Defining Neutrality II – Sweden (3a)


The case of Sweden (Part III)

When the Cold War ended, a wave of optimism emerged, as peace was thought to would remain almost perpetually, with history supposedly coming to an end as the competition between the two superpowers was over, ending 42 years of constant tensions and threat of large-scale conflict. Sweden adopted this approach rather enthusiastically, having some cautions nevertheless. This period also brought challenges and new dilemmas to neutrality policy, at the point of losing its centrality; a strong defensive approach was no longer necessary hence redefinitions, due to the end of the Soviet Union, new international dynamics and political processes – like the European integration project – and new security threats.

Non-alignment, due to these factors, became the main Swedish foreign and security policy framework, with neutrality remaining only nominally. Interestingly, after the Cold War, Sweden set aside and then retrieved – partially – armed neutrality, mainly due to the comeback of the Russian threat.

This period is indeed very interesting and complex, as Swedish neutrality was defined again and again. To understand how this complexity took place and why it forced such frequent re-definitions, it will be reviewed in three small periods. The first period is between 1991 and 2001, with the post-cold War reforms – based upon the period’s optimism – and the new international dynamics, including the crises at the Balkans and other new security threats, sparked the first reforms to neutrality. The second period spans from 2001 to 2014, with further new security threats – terrorism mainly – and the re-emergence of old threats taking place, thus sparking more re-redefinitions. And the last period spans from 2014 to nowadays, with Sweden concentrating mostly on the re-emerging old threat.

The Post-Cold War: Neutrality after the winds of change (1991-2001)

This period was characterized by the abovementioned post-Cold War approach, and the emergence of new political processes and security threats, with Sweden implementing several foreign policy and military reforms, redefining neutrality thus making it very particular.

It lost its ‘armed’ element, becoming mostly into ‘non-alignment’, product of the reforms. Firstly, Sweden began to focus on domestic affairs as defence was not urgent (Tirpak, 2017). Secondly, engagement with international organizations and institutions was furthered. It joined the North Atlantic Cooperation in 1992, the NATO Partnership for Peace (PfP) in 1994, it took part in two NATO-led operations in the Balkans (IFOR and SFOR), it joined the EU and the Western European Union – as observer – in 1995; all of this took place despite non-alignment being the main policy and mostly because of economic considerations[1]. By the end of the Cold War, defence spending was high – 1.3% of GDP – and then were reduced following the end of the Cold War; new security threats, the spark of inner conflicts near Europe with serious effects should spilling, all required military-civil tools and international cooperation, hence the reforms (Bergman, 2004; Basset, 2012; Gotkowska, 2013; Hetmanchuk, 2012; Lindström, 1997; Pashkov, 2009;, 2014; Swedish Defence Commission, 1999; Westberg, 2013; von Sydow, 1999; Vaahtoranta & Forsberg, 2000).

The Swedish Armed Forces (Försvarsmakten) received new operational missions through reforms. Focusing on interoperability with international organizations, neighbour countries and regional partners, and focusing on reduced size for flexibility and mobility took place. Also, conscription was evaluated while the Home Guard (Hemvärnet) was to be expanded (Bergman, 2004; Swedish Defence Commission, 1999; Vaahtoranta & Forsberg, 2000; von Sydow, 1999). Capacities to provide and receive support in a cooperative solidarity spirit, and interoperability during crisis management operations were given to the Försvarsmakten, becoming also their main framework. They were implemented when deployed in the Balkans, with Sweden contributing to protection of civilians and regional stabilization. Sweden, then, relied on collective security and international law while national defence capacities were reduced (Gotkowska, 2013; Westberg, 2013, von Sydow, 1999).

Nevertheless, Sweden still assessed that some important threats were present. Indeed, despite no large-scale attack was not considered as military power and political differences around were reduced, political instability and potential limited attacks – through cyberwarfare and terrorism – along weapons of mass destruction and airstrikes required Sweden to retain considerable defence capacities. The abovementioned reforms were oriented also on this direction, thus merging civil and military crisis management assets, including civil defence and infrastructure protection (Swedish Defence Commission, 1999; Vaahtoranta & Forsberg, 2000; von Sydow, 1999).

Reforms and joining multilateral instances could be perceived as going against neutrality and non-alignment. Very far from it. For instance, Sweden considered that shared values, respect for international law, diplomacy and multilateralism with the EU were valid to join it. This also allowed Sweden to take part in NATO and EU-led peacekeeping operations, to achieve peace and prevent conflicts with both organizations as a mean, being PfP very ideal given its flexibility and freedom of participation. The EU was also deemed an alternative for security due to its cooperation by consensus and economic collaboration basis, being Sweden’s way to open to Globalization. Also, non-alignment was set as pre-condition for participation in operations abroad, with cooperation going beyond the military and into non-military aspects (Bergman, 2004; Lindström, 1997; von Sydow, 1999; Vaahtoranta & Forsberg, 2000)[2]. This became a turning point in Swedish neutrality[3].

Sweden became more involved with Europe and with its most immediate neighbourhood, with the EU membership being a vehicle for such. The same with UN peacekeeping operations, since like those of NATO and the EU, were a way to prevent conflict, achieve conflict and fulfil its own norms, Human Rights and values-based foreign and security policies. In fact, they became a good complement for non-alignment. Cooperation was central indeed, as Sweden would provide any EU – and Nordic – country victim of an attack or a disaster with assistance, expecting the same from them (Bergman, 2004; Pashkov, 2009; Westberg, 2013)[4]. Relations with the US became as important as relations during the Cold War, becoming more formal. Sweden considered the transatlantic relations crucial, while considering the EU should have valued more US presence – and NATO – in Europe; the same EU was deemed a very weak actor, especially in crisis management (Vaahtoranta & Forsberg, 2000).

The flexibility and adaptability of Swedish neutrality was made evident. It managed to adapt itself and the Försvarsmakten to the EU Common Defence and Security Policy (CDSP). The first re-definition of neutrality in 1992 allowed this, as it stated that neutrality was to be maintained – and ensured as an option – in wartime, avoiding alliances in peacetime. It was also stated that the EU security equalled that of Sweden, enabling it then to address any crisis or conflict in the vicinity. This opened also the door for close defence cooperation with other Nordic states, regardless of their varied security mechanisms, and having political consultations (Basset, 2012; Bergman, 2004; Lindström, 1997; Ugwukah, 2014; Vaahtoranta & Forsberg, 2000). This Nordic-based security cooperation remains, being very important for Sweden.

A similar security cooperation with the Baltics emerged, being equally important for Sweden. For instance, Sweden would intervene if any Nordics or Baltics were attacked. Sweden also co-operated with its neighbours in operations, like the Nordic-based battalion in Bosnia under UN command in 1993, which was the product a Nordic/Baltics-based defence structure idea, with joint battalion deployed mainly for peacekeeping. Baltics troops were also deployed under Swedish command. In addition, efforts with Finland to enhance the EU conflict management capabilities took place alongside strong bilateral cooperation in security[5]. Contacts with NATO and Russia took place as well[6]. And PfP became a tool for the Nordic/Baltics-based defence cooperation and by taking part in exercises, discarding the Baltics ‘neutralization’, supporting instead their armed forces’ establishment with material, assets and instructors. It also supported their path towards NATO (Lindström, 1997; Swedish Defence Commission, 1999; von Sydow, 1999; Vaahtoranta & Forsberg, 2000).

Sweden further contributed to the EU. It helped in shaping the EU as a security actor by insisting on the integration of the Petersberg Tasks within the EU core security tasks and in CSDP, helping it to meet its objectives and own security aims. Yet non-alignment remained as a pre-condition for taking part in EU-led operations, with the EU not to become a collective defence body and remaining a cooperative defence body only (Bergman, 2004; Basset, 2012; Westberg, 2013)[7].

The post-Cold War re-adaptation wasn’t smooth, though. During the Kosovo crisis, Sweden did not intervene until the aftermath, as there was no UN approval for use of force against Serbia and Sweden objected NATO interventions. Its own principles forced also such absence. A sense of regret emerged later as Sweden stood idle while the crisis unfolded. Then, neutrality was again re-defined so to address the issue of similar crisis requiring no UN approval for intervention, maintaining the multilateral and regional approach, alongside the no-alliance and non-alignment principles (Bergman, 2004). This event highlighted the limits the Swedish humanitarian side had when colliding with Neutrality and non-alignment

From the 9/11 to Crimea (2001-2014)

The turn of the new century brought further reforms and new re-definitions to neutrality and non-alignment. New security issues emerged along those already manifesting since the 90’s; old threats also began to re-emerge.

After the 9/11 attacks, a new re-definition came to be necessary. The no-alliance, non-alignment and the EU as a vector of regional stability principles were maintained. But further flexibility was given, allowing Sweden to take part in EU-led operations and to contribute to its rapid reaction forces, since they were considered a force for peace and stabilization, capable of enforcing Human Rights, and a good tool for Baltics security. It was also recognized that neutrality was not central or possible anymore. Also, the requirement for cooperation, with the EU not to become a collective defence body, was kept (Bergman, 2004).

Foreign policy aims remained the same. Maintenance of peace and autonomy, safeguarding Swedish citizens, contributing to international peace and security remained central; security co-operation by political consultations with the Nordics as well (Bergman, 2004; Ugwukah, 2014). In fact, this cooperation became further important, evolving to become a genuine security tool having an Arctic/High North security scope, materialized in the shape of the Nordic Defence Cooperation (NORDEFCO). It has as four pillars: developing a Scandinavian Rapid Reaction Force; a Joint Naval unit for patrolling; to control the Icelandic airspace; and to work in other security aspects. The focus is placed on the member states’ air forces with exercises in the High North, Southern Sweden and Northern Denmark, and with the Swedish, Finnish, Norwegian and Danish air forces taking part. There was also aims of participating in NATO Iceland Air Policing (Gotkowska, 2013; Pashkov, 2009).

The Försvarsmakten was a subject of further reforms too. Internationalization and further reductions took place, thus taking part in global and regional deployments – like EU-led operations Artemis and Concordia – while deepening participation in NATO’s assistance to Baltics defence. PfP exercises are joined by the three services so to gain further interoperability and to show Sweden as a reliable and capable partner. Human Rights and rule-of-law remained as frameworks. Interestingly, Sweden participated in NATO-led ISAF in Afghanistan and its reaction forces, in the anti-piracy operations in Somalia, in rescue operations in Chad and Mali, supported Security Sector Reform in Kosovo, and in NATO intervention in Libya[8]. CSDP and the EUBGs became additional main security frameworks for Sweden, with a 2004 Security Strategy stating that Sweden would act in case any EU was attacked. Conscription was finished in 2010 in favour of a rapid reaction force on a volunteer-basis and with interoperability, flexibility and versatility as principles (Bergman, 2004; Basset, 2012; Göranson, 2012; Gotkovska, 2013; Pashkov, 2009; Swedish National Audit Office, 2014; Tirpak, 2017)[9].

With terrorism becoming the main security, measures to tackle it emerged. This took place regardless of Sweden being neutral and not a likely target, affecting neutrality. In fact, terrorism and its impact prompted such measures, alongside the new threats, both requiring multilateral approaches to address them. Hence, the new re-definition confirmed the obsolescence of neutrality and non-alignment. Its participation in ISAF was due to the understanding of non-state actors in international security and the emerging security issues[10]. It also explains its implementation of anti-terrorism measures, advancing also on a EU-based security architecture (Basset, 2012; Bergman, 2004; Pashkov, 2009).

