The Russian aggression against Ukraine and the illegal annexation of Crimea are violations of international law and other international agreements. These actions represent the greatest challenge to the European security architecture. These developments have led to deterioration in the security situation in Northern Europe over the past year. The region is still considered to be stable, however, we must be prepared for the likelihood of crises and incidents. In the current security situation in Europe, our assessment is that there can be no 'business as usual' and that we are faced with a new normal.
We have to take account of the actions taken by Russia and not Kremlin's rhetoric. Russia is making substantial investments in her Armed forces, with the aim of enhancing its military capabilities, and has demonstrated a will to apply military means to achieve political goals, even when it violates principles of international law. Russia has increased her military exercises and intelligence operations in the Baltic Sea region and the High North. Russian military activities are occurring close to our national borders (and several violations of the territorial integrity of states around the Baltic Sea have taken place). Of particular concern are those activities, by Russian military aircraft, reducing the safety of civilian air traffic.
Russian military exercises and intelligence operations in our region have increased, particularly in the Baltic Sea region. The Russian propaganda and political manoeuvring is aiming to create a rift between states and within organisations such as EU and NATO. A great responsibility lies on Russia to reverse this negative development.
The Nordic countries meet the present situation through solidarity and enhanced cooperation. Our cooperation is built on shared values and a determination to address our challenges together. With differing organizational affiliations we cooperate closely within the framework of the EU and NATO. Our approach is defensive. We want to strengthen the stability in Northern Europe and distance ourselves from threats and the use of military force. Closer cooperation among the Nordic countries and our solidarity with the Baltic States contribute to enhanced security in our region, as well as raising the threshold for military incidents to take place. By acting together in a predictable and consistent way, we contribute to peace and security in our part of the world. At the same time we strengthen cohesion within the EU and NATO while also maintaining the transatlantic link.
The security situation in the Nordic region is also affected by several other issues, including our dependence on international trade, the threat of cyber-attacks and terrorism, as well as the effects of climate change. In Europe's southern and southeastern neighborhood states and institutions are pulled into a spiral of violence marked by civil war, which risks leading to interstate confrontations. Non-state actors, such as ISIL, challenge established states, borders and institutions and continue also to attract citizens from the Nordic countries.
At the Nordic Defence Ministerial meeting in Arvidsjaur on March 10th, we decided to enhance the possibilities to monitor the development in our region. This includes both air- and sea- surveillance. The aim is to share information on activities in our air space, improve pre-warning communication and reduce the risk of unexpected events and possible misunderstandings. Moreover, we decided to continue exchanging information and experiences on how to counter cyber-attacks.
In order to effectively act together in a possible future crisis, it is essential to be prepared through training, education and exercises. We have great opportunities utilizing a unique exercise and training environment in order to strengthen our military capabilities on land, in the air and at sea. Within the field of air training the already established Cross Border Training is a model to build on. The possibilities to organize a more complex air exercise, a Northern Flag, will also be explored. We are taking steps towards establishing possible alternative landing bases in case of difficult weather conditions.
Qualified exercises will ensure that other countries and organisations are offered opportunities to become familiar with our region and its specific conditions. In particular, this will be demonstrated through the NATO High Visibility Exercise in Norway 2018.
Through international operations, in Afghanistan, Mali and Iraq, we continue to develop our collaboration, ensuring cohesion and coordination, in an effort to improve the coordination of our civilian and military contributions. Nordic countries are actively involved in the discussions on how to further improve UN peacekeeping operations.
We have established a programme for defence capacity building, where we, together with the Baltic States, can offer contributions to the reform of the defence sector in participating countries.
The Nordic Defence Industry Agreement has undergone a process of revision and modernisation. The Agreement has now been signed, which constitutes an important milestone. It provides the framework for provisions on Security of Supply and specific measures that are important in case of a crisis or conflict, for provisions on certain simplifications concerning the application of defence industrial cooperation, and provisions aiming on facilitate trade in defence equipment between the Nordic countries.
In addition to Nordic defence cooperation, respective national defence capabilities are strengthened through bilateral cooperation, which enhances the overall capacity to handle incidents and threats. Bilateral cooperation complements and strengthens Nordic cooperation as a whole, as well as security in our part of the world.
We assume our part of the responsibility for our region during unpredictable times. The Nordic cooperation complements already existing cooperation within the EU and NATO aimed at increased security in our region. Our shared ambition is to increase predictability, contribute to a peaceful development and avoid military incidents and conflicts.
Nicolai Wammen, Denmark's Minister of Defence
Carl Haglund, Finland's Minister of Defence
Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson, Iceland's Minister for Foreign Affairs
Ine Eriksen Søreide, Norway's Minister of Defence
Peter Hultqvist, Sweden's Minister for Defence