From the viewpoint of military security, political stability and democratic transition, overall change in Europe has been remarkably and historically positive during the post-cold war era.
Obviously, there have been regional and local differences, and even dramatic and tragic aberrations from this general trend, with the wars in the Balkans as the heaviest burden for the whole of Europe.
In the long-term perspective, however, and having in mind the divided Europe only a little more than ten years ago, the situation on the eve of the forthcoming eastward enlargement of the European Union and NATO is a testament to the possibility of peaceful change. The Central European nations with the support of the established democracies of Western Europe have achieved deep and real political, economic and social transformations.
Even the Balkan countries have arrived at the perspective of European integration in their reconstruction efforts. As a result, the faultline is moving further eastwards to Eastern Europe, and the Caucasus, with links to the Middle Eastern, Central and South Asian zones of instability and conflict. The agenda of working towards the wider Europe as a region of established democracy is far from exhausted.
THE BALTIC SEA REGION AS A MODEL
The Baltic Sea region, comprising all the littoral states Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Finland as well as Norway, is in many ways a microcosm of whence Europe has come and here it may or can be heading. More than that, it can even be presented as a model for overcoming some of the most demanding challenges to European unification based on comprehensive security.
I would like to pinpoint at some particular features of the transformation in the Baltic Sea region which are, at the same time, of wider interest for the whole of Europe.
REGIONAL AND SUB-REGIONAL COOPERATION
First of all, the importance of region-wide and sub-regional as well as local and bilateral cooperation can not be emphasized too much. Even before the bigger wheels of the EU and NATO started to turn and draw in the countries of the region, in pre-accession or accession modes, innovative solutions were reached locally around the Baltic Sea Rim.
There was a core in place. The traditional and established cooperation among the five Nordic countries, including Iceland, has served as an engine for extending assistance to the Baltic States over a range of sectors of their societies engaged in transition and pre-accession. Moreover, first as a group of ”five-plus-three” and nowadays as a group of ”eight”, foreign and security policy cooperation has brought these neighbouring states together in an ever closer partnership.
As a regional body established ten years ago, the Council of the Baltic Sea States has joined these eight smaller states with Russia, Poland and Germany, with the participation of the European Commission, in practical cooperation on reforming and developing social and material infrastructures as well as in facing new security tasks.
Finland has recently assumed the Presidency of the CBSS for the second time. We intend to promote the whole broad agenda of stability, welfare and prosperity in the fields of the environment, energy, transport, the information society and education as well as civic society and human security. Among the priorities are such diverse issues as combating organized crime and communicable diseases, border control, children at risk, supporting non-governmental organisations especially in the field of social and health and labour market issues in cooperation with the social partners.
While dealing with its practical work, the Council, as a political framework and governmental-level structure, has promoted the Baltic Sea region as a focus of identity with long historical roots. This renaissance has become a living reality through numerous transnational networks that have flourished since the end of the unnatural division. Such contacts are essential for creating and strengthening civic societies and also for overcoming socio-economic fault-lines.
As complementary and mutually reinforcing institutions, the Barents Euro-Arctic Council and the Arctic Council bring forth the particular northern perspectives in the broader European context. Due to its geographic and geoeconomic position, Russia is a key partner to the Nordic countries in these bodies. In addition, they constitute also a link with the United States, which displays an active interest also towards Baltic Sea cooperation, in particular through its special relationship with the Baltic States.
As the Chair of the Arctic Council, Finland has made a particular effort to bring out the regional Arctic voice in global fora on sustainable development. This is an important role for any regional groupings, as they can contribute to the broader tasks of European and global governance with their particular concerns and perspectives.
GROUNDWORK FOR EU ENLARGEMENT AND THE NORTHERN DIMENSION
These regional institutions do not wield large resources of their own but they have created habits of cooperation and joint expertise that can be put to further use as the European Union is stepping forward more actively as a leading player in regional development.
In effect, regional and sub-regional cooperation around the Baltic Rim has laid the groundwork for the future where the focus will be more and more on the relations between the EU and Russia.
As an example of such a synergy, cross-border cooperation with adjacent regions of Russia initiated by the direct parties – such as Finland and Russia – has been successfully supported by common EC funds for years already. Even after the next enlargement of the European Union, assistance and joint efforts in regional co-operation will maintain their significance.