As the decade was coming to a close, a threat of old began to arise again. For instance, the 2008 Georgia War, Russian assertiveness and cyberattacks against Estonia in 2008, alongside mock nuclear attacks against Sweden made the public to support a military strengthening. Also, a new 2009 Defence Decision and Security Strategy emerged, assessing that though direct attacks were unlikely, they weren’t impossible. National defence then became a priority again alongside crisis management operations, with increased issuing of armament and equipment to some units, and reintroducing regional commands. A new Defence Decision followed in the earlier 2010’s, keeping Sweden’s commitment to any Nordic or EU state in case of attack or natural disaster, keeping also solidarity and interdependence as tool to secure Sweden (Gotkowska, 2013; Tirpak, 2011). A debate on joining NATO also emerged, as it was becoming attractive due to Russian assertiveness in the vicinity, alongside event in the Arctic, where Sweden is having strong interests, following Pashkov (2009).

This period marked the end of the post-Cold War optimism, and evidenced the damage made by reforms. It also evidenced some things, as the return of Russia made solidarity – and cooperation – with the EU and the Nordics more necessary, as well as the need to overhaul the Försvarsmakten. This became even more evident as the Försvarsmakten was left almost unfit for national defence given the previous reforms, with Russian assertiveness threatening to further stretch the scarce defence resources (Gotkowska, 2013).

Hence the need to address this issue affecting the Försvarsmakten, along with other related problems. The 2012 Royal Swedish Academy of War Sciences, in fact, made a study given the regional instability, reaching interesting conclusions. First, the ‘declaration of solidarity’ was deemed unfit for dealing with Russian military and intelligence activities. Second, the Försvarsmakten has good expeditionary capabilities, good assets and well-trained personnel, but the problems were gaps on national defence and nearby high-intensity conflicts capacities. Third, there was a lack of AA defences and of personnel, with the navy lacking AA defences forcing the Swedish Air Force (Flygvapnet) to do AA defence, lacking long-range attack capacities. And fourth, there was a lack of priorities. It was concluded the reforms were to be blamed, as they made the Försvarsmakten to have few units, few personnel – given issues on recruitment – and lacking financial resources for defence for long periods of time, requiring assistance[11]. Moreover, the lack of economic growth could hamper the acquisition of needed new equipment – such as submarines, UAVs, infantry fighting vehicles and transport planes (Gotkowska, 2013; Swedish National Audit Office, 2014).

Problems affecting the Försvarsmakten are not the only source of concern, as it seems the EU is not positively evaluated. Hence Sweden is not considering furthering cooperation with the EU given its lack of military focusing, having capabilities only for interventions but not collective defence. NATO was considered not to be mirrored or the US to be set aside. Also, Poland was deemed a potential good element for defence cooperation – though not a secure one – as there could be shared threat assessment and close cooperation for prevention and cooperation. And Sweden is looking for new ways of military cooperation and new partners to advance on interoperability and participation under NATO Reaction Force, and to work on new security threats (Gotkowska, 2013).

The re-emergent Russian threat would become worse. The annexation of Crimea, the refugee crisis and the increased threat of terrorism would prompt further debates on neutrality, non-alignment and NATO membership, following Tirpak (2017). The need to overhaul the Försvarsmakten would be highlighted too.

The Bear returns (2014-today)

The world was taken by surprise and in shock when Russia annexed Crimea, and conflict in eastern Ukraine involving a Russian-backed separatist group. The geopolitical and security implications were important for Sweden, given Russia’s proximity and as its assertiveness is taking place the most in the Baltics and the arctic, where Russia and Sweden are having interests.

Sweden felt then the need to do something, as the adverse conditions were worsening. As a result, readiness and deterrence were to be enhanced, with the Flygvapnet becoming important for national defence, readiness and deterrence. The public kept its support for the Försvarsmakten overhauling and modernization[12]. Incidents involving Swedish and Russian fighters and surveillance and SIGINT planes – even an airliner was involved – justified further such support. Sense of vulnerability was increased as Russian assertiveness was taking place in the Arctic, as a potential clash might take place given overlapping interests there. The 2015 Parliamentary White Paper recognized this issue: it reaffirmed Sweden as neutral, yet it stated Sweden would fight alongside other states while increasing defence spending to 2.2% of GDP. This was also a recognition that military force was again a foreign policy tool (Gotkowska, 2013; Tirpak, 2017).

Redefinition of neutrality and non-alignment became inevitable, along other measures. Increased military relations with other countries, the EU and NATO were deepened, with Sweden seeking to establish stronger transatlantic links with the US, including interoperability between Swedish and American forces, joint training and exercises, cooperation on armaments, R&D, multinational operations and a development of a joint trainer jet – the Boeing/Saab T-X. Cooperation between the Flygvapnet and the US Air Force in technology, ammunition and interoperability was aimed too. In addition, and as an alternative to NATO membership, further defence links with Norway and Finland were established, including exercises at squadron level with air forces; increased focusing to the Baltics as a main security area took place too[13]. The ‘dispersed air base’ system was re-introduced while partnership were further implemented alongside interoperability (Gotkowska, 2013; Tirpak, 2017; Sweden’s Defence Policy 2016-2020, 2015).

In addition to the realization of fixing the damage done by reforms, a debate on joining NATO emerged. Membership was indeed considered, yet some political sectors are insisting on the post-cold War optimism and underestimating the threat Russia is to Sweden and its neighbourhood. Interestingly, convergence on threat assessment with the EU and NATO resulted in Swedish mechanized units taking part of NATO Northern Group despite being out of NATO official defence discussions (Gotkowska, 2013).

Discussions on the need to reinforce the Försvarsmakten yielded important steps to be taken and solve the issue(s).

Fixing an army

One of the most important steps taken by Sweden is the Sweden’s Defence Policy 2016-2020, published in 2015. This document manages the military overhauling, preparedness and interoperability, being a product of the aforementioned debate and a materialization of measures.

This policy aims at increasing the Försvarsmakten combat capabilities and to ensure collective force. As such, it defines its tasks as four: protection of life and health; ensuring society functioning; protecting values, rule of law and Human Rights; and protecting interests, rights and sovereignty. They are framed by a solidarity-based security; war prevention and rise of threats against Sweden, her neighbours and the Baltics and Europe; a support to the UN and EU aims of promoting peace and democracy. The Försvarsmakten also have to assist civil agencies when required and protect civil society, with cooperation with NATO being important, mostly for acquiring capabilities – including all weather/arctic capabilities – and for contributing to international security, let alone for accomplishing their tasks. Cooperation with the Nordics, the Baltics and the US remains core principle, alongside territorial defence with Finland (Sweden’s Defence Policy 2016-2020, 2015). Hence, cooperation remains fundamental and useful for the Försvarsmakten to become stronger and more capable.

The policy proposes 9 measures to strengthen the Försvarsmakten. First, the implementation of new training system for officers. Second, to increase presence in the Baltics and in Gotland, as the island is a cross-point between sea and air lanes. Third, to upgrade the AA defences. Fourth, to increase the quality of the Home Guard (Hemvärnet). Fifth, to reorganize the Army (Armén) into 2 mechanized brigades. Sixth, to retrieve the Civil Defence as it could support the Försvarsmakten in war time, protecting and securing vital social assets.  seventh, to acquire enhanced cyber capabilities. Eight, to modernize psychological defences given their importance on keeping the democratic order during a crisis. And ninth, to acquire long-range precision strike capabilities, mainly for the Flygvapnet. In addition, a merge between the Försvarsmakten, the civil society and political, diplomatic and financial means is considered, so to enhance Sweden’s security while cooperating with other states and organizations (Sweden’s Defence Policy 2016-2020, 2015)[14].

What Sweden needs for materializing military overhauling is the same thing the EU needs to achieve security: an increase to defence budgets. Such increasing would give the Försvarsmakten the capacities to manage the current unstable scenario, enhance its combat capabilities and increase intelligence through increased training and exercises[15]. Moreover, there is a need for investing in basic material and logistics; to add a motorized battalion; to deploy regiment units with mechanized and armoured companies in Gotland to make a battlegroup; to upgrade the armoured and infantry combat vehicles; to add more bridge layers and new anti-tank weapons, plus 4 mortar platoons for the Hemvärnet. Active cyber-defences, renewed civil defence and more investment on recruitment and sustaining of soldiers were also deemed necessary (Sweden’s Defence Policy 2016-2020, 2015; Tirpak, 2017).

The three services, in turn, will receive important additions in assets and equipment, to enhance capacities, evidencing how Sweden will manage a renewed threat by retrieving many aspects of the previous version of neutrality[16]. First, the Armén would receive the abovementioned investment in basic equipment, logistics, training and exercises, and anti-tank missiles, deployed mainly in Gotland. These measures will enable the Armén to withstand high intensity conflict with increased reconnaissance, armoured, mechanized, AA assets and other battalions and companies: battle tanks and combat vehicles are to be upgraded with AA mid-range missiles to be acquired too (Sweden’s Defence Policy 2016-2020, 2015).

The Flygvapnet and the Navy (Svenska Marinen) will receive additions as well. The Svenska Marinen would implement mid-life upgrades to 2 Gävle-class corvettes with additional corvettes of this class, 2 Gotland-class submarines, 7 patrol boats (4 to be fitted with SW capacities), and 2 Stockholm-class corvettes to be re-fitted as patrol boats. New anti-submarine light torpedoes and helicopters, more crews, a new SIGINT vessels and 2 new submarines would be added. The Flygvapnet will receive 4 Wings enhancing all-time readiness, an air transport squadron, and air combat control and air surveillance battalions, and a new helicopter Wing (which would reinforce Svenska Marinen and the Armén with ASW and transport, respectively), would be activated. Trainers would serve alongside fighter in wartime, with the latter increasing in number of units to be received – reaching a total of 70 units. The AA capacities would be increased by fitting the Saab J39 Gripen with missiles – and short and medium range AA missiles (Sweden’s Defence Policy 2016-2020, 2015; Tirpak, 2017).

And as a last, recruitment is to be re-established. This has the purpose of increasing retention of soldiers and personnel and to increase social support. The reserve system is to be restored too, focusing on a cost-effective system by high quality training. Interestingly, a dual volunteer-conscript system was considered (Sweden’s Defence Policy 2016-2020, 2015).

Some steps have materialized or are in the verge of, with some unspecified additions that could benefit the Försvarsmakten. For instance, the main Swedish submarine builder might fit the new A26 submarines with vertical launchers capable of firing Tomahawk cruise missiles, or installing them in vessels to receive mid-life upgrades. Although not openly mentioned for Sweden, it would be no surprise if it receives those submarines with the new weapons systems or even those currently in service; it must be reminded that acquiring long-range strike capacities is one aim[17].

Moreover, Sweden will increase military spending. Defence budget would be of additional 8.1 billion kronor for national defence, alongside an annual increase of 2.1 billion kronor. Conscription will be indeed re-established with troops deployed in Gotland and becoming closer to NATO, yet not ready to join the Alliance (Reuters, 2017)[18]. An additional deal to invest in defence took place, with 6.8 billion kronor for the Försvarsmakten, and 1.3 billion kronor for the Civil Defence. this to increase the former’s capacities by purchasing new vehicles and ammunition, increasing available positions in officer education and training, and receiving more soldiers. These steps could benefit cooperation abroad (The Local Sweden, 2017).

