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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?

Concluding Observations and Farewell

Robert Nurick,
The Atlantic Council

Peter Taksoe-Jensen,
Ambassador of Denmark to the United States

Andrejs Pildegovics,
Ambassador of Latvia to the United States

Date: September 7, 2011

Transcript by
Federal News Service
Washington, D.C

ROBERT NURICK: First, to my immediate right, a new member of the diplomatic corps, a recent arrival here, Peter Taksoe-Jensen, the new ambassador from Denmark. Sir.

AMBASSADOR PETER TAKSOE-JENSEN: Thank you very much. I was called by Bob two days ago and asked if I could do concluding remarks. I didn’t know at the time that everybody else would have done papers they could speak over – (laughter) – so therefore, I apologize for the lack of clarity in what I’m going to say now.

First of all, I’d like to thank the Atlantic Council and also the Swedish government for putting this on the agenda in Washington. I think it’s very important to focus on the Nordic-Baltic region, and I also think that there is a lot of potential for U.S.-Nordic-Baltic cooperation. I think the numbers that Damon mentioned earlier actually speak for themselves, and we are not really pursuing or looking into the potential the way we should of what could actually come out of that.

I think, when I have listened to the debate, there’s some things which I would have liked to have been in the focus as well. I think, first of all, when we look at the Nordic-Baltic cooperation, I think what we need to do is to focus on what is actually joining us together in the Nordic-Baltic region and maybe not so much what is dividing us, and if you look at what is joining us, it’s actually, we are all – and I apologize to Sweden, now – we are all small, open economies, very vulnerable to globalization and therefore also in need to find tools to handle the new challenges that comes into our region. That’s one part of it.

The second part is that we are also all based on the same values and are well-functioning democracies, and we have an appetite – and here we come into the U.S. perspective – to try to influence or shape global developments, and we have already shown that that is actually something we want to do.

If I look from the Baltic region around, we can start looking south. What is it we have to the south of us? Well, we have two things. We have a vast market for our exports because growth and creating jobs is on the top of the agenda for all politicians also in our region. So therefore, that is extremely important for us, and therefore, also to do what we can to increase market access in Europe.

Second, we have the first gate for the Baltic-Nordic region to global influence, namely the European institutions. If we think we can go to South Korea and tell the G-20 that they shouldn’t put Basel III in force the way they do because we have trouble with our own mortgage system, forget it. We need to find channels to influence these wealth developments. So that’s two things that we have to the south of us. We also have NATO, which provides us with security.

And thirdly, I think, if – I’ve been working with the European Union for many years. We used to have this nice system of changing presidents, and that was nice in the sense that you had a shift in the balance of the focus of the European Union from the south to the east to the south to the east, depending on where a member state came from the seat of the presidency. If it was a northern, then you would have more focus on the program in the east. If it was southern member state, we would focus on the south.

Now everybody is talking about the Arab Spring. I think it’s important, and if we can stabilize that, it will be good, but there needs to be somebody in Europe that keeps the focus on the east as well, and continue the building of a Europe whole and free. And I think we in the Baltic-Nordic region have a responsibility to get our colleagues in the north, the Germans and others, to continue pushing that, even in a situation where we have a lot of focus on the southern shores of the Mediterranean.

Also, one thing more I would like to mention is that we also have other channels to influence the world. For instance, if you look at the World Bank or the IMF, Nordic-Baltic cooperation is really working very well. We have a seat at the board and influence on the developments there. And in a way, sort of, we have the voice and the strength there that we could wish sometimes we had in other areas. Damon also mentioned development aid, where I think we can say we are sort of heavyweights. And if we put our forces together, we are really very, very influential and we could do more on that.

Townsend earlier asked what is our ambition, and I think our ambition is to, first of all, of course, ensure that we can continue our way of life in our own region and continue to finance the welfare system that we have. This means that we would like to have a stable world around us because we are dependent on the world around us, and therefore, we have a national interest in working with the U.S. on the global issues. And this is what we can provide to the U.S., and I think we already, all the countries did provide our contribution to global challenges.

We want to continue that, not only on hard security, but maybe also on other issues that will come up and be the challenges of the 21st century – food security, environmental issues, climate changes – what you don’t – they have mentioned, but it’s still an issue that needs to be addressed, and other issues where we have a special platform to help working on that.