Visions reach further, however. It is the realization that the relationship between the European Union and Russia will determine the future of not only our own region but Europe as a whole. The core dealing Finland’s initiative for the Northern Dimension presented five years ago is the future cooperative relationship between an enlarged Union and Russia.
The Northern Dimension is now an agreed common policy with a plan of action to guide and facilitate its implementation. Recognizing the interdependence between the enlarging Union and Russia, it addresses cross-border challenges and builds on the combined potential of Russia and the EU, for example in exploitation of hydrocarbons in an environmentally responsible way. This is a long-term goal that will have broad implications for the future of Europe. The EU-Russian energy dialogue aims to improve the regulatory framework for investments, which should be financed mainly by private actors and international financial institutions.
The Northern Dimension concept has other aspects as well. In fact, the immediate concrete results will lie in the fields of maritime environment, nuclear safety, information society and public health. As the policy of the Northern Dimension is implemented and focussed further, the European Commission will certainly gain from the expertise of regional institutions.
Russia as a whole is a factor that makes the Baltic Sea region of particular and broader interest for all who follow and assess the ongoing change in Europe. It is in this region where Russia and the European Union meet geographically, already on the Finnish-Russian border but soon along a longer line after the accession of the Baltic States and Poland into the Union. The Baltic Sea will become an inner EU-Russian lake.
Such a neighbouring relationship will have immediate implications for the need and responsibility to cooperate in the management of the common border. The tasks include, in particular, dealing with new risks such as organized crime, human trafficking, narcotics smuggling and international terrorism.
The Finnish authorities responsible for border management – border guard, customs and police – have created a co-operation system with their Russian counterparts which other countries in our region can use as a model. Co-operation has been established for the whole Baltic Sea region between the authorities responsible for border control and surveillance based on the trilateral experience of Finland, Russia and Estonia. According to our experience and assessment, a smooth and effective border control is possible under the Schengen regulations.
Going beyond geography, into the spheres of geoeconomics and geopolitics, the initiation of the Northern Dimension as part of the common strategy towards Russia and the process of the enlargement of the EU into the Baltic Sea region have been mutual learning processes as well as concrete indications for both the Union and Russia over what their future relationship will entail.
It has been important for Russia to see the comprehensive and complex nature of the Union, not only as an economic force but as an international actor with political and security-political goals and with instruments to pursue goals that touch upon its own national security interests.
In the context of the accession of the Baltic States to the Union, Russia has not only adjusted to their new legal and political status but also come to envisage the economic and other benefits that an EU membership for its neighbours will ensue for itself. This experience will demonstrate that the enlargement of integration promotes stability in the core relationship of European security.
All in all, developments around the deepening of the EU’s policy towards Russia in the north and its enlargement to the borders of Russia point to a relationship that will be full of work and practical problems to be solved but at the same time one where both partners have politically a positive approach and are aware of the opportunities that lie ahead.
REMAINING RUSSIAN-BALTIC ISSUES AND KALININGRAD
The long-drawn process of managing and resolving the issues of borders and minorities between Russia and each of the Baltic States is yet to be concluded in totally normalized neighbourly relationships. At the same time, we have long since passed the situation when Russian-Baltic relations were viewed as potential conflicts that could destabilize the region.
Russia has not been willing to move to the ratification of the border treaties with the Baltic States but it is not an issue that would affect their accession to the European Union. Likewise, the status of Russian-speaking minorities in Estonia and Latvia is in line with the European (OSCE) standards, although having such large numbers of stateless persons will require a continued effort for integration of those communities and enlarging citizenship.
The remaining political issue which has been linked to EU enlargement in the region, the arrangement of transit to and from Kaliningrad through EU territory has been a focus of attention. It has been even presented as an issue of prestige between Russia and the European Commission. It is easy to understand Russian sensitivities towards its citizens’ access to its sovereign territory. On the other hand, the Schengen regime is an essential element of EU integration that must be protected for the interest of all parties.
There is every reason to expect that a pragmatic solution will be found to the issue of the transit to Kaliningrad. The main task is to look ahead; Kaliningrad is both a challenge and an opportunity for cooperation between the enlarged Union and Russia. Ways need to be found that will trans form the enclave into a model of European cooperation, thus helping to resolve its social and economic problems. It was the Northern Dimension that made the Commission and the Union as a whole to engage in the Kaliningrad issue as an EU-level challenge.
