The Viking Saga: NORDEFCO – Warriors of the North (Epilogue II).
What NORDEFCO means for its Member States
NORDEFCO is of great importance for the participant nations, especially in the sense of contributions that a mutual defence cooperation provides in the light of the increasing geopolitical importance of the Arctic and the Baltics-Scandinavia regions as well as the Russian assertiveness.
For Sweden, NORDEFCO means the possibility of a joint contribution of troops or international peace missions, as well as to develop, procure, maintain material, officers’ training and exercises. It also means the possibility to create capabilities through common readiness that would provide a high operational efficiency, superior quality, cost effectiveness and ability to maintain high capacity as results. Additionally, the defence industry would be benefited, since it can provide products intended to meet Nordic requirements for regional and international operations, along with the stimulation of common production and units by NORDEFCO members.
For Norway, 2014 is the year where this country is currently occupying NORDEFCO’s chairmanship. Generally, the country seeks to develop rather the practical side of the cooperation, while ensuring its progress through a cooperation based on results, efficiency and relevance. The objectives set for its chairmanship are:
Firstly, to enhance security policy dialogue among (and affecting) Nordic countries through NORDEFCO. Secondly, to strengthen the Nordic ability to contribute to any international peace operation. Thirdly, to ensure further progress on training and exercises, and extending the existing ones along with cooperation between Nordic, Nordic-Baltic, and NATO. Fourthly, to adopt a result-oriented approach to cooperation in capabilities and armaments, and to direct resources to highly potential projects. Fifthly, to strengthen cooperation on capacity building and security reform in post-conflict and young democratic countries, and to offer such to NATO, the EU and UN. Last but not least, to enhance dialogues between NORDEFCO and the national defence industries, as well as to revitalize cooperation on Public-Private Partnerships (PPP’s) among the countries and the defence industries.
Needless to say, the Norwegian approach towards NORDEFCO is a positive one, since it is being regarded as the important tool to solve some crucial issues and challenges that the Scandinavian nations are facing in regards to defence. Additionally, tight financial constraints, increasing prices for advanced materiel and the abovementioned challenges, makes a regional and multinational defence cooperation’s development something natural, from a Norwegian point of view.
Denmark, in turn, perceived NORDEFCO as an instance to enhance dialogues and cooperation in three main aspects: first, cooperation on capacity building in East Africa and under UN frameworks; second, cooperation in the Arctic; and third, joint initiatives in regards to materiel, education and training.
Iceland, on the other hand, perceives NORDEFCO as an ideal instance to address issues such as natural and man-made disasters, terrorist and cyber-attacks. Iceland, due to its lack of armed forces, has only a political role in NORDEFCO, in a similar way as in NATO. In fact, its defence relies on air surveillances executed by both NATO and NORDEFCO assets, something of increased importance after the closure of Keflavik Air Base by the United States (Forsberg, 2013; Jokela & Isu-Markku, 2013).
For Finland, NORDEFCO was of capital importance in 2013, as the country held the chairmanship of the organization. The objectives it set were: first, to develop the existing activities with a focus on capability cooperation, operations and training and exercises; second, to frame NORDEFCO’s objectives and activities through the development of a long-term plan; and third, to enhance the Nordic perspective on defence issues through seminars and workshops.
Both Finland and Sweden have special relations and cooperation with Estonia – the reasons were exposed on the previous articles about Sweden and its strategic triangle – in various issues, defence included. The recent event of the Russian submarine incursion in Swedish waters made both countries to recognize the importance of strengthening such ties, which consist on the Baltic Defence College, joint procurement and cooperation in training Estonian troops. Finland, in turn, has a cooperation agreement with Estonia in the fields of cyber-security, political and defence consultation and shared practical endeavours from 2012 to 2015.
The Warriors of the North: facing the Future, facing a common threat
At the moment, NORDEFCO is a cooperation structure rather than a command structure. It is not either an alliance in the strict sense as NATO yet it implements some joint operations, training, exercises and production of defence assets under defined standards in a very similar way. This structural deficit could be the very first and general mistake the Scandinavian and Baltics nations are doing. Although one should not forget that both NATO and the EU are also there – however NATO can provide the needed security better than the EU – and that following it, it does not make any sense in introducing a new defence organization that might overlap some of their functions, further advances in consolidating NORDEFCO as a command and operational structure with its mentioned cooperation activities is very needed.
Another fact is that cooperation is yet to be formalized, both at political and military level. The steps done in order to pursuit that have been timid, if not few. This does not mean that the current efforts and achievements should go unrecognized. Yet the increasing importance of the Artic, the Baltic, the military build-up by Russia and its assertive policies aimed at the Baltic and the Arctic (regions of importance for the security of ALL Scandinavia and the Baltic states, not to mention Europe and the United States and Canada) somehow enforce the Scandinavian and the Baltic nations considering the transformation of NORDEFCO into a new military alliance in the near future. Moreover, instead of replacing NATO or overlapping with its functions, it can simply complement it and even transform itself into a big Nordic group within NATO command and operational structure, thus reinforcing NATO activities and objectives in the Arctic-Baltics-Scandinavia area.