Yet while the reforms were clearly harmful for Sweden’s defence, by no means it means new assets wouldn’t be received. While not as extensively produced, new assets and weapons systems were introduced in the post-Cold War period. Many were product of developments during the Cold War while others were brand new. All were optimized to fulfil the new operational tasks and conventional defence. The most remarkable, being the spearhead of Sweden’s defence is the Saab JAS 39 Gripen, developed in the late 70’s to replace older platforms such as the J 37 and the J 35, and in service since 1995, being a capable multi-mission platform receiving upgrades and updates. The Saab 340 AEW&C (S 100B ARGUS) tasked with electronic surveillance and early warning was introduced in 1997. The Armén received important new combat vehicles, chief among them the Stridsvagn 122 (a Leopard 2 partially made in Sweden) and the CV-90 infantry combat vehicle and CV-90-120 light tank. The Svenska Marinen modernized and re-fitted the Stockholm and Göteborg class corvettes (retiring 2 of them after the Cold War) for operations abroad, being deployed off the Lebanese coast during the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah War and in the anti-piracy operations off the Somalian coast in 2009. The new generation stealth Visby class corvette was also introduced from 2002 to 2015 (5 units), providing Sweden with state-of-the-art surface combat systems. And Gotland class diesel-electric submarines, fitted with AIPS (air-independent propulsion system) were also introduced (Sharpe, 2001; Turner, 2003; Chant, 2006; Jackson, 2012).

NATO: to join or not to join? That’s the question

Since the end of the Cold War and especially today, in the light of Russian assertiveness, the question of joining NATO has been lingering in the air, involving the issue of neutrality and non-alignment. Yet it is clear that Sweden needs NATO as much as NATO needs Sweden. This is very true for Sweden, as its location has always made it vulnerable to Russia’s power, even more today due to three reasons: first, its location makes its especially vulnerable to Russian assertiveness. Second, any crisis in the Arctic will affect Sweden directly. And third, the Baltic sea is especially vulnerable, especially the island of Gotland, making it crucial for Sweden. This results in Sweden being of the middle of strategic triangle or arc, with Russia being a threatening factor against its three sides.

Sweden and NATO are no stranger to each other, since Sweden joined the PfP in 1994, and took part in many NATO post-Cold War interventions to develop its capabilities and ability to co-operate with NATO forces and partner countries, mainly for peace-support operations. Tensions with Russia have prompted NATO, Swedish and Finnish increased cooperation. Sweden is highly valued by NATO as it has provided important contributions and its location makes it very important for its security efforts (Aronsson, 2015; NATO, 2017). This could hint closer cooperation between Sweden and NATO for its defence and for securing the ‘Eastern flank’.

The US also values Sweden and its contribution for European security and stability. For instance, the US Army commander in Europe considers Gotland a strategically important point for countering Russia in the Baltics (The Local Sweden, 2017). Russia also has its evaluation on Sweden and NATO, being a negative one. For instance, Russia threatened military action if Sweden joins NATO as it considers such event a threatening encroachment. Sweden, as a result, declared her willingness to keep non-alignment, as it kept Sweden safe from threats[19]. But Sweden is facing a tragic situation, as Russian actions pushed Sweden closer to NATO and the US. And it seems the same US is contributing to this, as the current administration has casted doubts over cooperation agreements, of which Sweden has some with the US: Sweden might move closer to NATO as it needs security reassurances against Russia, although Sweden keeps insisting on staying out of NATO due to historical factors[20]. It seems that Sweden will have no choice but to join NATO, alongside the implementation of other security measures and policies.

In the light of this: what is the best course of action for Sweden then? Should it join NATO or remain by the sides? In fact, can Sweden remain by the sides in the light of the current crisis with Russia, or it will have to implement a new re-definition of neutrality, or to abandon it entirely? Will the proposed military modernizations suffice to protect Sweden? These questions and others will be answered in the last (analytical) part about Swedish neutrality.



[1] Interestingly, PfP was evaluated as a possible way onto NATO membership, though such remains very controversial. Nonetheless, it became crucial for the cooperative security approach, mainly by exercises, common standardization in equipment and other aspect with NATO Allies (Pashkov, 2009).

[2] In fact, the ‘humanitarian’ leg of Swedish foreign policies were kept and enhanced, with large flows of aid to developing countries, following Bergman (2004).

[3] However, neutrality as such was set aside following Sweden’s joining in the EU, as Bergman (2004) points out.

[4] Close cooperation with many EU countries’ defence industries was established, so to address an almost dependence on US-made equipment, and to acquire better equipment, according to von Sydow (1999).

[5] Cooperation is focused on 5 pillars: arms procurement, maritime surveillance, peace support, exchange of personnel and civilian crisis management. Defence structures were also harmonized, with Sweden fighting alongside Finland should it joins NATO (Vaahtoranta & Forsberg, 2000).

[6] Dialogues with Russia were taking place while there were concerns over the Baltics joining NATO, with Russia being considered a reduced threat yet a factor to be considered in the area, given the political instability then could have sparked a rise of nationalism, following Lindström (1997).

[7] In any case, Sweden supported the EU collective defence despite objections on collective defence, considering such a helpful tool against terrorism, and deeming the EU to have an integrated approach on defence with conflict prevention and peace support (Bergman, 2004).

[8] It was the second time Sweden took part in an intervention abroad using air assets like in Congo in the 60’s. 8 JAS 39 Gripens with more fighters for recce, and a C-130T transport airplane took part tasked with enforcing the no-fly zone, under PfP frameworks. See: Basset, 2012., and Göranson, 2012. Though Sweden ended its participation in NATO-led KFOR in 2013, three military advisors remain at the NATO Liaison and Advisory Team and the HQ of KFOR. In Afghanistan, it remains part of NATO Resolute Support Mission with advisory teams to the Afghan armed forces and support personal at the HQ in the north, a German hospital, and airfield and support units for troops. See: Mission of Sweden to NATO. (n.d.). Ongoing mission: RSM and KFOR. Sweden abroad. Retrieved from:–PFP/Sweden-in-NATO-led-operations–sys/Ongoing-operations-RSM-and-KFOR-sys/ on 02.11.2017

[9] Defence industry and integration with industries of the UK, Spain, Italy, Germany and France take place since then, focusing on R&D and capability creation. See: Pashkov, 2009.

[10] Sweden remained there until 2014, leading the northern provinces PRTs after being present initially in Kabul, using civilian and military assets – including heavy ones – while engaging the Taliban; it sought to provide stability and development and humanitarian support (Göranson, 2012; Sweden In Afghanistan, 2017).

[11] The needed assistance could be problematic, as it can spark Russian retaliation or a pre-emptive strike, since Sweden could be used by NATO as a base for supporting the Baltics. But NATO stated in 2012 it would not responsible for non-allies’ security, with Norway stating a similar thing, according to Gotkowska (2013).

[12] It is noteworthy to remind how Russia was evaluated after the Cold War. See footnote 6.

[13] The most remarkable cooperation agreement is that with Finland, considering both nations are the most directly affected by Russian threats, and that both are neutrals or non-aligned nations. Established in 2013, it is aimed at improving security in the region and a better and more cost-efficient use of resources and defence related aspects, as well as to increase interoperability and joint action both home and abroad. Training and exercises, air and maritime surveillance and possible use of basic infrastructure are the tools for this cooperation, which could seek to develop a Finnish-Swedish Naval Task group to be operational by 2023, increased interoperability between the Swedish Air Force and the Finnish Air Force – mainly on joint operation capacity, common base operations and common Command and Control – and a joint Finnish – Swedish Brigade. See: Government Offices of Sweden. (2015). Defence Cooperation between Sweden and Finland. Government Offices of Sweden. Retrieved from: on 01.11.2017.

[14] That cooperation would have a regional, national defence and planning for wartime scenarios focusing, plus a global insight. The Baltics are important for Sweden’s defence strategy, according the Sweden’s Defence Policy 2016-2020 (2015).

[15] This is useful to fight hybrid warfare and propaganda and cyber-threats, as they could hamper Sweden to have autonomous foreign and defence policies.

[16] Interestingly, a joint forces approach is a main scope, stimulating cooperation between services, enhancing interoperability and flexibility, adaptability and responsiveness.

[17] See: Yeo, M. (2017). Saab A26 submarine gets vertical launched Tomahawks. Defensenews. Retrieved from: on 14.10.2017

[18] Conscription was retrieved due to the increasing insecurity around Sweden making readiness a must, and as the volunteer system was not giving enough personnel. The result will be a mixture of volunteer and conscript. US conditioned support to NATO, strong public support and concerns over Baltics security also prompted this retrieval, according to Roden (2017) and the Government Offices of Sweden (2017).

[19] See: Gutteridge, N. (2017). ‘A threat that must be eliminated’ Putin’s chilling message to Sweden over NATO membership. Sunday Express. Retrieved from: on 29.10.2017

[20] See: Milne, R. (2016). Swedes Ponder Joining NATO as Trump Presidency Focuses Minds. Atlantic Council. Retrieved from: on 29.10.2017



Aronsson, A. (2015). The Geostrategic value of Greece and Sweden in the Current struggle between Russia and NATO. Atlantic Council. Retrieved from: on 29.10.2017

Basset, B. (2012). Factors Influencing Sweden’s Changing Stance on Neutrality. Retrieved from: on 16.10.2016

Bergmann, A. (2004). Post-Cold War Shifts in Swedish and Finnish Security Policies: The compatibility of non-alignment and participation in EU led conflict prevention. (Paper). Retrieved from: 16.10.2016

Chant, C. (2006). Barcos de Guerra. [Warships Today, Fabián Remo & Fernando Tamayo, trans.]. Madrid, Spain: Editorial LIBSA (Original work published in 2004).

Gen. Göranson, S. (2012). Speech by General Göranson, Supreme Commander of the Swedish Armed Forces at the National Defense University, Peking, 20th of March 2012. Försvarsmakten. Retrieved from. on 16.10.2017

Gotkowska, J. (2012). Sitting on the Fence. Swedish Defence Policy and the Baltics Sea Region. In: Point of View, 33. Centre for Eastern Studies. Warsaw, Poland. Retrieved from: on 20.04.2014

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Gutteridge, N. (2017). ‘A threat that must be eliminated’ Putin’s chilling message to Sweden over NATO membership. Sunday Express. Retrieved from: on 29.10.2017

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Image 'Flags' by miguelb. Released under Creative Commons 4.0 (CC BY 4.0) License.

Image ‘Flags‘ by miguelb. Released under Creative Commons 4.0 (CC BY 4.0) License.


* This article and the image were originally published in globalpublicpolicywatch


The Viking Saga: NORDEFCO – Warriors of the North (Epilogue I).


The Nordic Defence Cooperation (NORDEFCO) came to light after a meeting of the Scandinavian defence ministries held in 2009, where it was decided to merge the three existing similar and previous initiatives into a single one: NORDEFCO[1]. The Memorandum of Understanding of 2009 defined NORDEFCO’s purpose as the mechanism to strengthen the national defence capacities of the participant countries and cooperation on defence. NORDEFCO’s core objectives are to serve as an instance for common defence issues and policies; to increase the quality of the members’ armed forces; to enhance interoperability for joint operations; to develop cooperation in defence technology, multinational operations[2]; and to achieve common technological benefits. Cooperation, then, is the main framework of the organization (Jokela & Isu-Markku, 2013; NORDEFCO, 2009; NORDEFCO, 2014; NORDEFCO, 2014) [3].

On the pure military aspect, NORDEFCO intends to have as main objective the cooperation of every defence structure of the members aiming at interoperability of their armed forces.

This objective has three sub-objectives, which are: to improve the production of military capabilities (or assets of any kind); to maintain and develop the national operational capabilities; and to encourage a cost-effective contribution to efforts in maintaining or achieving peace and security (Jokela & Isu-Markku, 2013; NORDEFCO, 2014)[4].

In order to meet with the abovementioned objectives, NORDEFCO has five cooperation areas.

The first of them is ‘Capabilities’, aimed at addressing development (defence) plans and processes, along with procuring operational effectiveness. The second is ‘Armaments’, aimed at achieving financial, technical and/or industrial benefits regarding armaments life cycle and acquisition. The third is ‘Human Resources and Education’, aimed at enhancing cooperation on military education and facilitation of experiences exchange. The fourth is ‘Training and Exercises’, aimed at coordinating and harmonizing joint military training activities. And the fifth is ‘Operations’, aimed at planning, coordinating, preparing and executing any – decided – military operation (Jokela & Isu-Markku, 2013; NORDEFCO, 2014; NORDEFCO, 2014).