MILITARY TRANSFORMATIONS AND PROBLEMS
In the field of military security, the emergence of the Baltic Sea region from the cold war situation has not been less interesting or indeed significant for European security. In the same manner, as the danger of military tension or confrontation has been replaced by a new kind of defence cooperation, there are residual and new risks that require attention.
The withdrawal of former Soviet troops from the Baltic States and the dismantlement of former Soviet military infrastructure from those territories were accomplishments where the direct parties received support from the OSCE and other European partners.
Military transparency has increased. Military confidence- and security-building measures are used actively not only by the Nordic countries but the Baltic States and Russia as well. In the framework of NATO Partnership for Peace programme, joint naval and land exercises have contributed to confidence and openness as well as military-to-military cooperation. Even Russia has participated albeit in a limited manner.
It is vitally important for military stability that conventional weapons reductions are implemented in accordance with the CFE treaty. There are good prospects that the adapted treaty of 1999 may be ratified in the near future as the remaining issues of Russian compliance are being cleared. Finland will closely follow the ratification process and assess the situation as the Treaty enters into force.
As for nuclear weapons, Finland has proposed that the unilateral and political Russian and American commitments from 1991 be transformed into a legally binding document, which would provide transparency for the implementation. Although this is an issue of direct relevance to regional security, it needs to be promoted in the wider international fora such as the NPT review process.
As a legacy of the cold war, the northern European region is a risk zone for weapons-related nuclear waste, particularly in the Murmansk region. Civilian nuclear safety likewise remains an ongoing task in the northern and Baltic Sea region. Finland is a leading contributor to this work.
As for the destruction of chemical weapons in Russian storages, together with its EU partners Finland is supporting the work, although those sites are not in the near-by region. The EU should increase its contribution to the CW programme as well as to the removal of weapons-grade plutonium.
NATO ENLARGEMENT IN VIEW OF EU ENLARGEMENT
The enlargement of NATO in the Baltic Sea region is in principle an issue of military security and stability, after all, NATO remains a fullfledged defence alliance. In reality, however, we all see it as a process of broader implications and as something else than counting military beans or checking military balances. Certainly, there are people who have the responsibility to do that work as well in defence staffs and agencies. Military strategy will not go away although it is pushed to the back ground by changing threat perceptions.
Due to fundamental changes in European security and NATO’s adjustment to these changes, the forthcoming enlargement will affect the whole spectrum of the security policy agenda. In this manner, NATO enlargement will interact and overlap with EU enlargement and the processes will be mutually reinforcing.
Both of the processes will have had a stability and transition promoting effect on the candidates by placing on them membership requirements. It should be noted, however, that with the exception of transforming armed forces, the accession to the Union will have a broader and deeper impact on the aspiring members. In a way, the pre-accession cooperation with the EU is preparing countries for fulfilling the political conditions of NATO membership.
Moreover, both of the enlarging institutions have deepened cooperation with Russia in the context of all-European security. While the EU’s relationship with Russia has been evolving step-by-step, the establishment of the NATO-Russia Council can be viewed as a breakthrough for Russia’s adjustment to the reality of NATO enlargement.
The historic agreement in Rome was naturally not concluded for the sake of settling the issue of the accession of the Baltic States, although it is an important angle in the NATO-Russian relations. In fact, the NATO-Russia Council is an outcome of general strategic developments such as the impact of the post-September 2001 security environment and the closer US-Russian cooperation.
Consequently, NATO-Russian cooperation will be affected in the future by the state of international relations, although the new Council can act as a significant instrument for deepening that cooperation over the new and common risks that exist for European and wider global security.
As we look at the situation in the Baltic Sea region, there is no reason to expect that adverse effects on the enlargement process or the NATO-Russian relationship would emerge from the region. There is good ground to expect that NATO enlargement will be a stability-promoting process for the region.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE BALTIC ACCESSIONS
A decision on NATO enlargement that will include Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania as invitees is widely expected to take place in Prague in two months’ time. This is a significant event in the historical perspective. At the same time, it may not be politically as dramatic or tangible in its consequences as was expected only a short time ago.
