By Arnor Sigurjonsson, Director General Iceland, Trine Bramsen, Minister of Defence Denmark, Peter Hultqvist, Minister for Defence Sweden, Antti Kaikkonen, Minister of Defence Finland and Frank Bakke-Jensen, Minister of Defence Norway.
The Nordic Defence Cooperation (NORDEFCO) is celebrating its ten-year anniversary this year. It is a close and operational cooperation that contributes to a more secure Nordic region. Now we are taking additional steps to be better prepared in case of a crisis.
The Nordic countries are bound together by geography, history, culture and values, we share a common responsibility to maintain peace and stability in our neighbourhood. We are mutually dependent on the supply of goods, access to ports, functional and interlinked infrastructure and transport routes that cross our borders. A secure Northern Europe is our common interest.
We are living in unpredictable times with new challenges and threats bringing about a sense of uncertainty in our societies. Therefore, we must be prepared to defend our democratic societies. If a major security crisis would occur in the Nordic region, it would affect us all. In order to meet our common responsibility for the security in our region, we must continue to strengthen our capabilities to act together.
At today’s defence ministerial meeting, we are therefore endorsing a NORDEFCO crisis consultation mechanism with the aim to enhance our information sharing and consultation during crisis and conflict, to be more prepared if a crisis would occur.
The purpose of the Nordic defence cooperation is to strengthen the participants’ national defence, explore synergies and facilitate efficient common solutions. This has guided our work from the outset, and still forms the basis for the Nordic defence cooperation.
Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea 2014 and the ongoing aggression in eastern Ukraine, has deteriorated the international security situation and has led to a military build-up in our region. Russia’s behavior continues to increase international tensions. The security situation at hand has had an impact on all our countries as well as on the Nordic defence cooperation.
We all have a responsibility to maintain peace and stability in our region. This has made our cooperation even more necessary.
As we are celebrating the NORDEFCO ten-year anniversary it is clear that our collective effort has led to many concrete and successful results. Initially our prime focus was on creating efficient and cost-effective solutions of mutual interest, not only in our immediate vicinity but also in the international arena. We established cooperation on Nordic Tactical Air Transport (NORTAT) and deepened our cooperation in international military operations such as in Afghanistan. More recently this cooperation has continued in Mali. Taking advantage of the Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish air space in the North, we developed the successful exercise concept Cross Border Training.
Since 2014 our cooperation has become more operational and focused on the security situation in our close vicinity. During the past few years, we have established secure communication between our capitals, we have facilitated easy access to each other’s territories, and we have taken measures to improve our common situational awareness by developing capability to exchange of air surveillance information. We have also agreed on arrangements which enables Nordic aircrafts to use landing bases in another Nordic country, for example when required by weather conditions.
Another example of our close cooperation is the air exercise Arctic Challenge Exercise which was conducted as a European high-quality flag level exercise this year, in close cooperation with the USA. These Nordic exercises complement our ongoing security and defence cooperation between NATO allies and partners, such as Trident Juncture 2018 last year.
The NORDEFCO vision 2025 that we agreed upon in 2018 guides our further work. It reflects the common understanding that a serious security crisis in the Nordic region would affect us all, and that we need to be prepared and equipped to act together in peace, crisis and conflict.
By establishing the NORDEFCO Crisis Consultation Mechanism we strengthen our abilities to cooperate also if a crisis would occur. This new mechanism will enable us to reach a common situational awareness during crisis and conflict. The NORDEFCO members may consult each other whenever the regional stability, their territorial integrity or security is threatened. The mechanism may also be used to exchange views and coordinate positions on unfolding international events with implications for the security in the Nordic region or where the Nordic countries have a common security interest.
We will continue the efforts to strengthen NORDEFCO as a platform for security and defence policy dialogue and effective practical cooperation. A close Nordic defence cooperation increases our military capabilities and strengthens our ability to act together. When we train and exercise together, we strengthen our national capabilities and our ability to act jointly. At the same time, we send a strong signal to potential aggressors that we will defend ourselves if needed.