All of the mentioned cooperation areas are to be implemented between the armed forces, their structures and branches. These areas are also the bridges for cooperation between the members’ armed forces (NORDEFCO, 2014; NORDEFCO, 2014).

Seeking Unity: Background and Antecedents

NORDEFCO is not the first concrete initiative in defence cooperation in Scandinavia. As a matter of fact, such attempts can be traced back to the mid-19th century. Ideas about a Nordic unity occupied the minds of the cultural elites, despite strong clashes between Denmark and Sweden, which were the dominant powers of the time[5]. Culture and history were being regarded as a ground for establishing a strong union, but they were not enough as Denmark received little support when fighting against Prussia. Nevertheless, the idea of cooperation was of such scale that a temporary monetary union took place from 1875 to 1914. Finland, additionally, joined the cooperation initiatives right after its independence and the end of Russian occupation (Herolf, 2013).

Issues related to security and defence were among the main concerns for the Scandinavian nations. However the Second World War shattered any further advance on that regard: the occupation of Norway and Denmark by Germany, the occupation of Iceland by the Great Britain, and the wars after the Soviet Invasions of 1939-1940 and 1944, with the following special treaties that Finland was forced to sign, broke any possibility for a union in a military sense. As a result, the years after the Second World War would witness the failure of Sweden’s efforts to create a neutral Scandinavian defence union. Denmark, Norway and Iceland joined NATO, perceiving the latter as a stronger alliance that could provide the security they needed, and the appeasing policies followed by Finland towards the Soviet Union (Herolf, 2013; Jokela & Isu-Markku, 2013).

The Finnish and Swedish decision to remain neutral (or become neutral in the case of Finland) gave the region a sort of neutrality but that also meant that any idea of a strong military cooperation had to be ruled out. Not entirely, though, because in the 50’s, other steps towards a union in a non-military sense were made. For instance, a passport union, a common job market, welfare agreements, voting rights, a Nordic-language convention, and even the establishment of the Nordic Council (cooperation between Scandinavian parliaments) and the Nordic Council of Ministers were implemented at that time[6]. Even more, the UN peacekeeping missions provided a path for an embryonic military operational cooperation with the jointly deployment of Scandinavian troops for the mentioned operations, leading the way into the Nordic Cooperation Group for Military UN Matters (NORDSAMFN) (Forsberg, 2013; Herolf, 2013; Jokela & Isu-Markku, 2013)[7].

The end of the Cold War meant the end of the facts restraining defence cooperation and the emergence of new frameworks and thematic areas. As a result, the five Scandinavian countries found themselves among the founders of the Council of the Baltic States, the Barents Euro-Arctic Council and the Arctic Council. This situation also meant the emergence of new political factors that hampered the cooperation process. For instance, Finland and Sweden joined the NATO Partnership for Peace (PfP), all of the Scandinavian nations but Norway and Iceland applied for an EU membership. And although Norway takes part of the Common Defence and Security Policy, Denmark is not entirely compromised in both EU and Nordic defence initiatives, focusing instead (and more) on NATO (Forsberg, 2013; Herolf, 2013; Jokela & Isu-Markku, 2013).

Still, some initiatives gained ground, not without many complications. NORDAC was created but it faced problems of operational design and orientation of equipment. Reasons were i.a. the different paths taken by the Scandinavians during the Cold War, and projects such as the Viking submarine or the Standard Nordic Helicopter Programme ended with the countries acquiring other sort of equipment or stepping-out. Still, procurement of similar battle tanks – Leopard 2 – were an example of successful coordination in procurement. NORCAPS – The NORDSAMFN – faced also challenges of its own due to the fact that the Nordics were not leading in peacekeeping missions anymore and the new nature of those missions required a high training, support and equipment. Generally, Finland wanted to prioritize the idea of autonomous defence, while Denmark, Norway and Sweden wanted to focus more on fighting indirect threats ‘out of area’ (Jokela & Isu-Markku, 2013).

Midnight sun: NORDEFCO today and Baltic-Artic role.

To understand what is the current role and importance of NORDEFCO for Scandinavian countries, it is important to examine the meaning that this particular defence organization and alliance has, as well as others like NATO or the European Union.

The previous segment made clear that NATO is important in a full or partial way (either being a full-time member or joining the PfP). However the actual role that the EU has and how its perception plays a role in deepening NORDEFCO’s activities and objectives remains rather unclear.

According to Herolf (2013), the federalist approach and the EU’s foreign policy approach are less liked or perceived as ‘suspicious’ because they would mean a giving up of sovereignty. This means that cooperation among the Nordic states seems more likely to take place rather than cooperation between Scandinavians and the EU. However and despite the abovementioned perceptions regarding the EU, cooperation between Scandinavians (for example there are close defence ties between Sweden and Finland), EU and even NATO takes place in parallel ways.

The Baltics and the Arctic are two other areas that are increasingly falling under the action area of NORDEFCO[8]. In the case of the Baltics, the nations within that region were invited by NORDEFCO to join some of the cooperation areas in 2010 and 2011, at the point to even include cyber defence as an area for cooperation and to transform NORDEFCO into a Scandinavian-Baltic initiative. The reasons behind this are various. Firstly, the Scandinavian nations perceive the Baltic nations’ inclusion as an important step to keep and strengthen the abovementioned cooperation, whereas cooperation in defence between the two regions was even labelled as ‘necessary’. Secondly, the military build-up and the importance of the Baltic sea route for the economy of Russia makes such an approach inevitable in strategic and security sense, given the strategic correlation (and vulnerability) between Scandinavia and the Baltics before the renewed assertive Russian policies (Forsberg, 2013, Herolf, 2013; Jokela & Isu-Markku, 2013; NORDEFCO, 2014).

In the case of the Arctic, the geopolitical importance is one of the reasons why NORDEFCO is increasing its range of activities into that area: the proximity of oil reserves and transportation routes for energetic resources and trade[9]. And in a similar ways as the Baltics region, the fact that Russia is securing its interests through aggressive policies and renewed utilization on military assets to secure its interests, is a motive behind NORDEFCO’s focusing on the Arctic Area. Thus, the initiative is becoming an Arctic actor just like NATO, and especially in the area of security. As a result, a monitoring and early warning system, along with a Maritime response force were proposed, along with the development of national Arctic/High North security and policy strategies intended to help the countries to meet their national interests and objectives.

The recent events of Russian incursions with air and naval assets, along with exercises whose objective were mock-attacks on Baltic, Scandinavian and other nations’ territories will definitely make Nordic (and Baltic) cooperation much more closer (Forsberg, 2013, Herolf, 2013; Jokela & Isu-Markku, 2013; NORDEFCO, 2014).

Those events and the increasing attention given by NORDEFCO to the Arctic highlights it geostrategic importance. An importance that inevitably involves the Baltics and Scandinavia, because the three areas – Arctic, Scandinavia and the Baltics – will be equally affected should tensions take place or escalate in any of them.



Forsberg, T. (2013). The rise of Nordic defence cooperation: a return to regionalism? International Affairs, 89(5), 1161 – 1181. Oxford: The Royal Institute of International Affairs.

Herolf, G. (2013). European Security Policy. Nordic and Northern Strategies. International Policy Analysis. Berlin, Germany: Friedrich Ebert Stiftung. Retrieved from: on 16.10.2014

Jokela, J., & Isu-Markku, T. (2013). Nordic Defence cooperation: Background, current trends and future prospects? NORDIKA Programme, Note N° 21/13. Retrieved from: on 16.10.2014

NORDEFCO. (2009). Memorandum of understanding on Nordic defence cooperation. NORDEFCO. Retrieved from: on 19.10.2014

NORDEFCO. (2014). Annual Report 2013. NORDEFCO. Retrieved from: on 19.10.2014

NORDEFCO. (2014). GUNOP, Guidelines for NORDEFCO military level operating procedures, final (unclassified). NORDEFCO. Retrieved from: on 19.10.2014



[1] Those previous initiatives were the Nordic Coordinated Arrangement for Military Peace Support (NORDCAPS), the Armament Cooperation (NORDAC) – its activities were included within NORDEFCO cooperation areas – and the Nordic Supportive Defence Structures (NORDSUP).

[2] Either for national defence or for international operations (like peacekeeping).

[3] It is specified that it is not a command structure. See: NORDEFCO, 2013, p. 6.

[4] The general objective is divided into three by NORDEFCO itself, although the three parts can be understood as objectives by themselves, as they reflect the ones defined by the 2009 Memorandum of Understanding.

[5] Denmark was controlling Iceland, while Sweden was controlling Norway after the loss of Finland due to the Russian invasion of 1809.

[6] Finland had a door opened to join thanks to the exclusion of any foreign policy issue, being common defence among them.

[7] This path was, according to Josela & Isu-Markku (2013), ideal for the Scandinavians to highlight its neutral stance, to show the Soviet Union that they were not a significant threat – despite some being members of NATO – and that they were more willing to contribute to world peace, stability and security. That contribution is, even nowadays, one of the pillars for NORDEFCO.

[8] The Netherlands have been approaching NORDEFCO in order to join the initiative.

[9] The Northeast Passage, which extends from the Kamchatka Peninsula to the Northern Sea, all across the Arctic Ocean and in parallel to Russian seashores.

A Tale of Two Summits: NATO Wales Summit 2014 and NATO Warsaw Summit 2016 (Part 3)

Image ‘Challenger 2 Tank Moving Quickly During Exercise in Poland’, by Defence Images. Released under Creative Commons 4.0 (CC BY-SA 4.0) License

Image ‘Challenger 2 Tank Moving Quickly During Exercise in Poland’, by Defence Images. Released under Creative Commons 4.0 (CC BY-SA 4.0) License.

What was discussed (and why)

Now that the NATO Warsaw 2016 Summit has taken place, and now that details about the discussion the Alliance held during the event are available, it is possible now to point out what where the points of the agenda and related topics, the aspects that are worthy to be pointed out, and the implications – or reasons – behind the decisions taken at the Summit. What is more important in general, are two things: First, Warsaw 2016 Summit was the confirmation or the continuation of objectives and tasks set on the previous Summit; Second, that NATO is more firm on keeping Article 5 as the core basis of the Alliance while regarding deterrence and (collective) defence as the main task, but that some issues persists in practice about certain topics.


Russia: Unsurprisingly, Russia became the most important topic of discussion in the NATO Summit. As the Russian threat is persisting since the last NATO Summit, and in the light of incidents and another series of diplomatic events that have taken place after the crisis unfolded, as well as the looming threat against NATO eastern allies, it was logically expected that Russia was about to become the main topic of the Summit. NATO has labelled the East as one of the main sources of threats against the Euro-Atlantic security, due to Russian actions on NATO periphery, by using – or threatening to use – the force in order to obtain political goals, challenging directly NATO (NATO, 2016).

The immediate reasons on why Russia is top among the threats list – which could also lead to the idea that NATO is gradually going back to its original mission – are explained by NATO. Basically the Russian illegal annexation of Crimea; the violation of borders; the provoked instability in Eastern Ukraine; exercises that go against the Vienna Document; military activities in NATO bordering areas, Black Sea, Baltic Sea, and Eastern Mediterranean; the nuclear rhetoric; violations of NATO airspace, all constitute the reasons for NATO to assess Russia as the main threat[1]. Interestingly, NATO is set to keep dialogue channels open with Russia (NATO, 2016)[2].

