Ukraine, political security in Europe and the path towards the NATO summit in September were up for discussion when the Nordic countries’ defense ministers met in Tromsø this week. The ministers stated clearly that they supported the regime in Ukraine, and strongly condemned Russia’s intervention in the Crimean peninsula as a violation of international law.
“What’s happening in Ukraine and Russia has changed the outlook of our security policies,” said Norway’s Conservative (Høyre) Defense Minister, Ine Eriksen Søreide. “We’re also hearing from our Nordic colleagues how it’s changing the security policy debate in the Nordic countries.”
News bureau NTB reported all of the ministers were agreed in their approach. “Both in how we condemn the actions in violation of international law, but also the desire we have to give a clear political signal to Russia that this is unacceptable behaviour,” said Søreide.
“Here, naturally the situation in Ukraine sat high on the agenda,” agreed Danish counterpart Nicolai Wammen. “There is a clear message from us that all countries respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity and also their sovereignty. We have not experienced a cold war, but a cold spring.” He said negotiation, not military force was the way to resolve the conflict.
Søreide said the situation in Ukraine emphasized the importance of the cooperation the Nordic countries share. “The events of recent months underline the need for further development of NATO’s partnerships,” she said. “Joint training and exercises are important. Norway, Sweden and Finland have for example joint fighter jet training across borders, something which gives very good training outcomes. We are now looking at opportunities to expand this training cooperation and invite more countries.”
Norway, Denmark and Iceland are all NATO members, while Sweden and Finland are partner countries.
The ministers also discussed ways the Nordic countries can support the building of defense sectors in new democracies and countries caught up in conflict. This is particularly relevant for Ukraine, said Søreide. “We will both advance the work of security sector reform in countries like Ukraine through the EU, NATO and other organizations,” she said. “The Nordic countries have expertise in this, we have the opportunity and we want to continue that as a separate Nordic format.”
Other topics on the table included a progress report on the countries’ earlier agreement to cooperate on transport aircraft, cyber defense, and Danish work on the acquisition and maintenance of ammunition.