This, in the end, could be a great contribution to the security of Scandinavia, the Baltics, Europe, the Northern Hemisphere and the West, as well as the same Arctic, facing the increasing Russian assertive actions and repeated military incursions in NATO, EU and Scandinavians territories. And it could also provide an excellent balancing against a Russia that clearly is not hesitating in using its military power to meet its objectives and achieve its political purposes, as well as threatening all of its Western neighbours.
A final problem that is quite hard to solve is the focus that should be given to NORDEFCO. Certainly, due to the awakening of the Russian bear, the focus could be on regional defence and assistance, and all of the assets eventually could be oriented towards meeting that strategic objective. This is something that nations with strong “out of zone” objectives, like Denmark and at some extent Sweden, has to recognize and assume as their core for every action within NORDEFCO areas, and eventually under its operational area, should NORDEFCO transform into a full operational and command structure. They could also promote in a more active way the strengthening of cooperation between the Scandinavian countries and the Baltics, as well as to push for NORDEFCO to adopt the abovementioned necessary transformation. This for the sake of their own territorial integrity and security and dealing the important threat that Russia means.
It is time for the Warriors of the North to become closer allies and face together the lurking Ragnarök.
Estonian Embassy in Helsinki. (n.d.). Finland. Retrieved from: http://www.estemb.fi/eng/estonia_and_finland
Försvarsmakten. (n.d.). Nordic Defence Cooperation Strengthened. Retrieved from: http://www.forsvarsmakten.se/en/about/our-mission-in-sweden-and-abroad/nordic-defence-cooperation/
Ministry for Foreign Affairs. (n.d.). Nordic Co-operation. Retrieved from: http://www.mfa.is/foreign-policy/security/nordic-co-operation/
Ministry of Defence. (2011). Nordic Defence Cooperation – NORDEFCO. Forsvarpolitikk. Retrieved from: http://www.regjeringen.no/en/dep/fd/Selected-topics/forsvarspolitikk/nordic-defence-cooperation—nordefco.html?id=532212
Ministry of Defence. (2014). Norway assumes NORDEFCO chairmanship. Press release No.: 01/2014. Retrieved from: http://www.regjeringen.no/en/dep/fd/press-centre/Press-releases/20141/norway-assumes-nordefco-chairmanship.html?id=748235
Ministry of Defence. (n.d.). Finnish NORDEFCO chairmanship in 2013 in Nordic defence policy related co-operation. Retrieved from: http://www.defmin.fi/index.phtml?l=en&s=730
Republic of Estonia, Government. (2014). Estonia and Sweden have common views on the security of the Baltic Sea. Retrieved from: https://valitsus.ee/en/news/estonia-and-sweden-have-common-views-security-baltic-sea
 See: Försvarsmakten (n.d.). Nordic Defence Cooperation Strengthened. Retrieved from: http://www.forsvarsmakten.se/en/about/our-mission-in-sweden-and-abroad/nordic-defence-cooperation/
 See: Ministry of Defence (2014). Norway assumes NORDEFCO chairmanship. Press release No.: 01/2014. Retrieved from: http://www.regjeringen.no/en/dep/fd/press-centre/Press-releases/20141/norway-assumes-nordefco-chairmanship.html?id=748235
 Ministry of Defence (2011). Nordic Defence Cooperation – NORDEFCO. Forsvarpolitikk. Retrieved from: http://www.regjeringen.no/en/dep/fd/Selected-topics/forsvarspolitikk/nordic-defence-cooperation—nordefco.html?id=532212
 When Denmark had the chairmanship in 2012, those were the objectives during its leadership.
 Ministry for Foreign Affairs (n.d.). Nordic Co-operation. Retrieved from: http://www.mfa.is/foreign-policy/security/nordic-co-operation/
 See: Ministry of Defence (n.d.). Finnish NORDEFCO chairmanship in 2013
in Nordic defence policy related co-operation. Retrieved from: http://www.defmin.fi/index.phtml?l=en&s=730
 Finland also has a strong Baltic approach due to its geographic position and the neighbouring Russia. See: Herolf, 2013, p.5.
 Republic of Estonia, Government (2014). Estonia and Sweden have common views on the security of the Baltic Sea. Retrieved from: https://valitsus.ee/en/news/estonia-and-sweden-have-common-views-security-baltic-sea
 Estonian Embassy in Helsinki (n.d.). Finland. Retrieved from: http://www.estemb.fi/eng/estonia_and_finland It is important to remark that Finland was the first country to recognize Estonia’s independence in 1920 and 1991.
 The same thing applies for the EU. In addition, the transformation of NORDEFCO into a command and operational structure should not block the needed joining of NATO by Sweden and Finland.
*Cover image ‘Cold Response DV dag‘ by Soldatnytt