The measures set in Wales 2014 are strengthened and enhanced. I think this is one of the most important outcomes of Warsaw NATO Summit. Wales, for instance, had as outcome the approval of the Readiness Action Plan (RAP), which aims at addressing challenges posed by Russia, as well as threats from the Middle East and North Africa. And RAP has meant that NATO Response Force (NRF) was enhanced, as it has improved readiness and its size, at the point that it is now a division-sized land force that has some air, maritime and special forces components within. Moreover, the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) is another product of RAP, along the deployment of eight NATO Force Integration Units in the eastern allies’ territory in order to assist in training and reception of reinforcement, the implementation of infrastructure projects to enhance mobility, and the deployment of headquarters in Poland and Romania (NATO, 2016)[3].

Deterrence is the main framework of every (future) measure taken by NATO, and those future measures are going to be implemented by early 2017. Warsaw Summit has defined the deployment of four battalions in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland, capable of operate along the national defence forces of those countries, and with Canada, Germany, the UK and the US to serve as framework nations for such deployments, and Poland to provide a headquarters (NATO, 2016). This increased presence will not be limited to the north-eastern areas, but also to the south-eastern areas, specifically the Black Sea and Romania, country which will establish a multinational framework brigade, with robust air and naval presence being considered (NATO, 2016)[4].

Those battalions, of 1000 troops each, are far behind from what it was recommended considering that in terms of quantity, the Russians would still have the upper hand[5]. However, and as The Economist (2016) puts it, the battalions would serve as a “trip-wire” that in case of being “cut”, it would act as an Article 5 trigger mechanism should Russia invades the Baltic countries. However, and just like the period between Wales Summit and Warsaw Summit, there are still strong divisions among NATO allies about Russia.

Germany is clearly the most problematic factor on this sense, as it states that NATO exercises are just sabre-rattling regardless the fact that Russia are implementing exercises more threatening in nature (The Economist, 2016). Germany in fact is a special and troublesome case for NATO when it comes to Russia. Firstly, Germany is trying to maintain and even step up a rapprochement with Russia under the table, with business and political delegations doing frequent visits to the country, at the point of voicing against the sanctions and showing support to Russia’s political project (von Salzen, 2016)[6]. Secondly, and in regards to sanctions itself, Germany is reportedly willing on easing sanctions, an approach heralded by Germany’s vice-chancellor and Minister of Economy Sigmar Gabriel, of the SPD. Thirdly, Germany is keenly working with Russia on Nord Stream pipeline, which cuts across the Baltic Sea (Gebauer, Hoffmann, Müller, Rehage, Sauga, & Schult, 2016).

These approaches would have strong implications for NATO’s course set at Warsaw Summit, its own security and that of the EU. The first implication is that it ends in eroding any possible political and economic independence the EU would have from Russia, while increasing inner fragmentation at both NATO and the EU, as it provides Russia with a strong friendly country inside both organizations, while weakening them from within benefiting Russia in the process. This also erodes NATO and EU security, as it increases energetic and economic dependence with the risk of encouraging instead Russia’s assertiveness, as this sends the message that the seizure of Crimea and Eastern Ukraine would not have any cost but instead, awards in the shape of economic relations and a lifting of sanctions (this would also go against the EU and German spirit of having concerns with borders changed by force). The pipeline could also have even stronger implications for NATO and EU security. Following Cutler (2016), as Germany is working with Russia on a second pipeline, this one could encourage Russian increased naval presence in the Baltics, let alone to increase pressure on Poland and the Baltic states, and weakening Ukraine along with European energetic independence.

And Spain, France and Italy are losing enthusiasm with keeping economic sanctions against Russia (The Economist, 2016).

Ukraine: This could be labelled as the ‘part 2’ of the ‘Russia Issue’, especially because it is obviously closely related to Russia, let alone the fact Ukraine is both the epicentre and the catalyst of the current NATO-Russian crisis. Firstly, the Russian occupation of Crimea and the military build-up – by basically using the peninsula as a platform to create further strategic projection from there and into the Black and Mediterranean seas – are a cause of concerns for NATO, as well as the human rights issues there. Secondly, because of the conflict in the Ukrainian region of Donetsk and Luhansk, which are both regions held by pro-Russian (and Russian backed) militias, despite Russia being a signatory of Minsk Agreements. Thirdly, NATO is now more committed into expressing the integrity and full sovereignty of Ukraine, by calling for the reintegration of Donetsk and Luhansk region to Ukrainian rule; Ukrainian full control over its borders; and withdrawal of foreign forces from Ukrainian territory (NATO, 2016).

In addition, NATO welcomed the reforms implemented by the country despite the current crisis, as well as its contributions to NATO, recognizing that its cooperation is critical for NATO’s projection of stability. For this reason, NATO is set to keep its assistance to Ukrainian security sector reforms through the Comprehensive Assistance Package, which also includes capability and capacity building, being resilience against hybrid threat being within the package (NATO, 2016)[7].

It is important at this point to make two observations: First, despite Crimea being mentioned as a troublesome issue, it seems that there are no clear callings for its reintegration to Ukrainian sovereignty as with the other Russian-occupied regions. Second, that there are no clear commitments beyond the declaration and manifestation of support, more specifically, no tangible and strong military aid to the Ukrainian Armed Forces or its defence industry. A united Ukraine able of forcing Russia to step back is a positive situation, should this takes place, for the security of Europe as a whole.

Another observation is that, although there could be a NATO support to Ukraine, the abovementioned policies of Germany and other European countries could end in hampering this purpose of the Summit, as it will end in strengthening Russia thus allowing it to increase its pressure and influence on Ukraine, and this would also have negative repercussions to the security of NATO and EU ‘eastern flank’. And regardless of how much focusing the European countries might put on political reforms, this will come to no avail as, strategically speaking, the policies of Germany would end in undermining such efforts making Ukraine and the EU more vulnerable to Russia.

The Black Sea: Not a point of the agenda by itself, but definitely an important topic that impregnated NATO strategic discussions on Russia during the Summit. This, however, allows to have a closer look on why the Black Sea is of strategic importance for both Russia and NATO, explaining why both sides are set to establish naval control over this region (and why the Black Sea had some protagonism during the Summit)[8].

Strategically speaking, the Black Sea is a strategic hotspot that, as Friedman (2014) puts, acts as an organizing vector for its surrounding regions. But for Russia it means more than that. It means a pivotal element for a ‘anti-access/aerial denial’ strategy aiming at hampering NATO’s forces activities at NATO neighbourhood and even within their own territories, but also as a power projector, as by controlling the Black Sea, Russia can make use of new ship-based cruise missiles than can strike Cairo or Vilnius, placing many European states under its operational area and thus within (military) reach. Furthermore, for Russia the Black Sea is also a mechanism to create cracks on the European security architecture, benefited by the fact that the Black Sea is the “forgotten flank” of NATO, basically (Jones, Hille, & Odell, 2016).

As a result, Russia has been increasing its naval presence at that Sea, in order to increase naval (and power) projection into the Mediterranean, the Suez Canal, the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic, all in the light of its geopolitical project of regaining its former great power position[9]. The Black Sea fleet, based at Sevastopol in the Russian-occupied Crimea peninsula, is the assets that would provide Russia with this control over the black Sea, as well as the materialization of further (naval) strategic projection (Gorenburg, 2014; Jones, Hille, & Odell, 2016). Those ambitions and aims are not entirely recent, except for their very particular manifestation vis-à-vis NATO and Russian current geopolitical ambitions, in which a search for “warm water ports” is what generally speaking has framed Russian naval policies from time being[10].

Hybrid warfare defence: Another Russia-related agenda topic during the summit was the development by NATO of measures and defences against Hybrid Warfare, so to allow the Alliance to cope with a mixture of conventional and unconventional, and state and non-state actors’ actions threatening a given nation. Furthermore, NATO decided to assist the potential targeted nation being subject to hybrid warfare, including an invocation of Article 5 as a response (NATO, 2016).

As Russia could still make use of its hybrid warfare techniques against the Baltics, taking advantage of the Russian minorities, the EU and NATO took steps into closer cooperation which is mostly focused on this area (The Economist, 2016). But as it will be evident below, there are other areas for Transatlantic cooperation.

Terrorism: Once a front-line topic in the past decade and most of the current one, it became as the second topic of the agenda, yet it still remains an important topic for NATO. This threat is mainly coming in the shape of ISIS, currently affecting North Africa and Syria, further increasing the already ongoing instability on those regions[11]. Furthermore, NATO acknowledges the penetration of ISIS inside the Alliance’s territory and the direct threat such situation implies, as the terrorists attacks in two cities evidence[12]. As stated, many NATO allies and Partners are currently contributing to the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS (GCCI, abbreviation by me) with efforts, material, and the experience gained in operations executed in the past between NATO and the Partners. Compromise by NATO Allies to keep contributing with GCCI, is essential, but also the commitment of the Iraqi government to undergo inclusive policies to reach stability, as well as the need for a genuine political transition in Syria in order to put an end to the everlasting instability (NATO, 2016)[13].

Another relevant declaration on this sense, is the renewed commitment of NATO to keep fighting against this threat, with the assistance to (and with) partners in providing their own security, defence against terrorism, and build resilience against any attack. Enhanced cooperation to prevent, mitigate, and response to terrorist attacks, as well as stability projection and addressing the root causes of terrorism are the tools that NATO will keep implementing in fighting this threat (NATO, 2016).

Syria, in particular, is the most prominent element of this issue that NATO is paying more attention to. Warsaw resulted in resolved NATO to monitoring the ongoing situation in Syria, as the threats emanating from there are having strong regional and international security implications, and as a result of being an immediate bordering country with NATO territory (NATO, 2016). This, at a point, is self-explanatory, as one important NATO ally – Turkey – is bordering with Syria, suffering the spill-offs of the conflict there and being under direct threat, and also considering its strategic location as a bridge between Europe and the Middle East. Bridge that, in fact, is being used by many refugees and other elements from Syria.

Libya came to be the object of attention on this regard, with the events towards stabilization being appraised by the Alliance, as a stable Libya means a state in fit condition to tackle terrorism. As a result, and continuing what was agreed at Wales Summit, NATO will keep its assistance to Libya on institution building (NATO, 2016). This, in turn, means that NATO’s southern flank is being secured thanks to a stable Libya. Moreover, Libya is of importance for NATO, as it already intervened in the country and the Warsaw Summit seems to hint at a possible further NATO support to the transition.

A last but very important measure against terrorism and specifically that of ISIS, is the deployment of AWACS as NATO contribution to the GCCI’s mission and its situational awareness (NATO, 2016).

Afghanistan: Being the largest post-Cold War NATO commitment and being framed under the War on Terror, it was expected to see Afghanistan being an obliged topic of the Agenda, not only because of NATO past intervention, but also because commitment remains despite the fact that NATO forces had mostly withdrawn from the country, remaining instead a military and police support and assistance missions.

NATO has reaffirmed its commitment to the stability and security of the country, with the aforementioned training and assistance mission set to remain beyond 2016 and to continue until 2020, while stating that good regional relations and cooperation is essential for reaching the country’s stability (NATO, 2016).

The “Southern Flank”:  That Libya’s stability is deemed important for NATO’s southern flank security reflects how this region is of great importance for NATO, as it was stated that the main threats to the alliance are also coming from the south. Moreover, many unconventional threats – terrorism; arms and drug trafficking; human trafficking, among others – are coming from that region, which meant efforts by the UN, the EU and some NATO Allies in addressing and securing the countries of the Sahel were needed. These efforts were appraised in the Summit, while the regional partners were called for deepening relation with NATO to tackle those issues (NATO, 2016). It is important to remark that terrorism, and Afghanistan are within the “Southern Flank” threats.

The focusing in addressing those threats will be capacity-building policies that will be implemented in the Middle East and North African countries, being Libya the first country that would be targeted by NATO capacity-building policies, following The Economist (2016).

