Thorvald Stoltenberg, former Norwegian Minister of Defense and Foreign Affairs, presented the Stoltenberg Report (PDF, in English) to a meeting of Nordic foreign ministers in Oslo. The report urges greater security cooperation between the Nordic countries of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden.
In the past year, there has been increased talk of pooling Nordic military resources. Last June, the Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish defense ministers published a report urging the pooling of military resources to cut costs. That same month, Norwegian and Swedish foreign ministers Jonas Gahr Støre and Carl Bildt asked Stoltenberg to develop a proposal for how the Nordic countries could further their cooperation in the next ten to fifteen years, which is the report now being discussed.
A defense alliance would finally create a formal mechanism for cooperation between all five Nordic countries’ militaries. Presently, Denmark, Iceland, and Norway are in NATO, while Finland and Sweden, both EU members, are still neutral in principal. Yet the Stoltenberg Report goes beyond general matters of defense cooperation. The report also discusses Arctic issues, for instance, proposing the creation of a “Nordic maritime response force with search and rescue expertise and icebreaker capacity” to respond to incidents in the region. The report also suggests the possibility for greater cooperation with the Arctic Council, of which all five Nordic countries are members, with regard to climate change and environmental policy.
The Stoltenberg Report comes not long after NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer discussed the possibility of a military presence in the Arctic. At a conference in Reykjavik, he told delegates, “I would be the last one to expect military conflict — but there will be a military presence…It should be a military presence that is not overdone, and there is a need for political cooperation and economic cooperation.” Now, it is increasingly possible that NATO, Russia, and a Nordic alliance might all be raising their military flags in the Arctic’s frigid winds.
In Russia, one newspaper argued that the formation of a Nordic military alliance might actually be a boon to the country. Russia Today reported, “For Russia formation of the Nordic Alliance could possibly mean that it will be able to speak directly to the Arctic countries, thus by-passing NATO, for 60 years now wholly controlled by the US, which in turn could mean that purely economic interests would prevail. However, this is only if the US does not enter the new organisation, because, strangely enough, it has Arctic territories too.”
Not exactly strange, but perhaps ironic: the US might not have any Arctic territory had it not bought Seward’s Icebox from the Russians in 1867 for a mere $7.2 million.