In the north, I agree that we need to have a comprehensive strategy. I think that we have now stepped up the governance in the Arctic area, but we need to have a comprehensive approach. And I also agree that all the strategies that has been developed nationally could be merged together. The Canadians also have a strategy. The Russians is working on it. And it’s actually working quite well, but there’s a lot of challenges, and a lot of further work that needs to be done, and also to have a more inclusive way to govern the Arctic. So there is an area where we could cooperate.

I think the only – yeah, and then there is the east, and this is where I come back to what joins us and not divides us. I agree with Damon that it would be good to hedge against whatever Russia will look like in the future, but I think we have to acknowledge that the history of each of our countries vis-à-vis Russia is very different. My country never had a war with Russia. Norway had one a thousand years ago, but there’s others who have very, very different experiences.

So therefore, we need to also take that into account when we focus on what can be done and where we should focus our cooperation. On hard security, I think it’s right that we need to find ways. We’re not going to have a situation where European governments are investing more in defense. I think we are going the other way around. So we need to figure out ways to get more security out of what we invest, and I think sort of division of labor, also procurement, will be the name of the game in the future.

My country is going to buy new fighter jets. Maybe we can buy a few less and then, if we want to do two different things at the same time, somebody else, maybe the Swedes could do our air policing while we are somewhere abroad, and so on and so on. I think these ideas are ideas we could develop in our region and go down to NATO and say, come on, you can look at the output we can provide with the money we give. Maybe you could start the transition of your militaries in other parts of Europe and get more security for the bucks that you put in. Thank you.

MR. NURICK: Peter, thank you very much for those observations. It’s a pleasure to have you here, and I’m sure that this is only the first of many conversations that we’ll have on this subject. Again, welcome to Washington.

Fortunately, we’ve had Andrejs Pildegovics for several years, and I believe we’re going to have the benefit of at least one more.


MR. NURECK: We’ve had many discussions. I’m sure we’re going to have many more, and I very much look forward to your final thoughts today.

MR. PILDEGOVICS: Well, thank you so much for this opportunity. I will try to be really short, since I think the Latvians have been over-represented today. And first, I would like to start really by thanking all of you for hosting this event. This is really sort of second independence day, kind of Nordic-Baltic week in Washington, and in the Baltics as well. And I think this is really, really appropriate to, first, to celebrate what we have achieved over the last 20 years. This is really nothing short of a miracle, but most important, it is a time to reflect on today’s challenges, and to frame some aims for the next decade to go.

I really enjoyed that today, we have talked that much about solidarity and the meaning of solidarity in different terms. And first I would like to mention economy, finance, and responsible, sustainable growth. I think for an American audience and for American policymakers, the Nordic-Baltic region can certainly be of interest. Recently, my country has been visited by a number of senators who came to learn what we have done on stimulus, on austerity, on budget, on budget consolidation issues.

I think economists still debate which model was more successful in Iceland or in Latvia, but anyway, it seems that our region is coming out of the crisis much, much stronger and the growth is back. Robust growth is back. And in this respect, I think we have learned bitter lessons, and we have felt what is real solidarity in the new sense of the word. I think the emphasis on the smart defense was really interesting and I very much hope that very soon we will be able to report on some new initiatives, on joint procurement, on air policing.

I think the lessons have been learned in the region. But particularly three Baltic countries, I think we have, moving forward with some concrete ideas how to streamline those things and we will come up in Chicago summit with some new, tangible results in that respect. I think the focus on energy, it was very interesting. And the debate today was quite provocative and it was quite, quite important to continue with conventional and unconventional means. It is a challenge, still, for the Baltic countries, and certainly we’re interested to pursue this. And I want to thank the Atlantic Council for supporting this discussion.

I really was happy that the concept of free and peaceful united Europe was attached today on such extent. We hope that being the easternmost country of the European Union and NATO, we think that those issues are still important, very important with eastern partnership countries. And we have right across our border one very difficult case, which is Belarus, and we urge everyone to pay attention to this society, to this country, to this nation. And despite all significant difficulties which we face there, we think that we have to continue to work for the better future of this country by engaging youth, students and helping to build a future for this country.