NATO membership is part and parcel of the transformation of the Baltic States and their integration with the core of the democratic Europe. Moreover, it entails their exercise of the principle of the freedom of choice that is a basic element in the European security order. A membership is a contract between the sovereign parties but it is also in line with the overall development in Europe and not in violation of any outsider rights either.
In a similar manner, the existence of different security and defence policy solutions in the Baltic Sea region will not be an obstacle to deeper future cooperation in the field of defence. Finland and Sweden will continue to work closely together and with their partners in the region. They have been, together with Denmark and Norway, among the main supporters of the Baltic States in the reconstitution of their national defence establishments and forces.
Finland’s main partner has been Estonia. Although its political-legal basis will change and direct assistance programmes will end as the Baltic States join NATO, defence-related cooperation between them and Finland will continue.
Military stability remains a vital condition for ensuring further positive transformation in the Baltic Sea region and Europe as a whole. It is safe to expect that NATO will follow the policy that was established for the first eastward enlargement: no nuclear weapons or permanent deployment of foreign troops on the territories of the new members.
Such a policy of restraint is not only commensurate with the spirit of the day but also corresponds to the real security needs, which lie elsewhere than in military build-ups or expansion. Likewise, the enlargement of the CFE treaty is to be expected to cover the new members, although it remains their sovereign right to decide.
FINLAND’S PERSPECTIVE TO NATO ENLARGEMENT
Finland has followed closely the enlargement process of NATO since its beginning in the mid-1990’s. We have conducted a dialogue with NATO to put forward our security-policy objectives and concerns and to find out about the Alliance’s policies and plans. It has been a useful dialogue. In the practical field, Finland has developed a well-functioning and enlarging partnership with NATO in troop development and military crisis management.
In Finland’s view, it is essential that NATO enlargement will enhance stability and security and the states’ sovereign right of choosing their national security and defence policy courses is observed. Russia’s response to NATO enlargement has been a significant factor in the strategic assessment for Finland like all other countries. Finland has not been party to the enlargement or accession process, but it has been reassuring to note that NATO and Russia have managed the issue to the advancement of European security.
As a neighbour and long-standing partner, Finland understands Estonia’s, Latvia’s and Lithuania’s aspiration to join NATO, which is now close to fulfilment and which they, together with the forthcoming EU membership, regard as an important building block for their emergence as established democracies and for their return back to Europe.
As things today stand NATO enlargement will have a very limited impact in our region. It has been so long on gestation and has been accepted by everyone, Russia included, so that when it finally takes place it will be something of a non-event. The membership of the Baltic States will not have any direct impact on Finland’s relationship with NATO either. We come from a different background and we have successfully adjusted our security policy in the post-cold war to encompass full membership in the Euro pean Union and active partnership with NATO while maintaining the position of military non-alliance. Like Sweden, and indeed the other neutrals of the cold war era, Finland has not seen a need for military alignment.
The issue of NATO membership has been an item in the domestic discussion not only in today’s situation but long before, since the enlargement process begun. It will also be reviewed in conjunction with our next comprehensive security and defence policy review due in 2004.
It has been, however, very much a minority issue, some former Finnish ambassadors may have created the impression that we are about to join the alliance, but the public opinion remains firmly and overwhelmingly committed to non-alignment.
Finland will approach the issue with a number of factors in mind. First of all, we have to ask if membership is needed for the purpose of national defence. Will it increase our national security? Secondly, we have to see if membership would enhance our capability to protect and advance our security goals and interests in international relations. Are we missing something essential today, given the emergence of the new threats to our security, which no longer are connected to the possibility of traditional war between states?
We have today a workable security and defence policy line. It provides for credible national defence, meets our regional, European and global interests and ensures active participation in international security cooperation. Obviously non-alignment needs to be considered from the point of view of these new threats, which underline the need for broad multilateral cooperation. This is not reason enough to join old military alliances, even if they are seeking new roles. Non-alignment could actually have increased added value in a world where too few countries are committed to truly universal crisis management and conflict prevention.
The European Union will also have to be able to meet the security needs of its member states. Rather than calling for traditional defence cooperation of a military nature, this should mean developing multi-faceted crisis management and conflict resolution capabilities. For those who want traditional military defence cooperation, NATO will remain the best alternative.
In other words I do not share the vision of the EU as a future superpower, but rather as a new kind of strong international actor that can mitigate and cover problems caused by power politics and superpower behaviour around the world.