Partnerships and interoperability: Partners still have a central position within NATO, at the point that they are deemed as important for monitoring and addressing common challenges – Russia is depicted as the main aim of NATO-Partners relations and joint work – in the abovementioned regions, let alone the importance for NATO’s work on collective security. Finland and Sweden were named as the most critical partners for maintaining peace and security in the Baltics, let alone their contributions to NATO-led operations, making NATO to deepen the cooperation with consultations, shared awareness and continued military exercises (NATO, 2016). This recognition and deepening of relations with the Scandinavian countries could, from my point of view, strengthen the options for membership for both countries, moreover when considering that both countries are having strong security concerns in regards to Russia in the Baltic, and that both have taken part of the naval and air incidents at the same sea, which were mentioned on the second part.

The recognition made by NATO to the importance of the Black Sea – and this provides a hint at where Russia is also having interests and NATO strategy to contain the Russians – is evident with the recognition of the need for enhancing dialogue and cooperation with littoral states in keeping security and stability on those waters, specifically Georgia and Ukraine (NATO, 2016). This part is also important, because in the light of the Black Sea current security situation, it provides an ample way for increased NATO support to these countries – and their armed forces – alongside the increased chances for their membership or enhanced partnership, which is what both parts needs in order to address that sea’s security.

Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Moldova are also being regarded as important partners, prompting NATO support for those countries to be able to take decisions free of external pressures, as well as for the resolution of the ongoing conflict in Moldova and the Caucasus[14]. In addition, regular contacts and deeper cooperation were set to be established with the Gulf Council Cooperation, while NATO gave recognition to the importance the Middle East, North African, and Balkans partners have for NATO’s mission (NATO, 2016).

On a similar direction, interoperability was mentioned in the summit as another critical tool for NATO, as it allows NATO allies to operate with the Alliance itself or any other organizations in operation of any kind, at anyplace, and under the framework of coalitions, and also the efforts made under Smart Defence (SD) or Framework Nations Concept (FNC)[15].

Open-Door policy and new candidates: Open-Door policy was regarded in Warsaw Summit as important for NATO’s expansion and the incorporation of new Allies willing and capable of contributing with the Alliance’s work, being Montenegro the example of this tool for this sole purpose. Moreover, Montenegro was assured that it will have a clearer path towards NATO, while Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, and Georgia were all encouraged to keep on implementing the needed reforms for transiting towards membership (NATO, 2016). Of the three mentioned nations, the most remarkable is Georgia, not only because of its situation vis-à-vis Russia, but also because NATO was previously very hesitant in delivering solid and concrete declaration in regards to this nation and its path towards NATO membership. And this is, as with Ukraine, a fortunate outcome of Warsaw Summit and a sign that NATO is becoming more assertive, attitude needed in order for the Alliance to exerts an effective deterrence and ensure collective defence.

For instance, Georgia is receiving the same support as Ukraine: NATO called for a united and fully sovereign Georgia while not recognizing the Russian-made independent states of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. And what is important, NATO has been implementing the (security) assistance to Georgia established after Wales Summit with the participation of both Allies and Partner countries, assistance which includes support to air defence and air surveillance development (NATO, 2016)[16].

Transatlantic Relations: This is beyond any doubt one of the most important topics of Warsaw Summit, simply because of its meaning and implications, especially for the EU and NATO each’s (mutual) security, let alone the Transatlantic security as a whole[17]. For instance, the Allied stated its commitment to an approach between the two organizations, and in support of the sanctions imposed against Russia, which are aimed at promoting a peaceful solution to the conflict and addressing its actions. For instance, joint efforts are being done in countering hybrid warfare (NATO, 2016).

Warsaw Summit also NATO further committed into ensuring that SD and EU’s Pooling and Sharing P&S are fully complementary and mutually reinforcing, as well as working of full interoperability between the two organizations assets, and support of capability development (NATO, 2016). A remarkable point of Warsaw Summit is the welcoming of some allies to basically reduce dependencies on Russian military equipment that was received as a legacy.

And NATO is set to cooperate further with the EU in addressing the sea-borne flow of refugees and illegal immigrants, and even to complement under EU request the latter’s Operation Sophia with intelligence and logistical support and capacity building for the Libyan navy and coastguard. Joint work on other areas – hybrid threat countermeasures, resilience enhancing, defence capacity building, cyber defence, maritime security and exercises – are also set to be implemented with the inclusion of non-EU allies (NATO, 2016). This step, in fact, eases the problem that participation of non-EU allies in NATO and EU operations brought from most of the post-Cold War. Of course, there are some ongoing issues, but those are source for another writing.

Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) and Nuclear Deterrence: NATO (2016) has clearly stated that deterrence (and defence) is a cornerstone of NATO strategy, consisted in a mixture of conventional, nuclear, and missile defence capabilities. Hence, nuclear deterrence is a key component of NATO capacities, at the same level as missile defence. For this sole reason BMD – despite past controversies – is important for this sole purpose, let alone collective defence[18]. As a result, steps towards the completion of this capacities have been taken very recently, with the deployment of an Aegis Ashore site in Romania – reviewed in the Part 2 – and the deployment of a warning radar in Turkey, with Poland also deploying soon another Aegis Ashore site. Command and control of BMD sites are to be developed, along with working with third states to increase the BMD effectiveness. And more importantly NATO addresses Russian arguments that BMD is aimed at undermining its deterrence capabilities, which is not the case (NATO, 2016).

Cyber Defence: informatics are becoming another “battleground” and also a security concern, mainly because of the implication of any cyber-attack to a modern society, thus prompting NATO to make of cyber security and defence an organic part of NATO’s collective defence and recognize this dimension as another military dimension the same way as air, land and sea are (NATO, 2016). As a result, the Alliance is set to develop and strengthen cyber defences and other related measures, while making sure Allies have proper cyber defences, constituting an important outcome of Warsaw Summit.

Defence Budgets: A point of the Summit agenda that, although not being among the main topic, it is of capital importance for NATO ability to work on the neighbourhood security and that of its eastern flank, moreover when one considers the Russian military modernizations and increased defence spending reviewed in the first part. As NATO (2016) recognizes, strengthening deterrence and defence require both proper investments in capabilities and highly deployable forces, with all efforts channelled at meeting priorities[19]. As a consequence, the Warsaw Summit became a declaration of commitment for addressing the defence spending gap and the work towards the 2% defence/GDP and 20% on equipment and R&D frameworks.

As NATO (2016) remarks, there has been some progress on this area, as 5 allies are meeting the 2% objective and 10 allies are meeting the 20% objective, yet seemingly further efforts on this area – and the burden sharing issue – are needed[20]. In addition, and for this purpose, the establishment of a strong defence military industry across the Alliance is deemed as important, mainly for the creation of capabilities and to maintain the technological edge. Cooperation and innovations are considered actions that can enhance and maintain a strong military/defence industry in both sides of the Atlantic (NATO, 2016).

This needs to go beyond mere declaration of statement, as it is now widely known the lack of political will mainly in the European side to investing more on defence and military-related, including R&D, due to a fact of inner public opinion – in which defence is not seen as ‘popular’ – and the Europeans keen on investing into other expenditures than defence.

Intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance: That this topic emerged as another main topic of Warsaw Summit is logically explainable, as such assets could provide NATO with better early warning and information in order to assess potential threats and address on-going ones. The Joint Intelligence, Reconnaissance and Surveillance Initiative (JIRS) was for instance launched in Chicago Summit 2012, which became working this year, meaning that NATO has now enhanced situational awareness of NRF high strengthened intelligence and information gathering, along with intel and information sharing. Ground surveillance is also receiving improvements, while NATO AWACS will also be subject to further modernizations (NATO, 2016).

Energy supply: This is the last important point that could be extracted from the NATO Warsaw Summit, but by no means it is an irrelevant one. It has strong strategic implications for NATO (and also the EU), and it is related in a way with Russia and NATO/EU neighbourhood stability. NATO recognized, in fact, the security implications of this aspect, as stable sources, diversified routes and energetic networks interconnectivity are important for resisting political and economic pressure. As a result, intelligence, diversification of energy supplies and energy development – my educated guess is the development of alternative sources of energy – alongside close links with the EU and energy-related international organizations are the steps to be taken by NATO on this regard. Protection of critical energetic infrastructure and supply against any threat – including cyber defence and hybrid threats – of Allies, close work with Partners, and the working on efficient use of energy by NATO militaries, common standards and decreased dependency on fossil fuels (NATO, 2016).

The abovementioned pipelines projects between Russia and Germany would end in undermining these purposes, in practice.

Other topics of the agenda: There were other topics of the agenda that, although important, will be only mentioned, as some are sources of decreased concern or they do no longer have the centrality they had once.

On Kosovo, NATO decided to keep KFOR on the ground, depending upon the evolution of events, keeping support to the development of its own security organizations. On Piracy and the coast of Somalia, Operation Ocean Shield will come to an end by the end of the current year, yet NATO expressed its commitment to keep fighting piracy, while Operation Active Endeavour will no longer be an Article 5 operation, performing instead a wide array of missions.



[1] Russian military presence and its support to Syrian government is also among the reasons given by NATO. This could imply that Russia is a dual threat in nature, as for at least it is affecting the eastern and southern flanks of NATO. This also holds true for the Black Sea issue.

[2] Although NATO (2016), clearly stated that, unless Russia complies with international laws and obligations and basically withdraws from Ukraine, there won’t be normal relations.

[3] RAP also had as outcomes the deployment of further naval units to NATO Standing Naval Forces, the implementation of more exercises, the enhancing of advanced planning and decision-making, a NATO strategy to counter hybrid warfare, and an adaptation framework to tackle threats from the south (NATO, 2016).

[4] NATO will establish a framework, aimed at focussing on regional understanding and situational awareness, anticipation and response south-born crises, improvement of capabilities for expeditionary forces, and stability projection.

[5] See: A Tale of Two Summits, part II

[6] Or at least some of the Germans that had visited Russia had expressed such views.

[7] See also: NATO. (2016b). NATO leaders confirm strong support for Ukraine. Retrieved from: on 18.07.2016

[8] A first idea is that the Black Sea has important energy reserves and its location near the Middle East. See: Tsolova, T. (2016). NATO’s new deterrent may include bigger Black Sea presence. Retrieved from: on 18.07.2016

[9] It is not also a tool to have access to the West and the East, and to the Mediterranean and beyond, but (probably) also a tool for Russia to accomplish its aim of keeping former Soviet republics under Russian influence, while warding off NATO presence at that sea. See: CNN (2016). Why the Black Sea is so important to Russia (video). Retrieved from:  on 18.07.2016

[10] See: GlobalSecurity (2016). The Russian Quest for Warm Water Ports. Retrieved from: on 18.07.2016

[11] The threat posed by ISIS, and the related instability in the Middle East and North Africa, along the resulting waves of migration and refugees from those areas, as well as the presence of other transnational threats such as human trafficking.

[12] Namely the Paris and Brussels terrorist attacks.

[13] In any case, Iraq will be still receiving assistance from the Alliance, as well as other countries, as it was agreed since the Wales Summit.

[14] Regions in which Russia is either having significant military presence or implementing its tactic of “frozen conflicts”.

[15] Cooperation and complementarity with other organization is other important point within this issue.

[16] Moldova is also receiving a similar assistance from NATO and Partners.

[17] Considering that both organizations in fact are sharing the same security threats.

[18] As well as a way for NATO to tackle weapons of mass destruction (WMD) proliferation. On this regard, a declaration condemning North Korean nuclear testing was issued, as well as concerns on Iran ballistic missiles testing (NATO, 2016).