Russia has been mentioned. It certainly deserves a lot of attention. Latvian-Russian reset was mentioned by passing. Of course, we still have many, many concerns, many reservations. But one of the most – for me personally, one of the most gratifying moments this year was that when one of our biggest opponents in Russia, former mayor of Moscow, Yury Luzhkov, asked for a green card in Latvia. (Laughter.) In terms of evolution, this is something like if Mr. – (inaudible) – would ask a green card in Georgia. This is huge, and I think this says a lot, how much things have changed.

And I’m not trying to sound naïve, and I’m not playing down all potential risks, but I think our experience has been the best proof that with straight priorities, straight policies, we feel this implementation, you can succeed a lot and build a better climate in the region. I won’t go on every important issue which has been mentioned in the report and we have mentioned today. Profound thanks to you, Bob, to Damon, to the Swedish embassy. We hope that this is the beginning of a new decade, a new chapter in the Nordic-Baltic-American partnership.

MR. NURICK: Thank you very much. Your final remark is a very nice segue into a very brief set of comments I wanted to make to conclude this. I’m not going to try to summarize a very complicated, interesting discussion or the themes in the book. Looking the other direction, now what? I mention this simply to let everyone know that we’re thinking about this.

I mean, we’ve talked a lot about how it’s important to sustain effective collaboration in the region. It’s important to sustain U.S. engagement. At our own level, we’re thinking about how do we sustain this effort that we’ve begun. I mention this to say it’s not only on our minds, it’s clearly something on the minds of a lot of other people. You’ve heard some of this from some of the governments here about what they would like to do, about their interests in sustaining these things. There are a few things maybe worth mentioning very quickly that you haven’t heard about.

The Lithuanians, for example, have told us that they intend to put this issue of Nordic-Baltic collaboration at the center of their EPINE agenda when they host it next year. They’re going to put it – they’re also hosting a Nordic-Baltic foreign ministerial meeting. This is – so they’re interested in sustaining this momentum. I’m happy to say that there are parts of the U.S. government that made it clear they’d like to do it. Kathy Wesley (ph) is here from the Nordic-Baltic desk. They’ve been enormously helpful in our preparations for this meeting, but also made it clear that they’re looking to continue this kind of work, not only inside the State Department, but more broadly in their interactions with the broader policy community here.

Parts of the Defense Department have raised with us, for example, the question of were there possible more formalized discussions here among the Nordic-Baltic states on cybersecurity and collaboration? We’ve done some preliminary soundings so it looks like this may be promising. There’s interest. We’re going to pursue that. And we’ve heard from a lot of NGOs, many in the region, the Nordic-Baltic region, who are interested in possible future collaboration, who want to sustain this kind of work. A Danish group has informed us that they are planning already an initiative, a sort of trans-Atlantic initiative, but with Nordic-Baltic issues at the center, with a focus, perhaps, on the younger generation.

The point is, there’s a lot out there. There’s just a lot bubbling. And we’re thinking about, you know, what we can do next. Now, as many people have said, resources are not unlimited. That’s true also of the Atlantic Council, whether that’s monetary or personal. We need to think about where, as Damon said earlier, where we can add value. But, what I can promise you is that we are going to give serious thought to this, number one, and number two, I’m going to come and bother you about this. I’m going to ask for your advice and counsel and suggestions about what’s useful, what would be the best way to sustain this at our level, as well as, in light of all the other things that are going on.

So, finally, if you’ll indulge me one more minute, I would like to express personal thanks. Two people who have already been mentioned, but who have been especially helpful to me in my preparations. One is Henrik Liljegren who has already been mentioned, who has been a source of, in addition to getting – having a major role in getting this enterprise started, has been an available and very sensible, thoughtful source of advice and counsel. So I want to thank him.

And the second is Magnus Nordenman, if Magnus is here. He has not only been very much engaged in the preparation of the papers and editing, but doing all of the tremendous amount of the administrative and logistical work, without which none of this could have happened. And so I’m enormously grateful to him.

Finally, thanks to all of you. It’s been a long day. I hope it’s been for you a useful use of your time. It certainly has been for us. Thanks for coming. Thanks for participating. See you next time. Thanks again. (Applause.)


Related Experts: Magnus Nordenman and Robert Nurick