Security of the Nordic region in a New Europe
The security policy status of the Nordic region has traditionally been influenced by the vicinity of the Soviet Union, the bilateral strategic relations of the Great Powers, and the military policy constellation in Central Europe.
The Cold War tension has occasionally extended its influence even to the Nordic region. Yet, the region has not turned into a significant object of conflicts. This is
primarily due to the fact that the Nordic countries' security policy vis-à-vis each other has always aimed at maintaining and strengthening stability in the region. At
the same time, the Nordic countries have endeavoured to protect themselves from international tension.
From the point of view of the security of the Nordic region, the following may be stated about the changing international environment:
- The USSR is facing disintegration, Russia is rising to become the leading power while the new political structures are still in the making, and several republics
are heading for independence. The economic and political situation in Russia-Soviet Union will long remain uncertain.
- The process of change in Eastern Europe towards democracy and market economy is continuing, but the living-standard gap between the western and eastern parts of the continent is a threat to a stable development. The newborn democracies are heading for the EC and possibly for NATO.
-The military confrontation of the Great Powers is discharging and being replaced by the endeavours of those powers to engage in co-operation, which would extend even to the field of security policy. Security and stability are increasingly dependent on factors other than those relating to military policy. Strategic balance, however,
continues to be important.
- In the areas adjacent to the Nordic countries, a favourable development is expected to ensue from reductions especially in nuclear weapons while the reductions in conventional arms and forces in Central Europe will partly, or at least temporarily, be discharged into the areas in our close vicinity.
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The Nordic region has been an area free from nuclear weapons, but a considerable amount of nuclear weaponry has been deployed in the immediate vicinity of the area. Therefore, new vistas will open up for the Nordic security in consequence of what can be termed a real nuclear disarmament race that the United States and the Soviet Union are about to enter on the basis of their reciprocal initiatives.
The new solutions will adjust the nuclear-weapons policy to a situation in which the Great Powers are not each other's adversaries but seeking their way to co-operation and in which the former European front line has vanished. The reduction and control of nuclear arms has become an object of co-operation.
The role of the nuclear arms is changing and their importance is diminishing. Under the START Treaty, the quantity of strategic nuclear weapons will be reduced. Announcements concerning the removal of land- and sea-based tactical nuclear weapons are also proof of this. Yet, the basic function of strategic nuclear weapons, the maintenance of mutual deterrence, is retained under the START Treaty. While welcoming the effect of the Treaty in strengthening strategic stability, we have to note that the START increases the relative importance of the airborne and seaborne systems.
This development maintains the strategic significance of the Kola base area and the northern sea territories. Therefore the hope expressed by Finland that the patrolling of strategic submarines in the waters surrounding the Nordic countries could be restricted and reduced retains its validity. It would increase stability and reduce the danger of conflict because submarines are also targets of counteraction.
The removal of seabased tactical nuclear weapons coincides with Finland's long-standing endeavour. It reduces the Great Power military confrontation in our immediate vicinity and eases the pressure on the Nordic airspace. At the same time it should be remembered, however, that the initiatives do not reduce the conventional aircraft capacity, which is not affected to any significant extent even by the CFE Treaty.
As a consequence of the removal of tactical nuclear weapons from land and sea, there will be no nuclear weapons deployed in the vicinity of the Nordic region with a range extending expressly to the Nordic region.
The announcement by the Soviet Union of suspending nuclear tests for a year is welcome both as a measure having relevance for disarmament and from the point of view of environmental safety in the areas in our immediate vicinity. We hope that there would be no further need ever to open the Novaya Zemlya test site and that negotiations on a complete test ban could be set in effective progress. That would correspond to the new international situation.
The developments in conventional weapons systems and armed forces contain both positive and, to a certain extent, problematic features from the point of view of the Nordic region.
The possibility of a surprise attack in Central Europe has diminished decisively. The CFE Treaty will contribute to stabilizing the situation. The Soviet Union's extensive ground forces are being withdrawn from Central Europe at an accelerated pace. The diminished danger of a large- scale war, of course, applies to all Europe, the Nordic region included. However, the problems caused by the Soviet Union's withdrawal, e.g. concerning housing required for the withdrawing troops and storage for their equipment, are considerable. The forces located in the areas adjacent to the Nordic region have, in fact, undergone a complete modernization as their equipment has been replaced by newer equipment from the forces withdrawing from Central Europe. There is a downward trend in their strengths, but the numbers and deployment of the army units are the same as before. Troops withdrawn from Central Europe are also deployed in the Kola region and Karelia.
The Soviet air defence was developed vigorously at the end of the 1980's and the beginning of the current decade.
