstrom. And that was sort of one of my points – points that I was trying to make very quickly in my previous remark, that one of the consequences of the finance crisis has been pulling together of resources, the linkage between the finance crisis and military integration. I think that is very strong.

And it’s also – it’s a very – I mean, it’s something good that came out of the finance crisis, I think, but it also shows something typical of our region, that we’re a very pragmatic bunch. We sit down and we think about how to do this in the most efficient way, and how to do this without a lot of noise and – but we sort of sit down and do it.

And perhaps we’re boring, but I’m not sure we’re that boring, actually. I don’t think the Balts are that boring. We might be but not the Balts. (Laughter.)

MR. LIEGIS: You would like to be. (Laughter.)

MR. BRZEZINSKI: Let me thank our panel, and great discussion. We talked about a broad vision, trans-Atlanticism and pragmatism. So let me thank our group. (Applause.)


Related Experts: Ian Brzezinski and Magnus Nordenman