[19] More importantly, political will is the most basic requirement. See: NATO. (2016). Warsaw Summit Communique. Retrieved from: on 11.07.2016

[20] See: A tale of Two Summits, Part 2, footnote 7.



CNN (2016). Why the Black Sea is so important to Russia (video). Retrieved from:  on 18.07.2016

Cutler, R. M. (2016). Baltic Security and Nord Stream Two Pipeline. Foreign Policy Research Institute. Retrieved from on 18.07.2016

Friedman, G (2014). Ukraine, Iraq and a Black Sea Strategy. Forbes. Retrieved from: on 18.07.2016

Gebauer, M., Hoffmann, C., Müller, P., Rehage, R., Sauga, M., & Schult, C. (2016). Step-by-Step Rapprochement: Germany Considers Easing of Russia Sanctions. Retrieved from: on 18.06.2016

GlobalSecurity (2016). The Russian Quest for Warm Water Ports. Retrieved from: on 18.07.2016

Gorenburg, D. (2014). The role of the Black Sea Fleet in Russian naval strategy. Russian Military Reform. Retrieved from: on 17.07.2016

Jones, S., Hille, K., &. Odell, M. (2016). Russia’s military ambitions make waves in the black Sea. Financial Times. Retrieved from: on 18.07.2016

NATO. (2016a). Warsaw Summit Communique. Retrieved from: on 11.07.2016

NATO. (2016b). NATO leaders confirm strong support for Ukraine. Retrieved from: on 18.07.2016

The Economist. (2016). NATO stations four more battalions in eastern Europe. Retrieved from: on 18.07.2016

Tsolova, T. (2016). NATO’s new deterrent may include bigger Black Sea presence. Retrieved from: on 18.07.2016

Von Salzen, C. (2016). Germany steps up its flirting with Russia. EurActiv. Retrieved from: on 18.07.2016



Image '130506-F-LX370-079' by Arctic Warrior. Released under Creative Commons 4.0 (CC BY 4.0) License.

Image ‘130506-F-LX370-079‘ by Arctic Warrior. Released under Creative Commons 4.0 (CC BY 4.0) License.

* This article and the image were originally published in globalpublicpolicywatch


The Eagle and the Bear: Conclusions and Recommendations

While the USA’s current arctic strategies and policies, along with its Navy’s own arctic strategy, recognize the need to exert a strong sovereignty for the sake of national security and the control of resources in Alaska and the American Arctic littoral, the actions being implemented so far have not enough. Additionally, the general objectives appear to be either vague or simply wishful and unrealistic.

The first problem is that the United States seeks the region to be an area free of conflict, a concept that affects not only this country but also the others reviewed so far. Even worse, it assumes it will remain so. This is far from accurate. The assumption that any one of the actors is willing to cooperate and put aside its own national interests while abandoning the idea of using the military force is unrealistic and, currently, the facts are against such assumption. The recent aggressive and assertive actions of Russia in Ukraine, the military manoeuvres in the Far East, and the violations of Scandinavian and Baltic countries’ airspace, along with the close flights to Canadian and American airspace in the recent years should have provided a base for a different approach to US policymakers.

Russia is materializing its strategic interests with a military comeback in the Arctic, which alone has strong implications that a poses a threat to the Arctic nations that would be directly affected by any Russian military move. Currently, Russia is re-opening the military bases it had in the New Siberian Islands, as well as establishing new ones near Alaska. Additionally, the new Yasen class submarines are about to be deployed in Murmansk, very close to the Scandinavian Peninsula and Svalbard Islands, and new units near Alaska and Finland are to be deployed as well (Bodner & Eremenko, 2014). The Russian Air Force, in turn, sent four Su-34 attack aircraft to reach the North Pole and is preparing the Mig-31 interceptors to operate in the area[i].

To make matters worse, during the NATO Wales summit, some Russian Tu 95 strategic nuclear bombers flew above Arctic territory to a “launch box” (a site where it is optimal for firing nuclear missiles at the United States) which coincided with a recent request by a Russian general to the Russian government to authorise the launching preemptive nuclear strikes against the US and NATO[ii].

In the meantime, the Obama administration is giving no signs of reaction at all, while designing and implementing weak policies. This takes us to the second problem: the US arctic strategies discuss “gathering information to take good decisions”, and having “innovative arrangements to meet the objectives”; statements that sound too general and shallow. Indeed, as this suggests, there is no clear direction or path; the US arctic strategy is, at best, vague. As Coffey (2013) points out, the strategy proposed by the current Obama presidency reflects more the lack of interest given to the Arctic more than anything else [iii].

In contrast to the Obama administration’s position, the US Navy and the Department of Defence have designed a better strategy. However, these are also full of problems. One is that they focus activities partially on executing scientific expeditions as a way to exert sovereignty, while the Department of Defence labels as a national interests the preservation of the environment and sustainable development (Slayton & Rosen, 2014).

Beyond any doubt, the environment is important, but it is more important for the United States to exploit resources that, as Slayton & Rosen (2014) point out, could provide the US with some energy independence and have a higher strategic leverage when it comes to oil and economic recovery. This is even more essential when it comes to aiding Europe in having an alternative source of energy and to reduce the influence of some rogue states and Russia.

The other problem is the scheduled presence of the Navy in the Arctic, which is very slow in pace and does not reflect either the importance that the Arctic should have, something that smaller navies such as that of Denmark or Norway have been doing. Since Alaska is not only a strategic crossroad, but also a strategically valuable area where anti-ICBM missiles can be deployed, it is more than imperative that the US Navy provides a shield to Alaska, while at the same time contributes to the defence of US allies’ interests in the region.

The United States indeed has a lot of things to do regarding the Arctic. One of the first and most important things is to give the Arctic the strategic importance it deserves, not only because of the new resources and the opening of new shipping routes, but also because of its geopolitical importance and the increased presence and interest of other states.

The security of the United States can be jeopardized today in the same way it was during World War II and the Cold War. This has been illustrated by the renewed Russian military modernization and build up, as well as the potential risk of a nuclear-armed Chinese naval presence in the Arctic Ocean.

In other words, the United States has to entirely redesign its Arctic strategies to increase the focus on the military & security aspect while enhancing the sovereignty exertion objectives, and decreasing the environmental concerns.

The second action aimed at materializing the protection of such an important region is an increase of US Navy assets in the region, along with an increase in the US Coast Guard’s assets for Search and Rescue operations and sea policing. The US Air Force also has to play a role in protecting Alaska, the US Arctic maritime territory and in assisting the allies in a case of conflict with Russia. The US Army and some special forces can also increase their presence in protecting Alaskan territories and assisting Canada in the defence of its Northern Territories.

Moreover, the United States can implement a similar proposed measure for the Canadian case, and establish by its own one or two naval groups whose main area of activities is Alaska and the Arctic Ocean, in a close cooperation with other Arctic navies like the Canadian, Danish and Norwegian and with the US Coast Guards.

The third action is to eradicate for good the wishful mind-set and the excessive reliance on a conflict-free Arctic, as well as the assumption that Russia is keen to cooperate and discard the utilization of armed forces to meet its interests. Not only the Ukraine crisis, but also the increased military presence of Russia near Alaska and Scandinavia are more than enough indications that cooperation is not among the priorities of Russia and that it is more willing to accomplish its own interests.

This means that the US has to rely less on Russia’s good will and more on its own military assets and those of its European allies. Here is where NATO comes to play an important role: it can be the forum where the United States can lead and assist the Arctic NATO countries as well as assist the potential new members of Sweden and Finland in defending their own High North Territories. By doing so, the United States not only provides a needed leadership, but it also guarantees its own security by guaranteeing its allies’ security. NATO, moreover, can provide a bridge and a framework between the US and the EU for securing the Arctic as well as complementing each other should Russia increases its assertiveness and threats to the Arctic and the Scandinavian-Baltics region. Therefore, a fourth action means bringing NATO into the Arctic and creating a NATO Arctic task force that would include Sweden and Finland, envisaging a strong cooperation with the European Union Nordic and Eastern Battlegroups, along with NORDEFCO countries (including the Baltic states).

This idea, in particular, is very feasible and very welcome, though not exempt of opposition. This is for three reasons: first, the fact that most of the Arctic countries are NATO members re-opens the area to NATO, since their defence strategies has NATO as an important, if not the sole, defence asset; second, NATO’s Article 5 places the Arctic within its core area of operations and Russia is a considerable concern when it comes to security issues; and third, propositions about an increased NATO Arctic role highlighted the importance of focusing on “inside” area operations and activities in the same way “outside” operations are being prioritized (Conley, 2012)[iv].

Nevertheless, NATO currently executes the monitoring of military activities and coordination of joint training exercises such as the Cold Response Exercises, the biennial submarines’ Ice Exercise, Northern Eagle, Arctic Edge, Arctic Care, amongst others (Conley, 2012).

The problems facing a NATO Arctic involvement consists in the – in this author’s opinion very overrated – preoccupation of the Russian exclusion of NATO and its opposition to any NATO activity in the region. Conley (2012) reasons that this has become a serious problem for NATO and has caused the lack of consensus among NATO Arctic allies regarding Russia’s reaction to NATO involvement in various situations, along with the Canadian move to not allowing NATO arctic involvement for to sovereign reasons and the lack of clarity on the arctic issue (Conley, 2012).

One of the previously reviewed countries, Norway, is among the leading voices on bringing NATO closer to the Arctic to perform a much more active role in the region. It argues for the employment of NATO’s core functions and activities such as situation awareness and surveillance capacity building, and the coordination of search and rescue operations, rather than a full presence such as it had during the Cold War (Conley, 2012).

In any case, given the current international crisis, the presence of NATO at the same levels of the Cold War, or even beyond, is more than necessary. This means that NATO should not only cover activities as those proposed by Norway, but also to increase its military presence by reinforcing the currently operational ones and re-establishing previous bases, such as Keflavik in Iceland, while at the same time creating new ones in Alaska and Northern Canada. This would also include the creation of naval bases in the aforementioned countries to increase the vital naval presence of NATO in the region to monitor civilian and military activities, and protect commercial shipping and touristic cruise, while cooperating and assisting the Coast Guards of each NATO country in their tasks.

As Conley (2012) points out, the naval presence of NATO is ideal – this author would add, necessary – and might take advantage of the experience gained in the anti-piracy and anti-terrorism operations in the Gulf of Aden and the Mediterranean Sea, and apply it to Arctic activities in regards to military training, defence procurement and acquisition, contingency planning and tackling illegal activities.

NATO activities should not be limited to Search and Rescue and illegal activities combat, but should consist of an increased naval presence in the area with a respective Naval and Air Group with permanent or long term deployment of both NATO and EU assets, for air defence, surveillance, air superiority, interception, anti-submarine warfare and other tasks. After all, and paraphrasing Hilde (2013), traditional security concerns are no stranger to the Arctic and its significance will simply increase with time.

The United States needs a strong leadership that gives the Arctic the attention it deserves, not only for the environment but for the strategic implications and the security that the region has for the United States and, in the end, for the West. Its importance is highlighted by the recent aggressive Russian attitudes and the likely Chinese naval presence. Not to mention that the deployment of the new Russian submarines is a clear threat to Scandinavia and a reason for NATO to augment its naval, aerial and even ground presence. The same applies to the US after the reopening of Soviet-era bases in areas close to Alaska.

The Arctic can be a stable and secure area, but only a strong and decisive deterrence build up can do the task, rather than wishful thinking and reliance on cooperation that alone is not enough to create stability and security in any region. And by showing a bit of decision and strength things might even change for good in certain southern areas.

The Eagle, simply, must lead the Vikings and the Leaf, and also must help them.



[i] See:

[ii] See:

[iii] An argument that is solid enough when doing a comparison with other nation’s strategies, as Coffey (2013) points out.