As regards the Soviet maritime defence, navigation activities have been reduced but the stock of ships has been renewed and its tasks are unchanged. The Kola Peninsula will remain the major base of the Soviet strategic nuclear fleet. As regards the Baltic Sea, the situation will change quite remarkably following the renouncement of the bases in the Baltic countries. The mouth of the Gulf of Finland and the Åland Islands will become sensitive areas in potential times of crises.
The Soviet armed forces may have to face an extensive reorganization in case the central government is left mainly with the one role of looking after the nuclear arms, and the republics form their own armies on the basis of the Soviet armed forces now deployed in their territories. At any rate, we have to proceed on the assumption that our neighbour will have a very remarkable military capacity even in future.
The amount of funds directed to national defence in Norway and Sweden is, as is well known, considerably higher than in Finland. However, Sweden is in the process of reducing the programmes for renewing its military buildup: the number of operative army units will be reduced and the numbers of combat aircraft will decrease. Sweden's military capacity will, nevertheless, remain quite high.
The Baltic countries' winning independence is an important event for Finland as it is for all the Nordic countries. It is also conducive to removing a potential factor of tension from the Nordic - Baltic region.
From now on it is important that the Baltic countries fully join the security policy co-operation within the CSCE. Each country is likely to establish its own defence forces. It is important that no security policy vacuum develops in the Baltic region.
Relating to this, it is essential that the withdrawal of the Soviet armed forces from the Baltic countries take place in such a manner as will strengthen the security and stability of the Nordic and Baltic region. Fruitful negotiations between the Baltic countries and the Soviet Union on organizing their relations constitute, even in the new, post-independence situation, an important factor from the point of view of the Nordic security.
Regarding the effects of the military developments on the situation in the Nordic region, it may be noted, in summary, that many major changes have taken and are taking place around us. They are predominantly of a positive kind. Generally speaking, our security is enhanced as the danger of a large-scale war is abating and the disarmament process is progressing, but the factors of uncertainty continue to exist. The military capacity in the vicinity of our region is considerable. The decrease in nuclear armaments is extremely welcome. On the other hand, the reductions in conventional arms and armed forces have primarily concerned scrapping of old material: through modernization it is possible to increase firing power and mobility as well as the utilization of the air element; the number of conscripts is decreased while that of professional soldiers is increased.
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The Nordic countries are agreed that the achievements of their co-operation must be safeguarded, the Nordic community must be preserved, and that it must be further developed in a changing Europe.
Nordic co-operation is, however, at a crossroads and requiring new meaning. It must be able to develop so as to correspond to the challenges of a changing Europe.
Formerly, in the Nordic context, the foreign and security policy discussion met with obstacles relating to the sharp military policy division in Europe. Those obstacles have now been removed. The change that has taken place in Europe affects each of the Nordic countries, and they must be able to openly discuss these issues.
The senior officials group assigned to study the question of a Nordic nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Nordic area has already broken taboos connected with the Nordic dialogue on security policy. The working group is continuing its work and has been assigned the task of assessing the effects on Nordic security of the changes taking place in Europe. The working group has, in fact, turned into a forum for the joint discussion on security policy between the Nordic governments. In my view, the time would now be ripe for intensifying and expanding its activities. The Nordic countries' common interests are obvious in many fields and, in my view, on certain preconditions also in security policy. Extending the reductions in armed forces to the areas adjacent to the Nordic region, maritime arms control, and enhancing the functional capabilities of the CSCE are examples of objectives which can be backed by all the Nordic countries.
New opportunities will open up for strengthening the security of the Nordic region when new negotiations, starting after the CSCE Helsinki Summit, are held among all the CSCE countries on both disarmament and confidence and security-building measures. Within the scope of that unity of negotiations, issues relating also to European sub-regions can be brought up. The joint Nordic report on the question of a nuclear-weapon-free zone will offer a good foundation for initiatives and negotiations enhancing security in the whole of North Europe. Such negotiations could aim at measures, concerning both sea and land territories, by which armaments and military activity would be further reduced in the region of North Europe and by which the general security of that region would be strengthened.
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It is my belief that the security of the Nordic region will take a favourable course in a new Europe. The changes that have taken place in our continent have strengthened the values that we consider important as well as the rules of interaction among nations. The threat of a large-scale war in Europe is a matter of the remote past. However, a new division of Europe must be prevented and the factors of uncertainty kept under control. The Nordic region itself must reflect outwards both stability and sustained activity, also by means of its security and defence policies.
The Nordic region is not a bystander: it is requested to make a contribution of its own and to assume its share of responsibility in matters concerning its own vicinity as well as all Europe. If we so wish, the Nordic countries may exert a considerable influence also when working together. The essential thing is that the Nordic countries are able, even in the future, to take each other into consideration and to see that their interests are running parallel to each other in the long term even amid all the changes taking place in our continent.