[iv] And the Russian renewal of aggressive actions should be convincing enough.




Bodner, M. &, Eremenko, A (2014). Russia Starts Building Military Bases in the Arctic. In: The Moscow Times. Retrieved from: on 08.11.2014

Cenciotti, D (2014). Russian Su-34 attack planes “conquered” the North Pole. Mig-31 interceptors prepare to. In: The Aviationist. Retrieved from: on 27.08.2014

Coffey, L (2013). Obama’s Arctic Strategy: Just a Tip, no Iceberg. In: National Review Online, The Corner. Retrieved from: on 27.08.2014

Conley, H, A (2012). A New Security Architecture for the Arctic: an American perspective. Washington DC: Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Gertz, B. &, Washington Free Beacon (2014). Russian Bombers Practice Cruise Missile Strikes on US During NATO Summit. Retrieved from: on 12.11.2014

Hilde, P. S (2013). The “new” Arctic – the Military Dimension. Journal of Military and Strategic Studies, 15 (2), pp. 130 – 153.

Slayton, D. S. &, Rosen, M. E (2014). Another region where the Russian military threatens to dominate the U.S. In: CNN, Opinion. Retrieved from: on 10.08.2014


A Tale of Two Summits: NATO Wales Summit 2014 and NATO Warsaw Summit 2016 (Part 2)

Image 'NATO Grunge Flag' by Nicolas Raymond. Released under Creative Commons 4.0 (CC BY 4.0) Licence. Original image available at www. and released under Creative Commons 3.0 (CC BY 3.0) License

Image ‘NATO Grunge Flag‘ by Nicolas Raymond. Released under Creative Commons 4.0 (CC BY 4.0) Licence. Original image available at www. and released under Creative Commons 3.0 (CC BY 3.0) License


From words to action

As the Wales 2014 Summit and its outcomes – or at least the objectives and declarations – are reviewed, it is now time to take a brief glance at the actions that materialized words. At least the most remarkable ones.

Given the fact that Russia is the most important threat NATO and the EU are facing, the actions made on this regard are worthy to be reviewed on a first place. Between 2014 and 2016, NATO began to increase its military presence in Eastern Europe (even before the Summit however, and right after the crisis unfolded), mainly by deploying the NATO Reaction force with contingent of troops deployed on a rotation basis, and also with prepositioned supplies, equipment, infrastructure, bases and headquarters. As well as NATO naval task forces and with more military exercises on the area. Deployments have also included a strengthened of heavy armoured units and troops on a brigade-scale by the US, on a full-time basis on the abovementioned region[i]. This, of course, has not exempt of divergences within NATO and the EU.

In addition to these deployments, the Baltic Air Policing has been also strengthened as part of the military presence and reassurance by NATO and the US to the region vis-à-vis Russia’s threat (Gorka-Winter, 2014).

Although such deployments are positive in a way that shows NATO readiness to accomplish its collective security mission, and to materialize what was set in Wales, it seems that such efforts are not enough. For instance, Poland is perceiving that deployments are not enough, asking instead for increased and permanent NATO presence in the country. And what is more troublesome, it has been evidenced that NATO measures would not be enough to stop Russia entirely at the Baltics, being instead prone to be defeated within three days. It is stated that increased military presence – seven brigades, including three armoured brigades plus artillery and air support – would be indeed enough to deter Russia or leave NATO in a better position, considering that Russian military presence is increasing by the day while European allies are simply decreasing even their own armoured units (De Luce & McLeary, 2016; Weiseberger, 2016).

Furthermore, a series of incidents between naval and air assets, as well as with civilian airliners and research vessels of NATO and Russia have been taking place since the beginning of the crisis, factor which should compel NATO to strengthen its measures in the region[ii].

Regarding BMD, progress has also been taking place in the period between the two Summits, for a missile defence site in Romania was finished and declared operational, being able to detect and destroy ballistic missiles targeting Europe from rogue states – namely Iran. This sparked an expected strong Russian reaction, but this signals that NATO is making the first steps in establishing the much needed defence[iii].

But if there had been advances, there have been also gaps to fill and tasks to be completed. Mainly in regards to terrorism, the Paris and Brussels attacks evidenced that NATO, despite its long-standing experience in tackling this issue, is apparently not entirely prepared to take concrete measures. The attacks simply got NATO out of surprise and the answer, from my point of view, was mostly timid. The same goes for a perceived lack of NATO presence and intervention in fighting ISIS, leaving the initiative to Russia, France and the US, mainly[iv]. This might change on the eve of Warsaw Summit.

In regards to Open-Door, Partnerships and new Allies, there has been some steady yet important events, either a product of a NATO long working or a product of the circumstances. A first one is Montenegro becoming a – possible – member of NATO. This given the fact that Montenegro has actively been supporting NATO efforts in Afghanistan, including the current support and training mission, as well as regional efforts – namely the Balkans (NATO, 2016).

The second one is the closer relations between Sweden, Finland, and NATO, product of the increased Russian pressure on both countries. Of the Scandinavians, Sweden is the one that has taken the closest course. Sweden – and Finland – approved the Host Nation Support, which allows assistance from NATO forces in case of emergency, while at the same time stating that the Ukraine crisis, increased spying, ‘nuclear rhetoric’ and violations of Swedish airspace by Russian military aircraft, are factors enough for Sweden to revisit its traditional neutrality policy (Eriksson, 2016).

Finland, in turn, is also establishing closer partnerships with NATO, as a way to strengthen its security, under similar arguments as of Sweden: Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the security situation in the Baltics (YLE, 2016).

However, much is to be seen in regards to some Balkan countries, Georgia and Ukraine, cases in which for many reasons, ties are not as strong as with the aforementioned countries. Hopefully, Warsaw Summit, might show more action regarding these countries, and the ways of NATO to bring them closer to the Alliance.

Warsaw Summit 2016: What to expect

The world has suffered more changes since the last NATO Summit took place, some being the obvious evolution of security and international issues, others being the result of relatively recent processes that could have an impact on NATO’s aim and work. Most of those new event can provide a light on how much has NATO advanced on the goals set at Wales Summit, as well as the work to be done. Others might test the unity of the alliance given their profound nature and implications.

In this order of ideas, what can be expected from Warsaw Summit? This might belong to the world of futurology indeed, yet there might be some clues at what is going to be discussed.

A general context by NATO mentions that Russia is still a topic of any discussion, given its on-going actions, occupation of Crimea, and military build-up that affect the whole Eastern European region[v]. The crisis in the Middle East and North Africa, with the resulting flow of immigrants and refugees into Europe would be also another topic of the Summit, moreover when considering the social and political implications of this problem within Europe, and its potential linkages with terrorism. Terrorism, in turn, will be also another possible topic of the agenda, especially after the terrorist attack both abroad and within Europe – like the terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels, and the averted plots in other countries of Europe. Topics ‘of old’ might appear on the agenda, such as cyber warfare, nuclear proliferation and BMD, perhaps being the latter subject to deeper focus as it is deemed a vital asset for Europe’s defence[vi].

More in detail, it seems that the Summit might gravitate around 4 axes.

The first axis is the protection of NATO – and EU, of course – citizens through modernization of collective defence and deterrence, with progress on these areas, as NATO Response Force (NRF) being stronger than 2014 and being a brigade-size force in high-readiness status. Six small HQs were deployed in the Eastern areas, Turkey’s air defence were strengthened, and exercises were increases, along with decision-making process sped up and having a strategy to counter hybrid threats. BMD to enhance deterrence; intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities being reinforced; and further actions against terrorism are the actions reportedly been implemented since the previous Summit (NATO, 2016).

In the same way, NATO will aim to reinforcing its presence in the Baltic and Poland, as well as on the south while deciding on the measures to tackle the security threats emanating from that specific region, all with the respective enhancement and modernization processes to enable NATO better addressing of conventional and unconventional – hybrid warfare – threats. And what is very interesting, NATO will check the Allies’ progress on the chapter of defence spending/investment, just to make sure that the Allies are indeed ‘doing the homework’ (NATO, 2016)[vii].

The second axis is the projection of stability (beyond its area and in order to provide security at home). As the Alliance has experience in this area from the end of the Cold War, experience in large-scale training, standing political and military structures, and the valuable tool that partnerships are, among others, this will be valuable for NATO to address regional or neighbourhood threats. This work includes further measures against ISIS and supporting those taking part of the fight against this terrorist group, tackling organized transnational crime, and tackling terrorism as well as contributing to capacity-building by transforming Operation Active Endeavour into a broader maritime operation and a platform to accomplishing these two specific objectives (NATO, 2016).

Under this axis is the issue of Afghanistan, its security and stability. As Afghanistan is still of importance for the Alliance, its support to – and continuation of – the training, advising and assistance mission to Afghan security forces is to be expected as a discussion and outcome of Warsaw 2016 Summit, along the financial support to the aforementioned forces (NATO, 2016).

Partners are still a key tool for NATO, so it is likely that this will another important topic of the Summit, following NATO (2014). Strengthened support – in both political and military terms – to the Partners of Eastern Europe vis-à-vis external intervention and pressure is intended, while closer work with Sweden, Finland and Georgia being also another potential outcome[viii]. Open-door policy is set to be open to any potential new member willing and capable to contribute to the Alliance work – see footnote 12 for the observation in regards to possible new Allies – while Montenegro recent joining might become also a point of the agenda, mostly in the shape of its future contributions vis-à-vis the Eastern and Southern regions.

A third – and very interesting axis – is the cooperation with the EU. As NATO considers cooperation with the EU crucial for addressing current and emerging security threats, mainly because of the potentialities of complementation, further and strengthened cooperation in many common areas is clearly an objective of Warsaw Summit, and also on a general sense.

The last axis is the transatlantic bondage and the values that hold NATO together, as well as its collective security main objective and the objectives of stabilization, protection of peoples and promotion of its values.

It is clear that the abovementioned axes of discussion are based on the events whose development was already taking place during the last Summit, being the objectives stated within each axis the resulting reaction and adaptation to such, reflected on the mechanisms and measures implemented so far to address those issues.


But there is a new issue that, even if it does not appear as a point of the agenda, clearly permeates the Summit given its nature and its potential effects in the middle and short term, moreover if one considers that it is related to a long-standing NATO ally and a (former) member of the EU. This event is BREXIT, or the decision of the UK to leave the European Union, which could create some strains between the two organizations and possibly hamper the work (depending on the mood from the European side during the Summit, I suspect).

Yet despite all of the shock before the uncertainty of BREXIT, NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg is in fact confident. He states that regardless of the UK situation vis-à-vis the EU, the country will keep its importance in NATO and the Euro-Atlantic security, being a major contributor. UK defence spending is among the highest in Europe, it will lead one of the battalions to be deployed in the Baltic states and Poland, and it still – and will – assist NATO’s works. Moreover, unity among NATO allies and cooperation with EU are both in a good condition[ix].

This holds true, simply because the UK is a pivotal member of NATO and a bridge between Europe and America, a fully committed ally and an important partner for the US, let alone a country with important defence assets. And regardless of its current status with the EU now, the UK is also part of Europe and therefore subject to the same threats affecting it, being NATO the perfect forum in connecting UK security aims and concerns with those of Europe. Time will tell if these appreciations will remain valid.

On the eve of a meeting…

It seems then that NATO has advanced in some of the objectives set in Wales, but that there is also work to be done in many areas. Warsaw Summit looks, however, a promising one, let alone an interesting one. This Summit will take place in times where the map of Europe is somewhat changed, some neutrals are keen of giving up their neutrality traditions, advances have been taken on BMD and, more importantly, it evidences a NATO capable of being flexible and managing threats that puts it under a hard test. Let’s see how this Summit will channel NATO efforts on these matters, as well as the solutions it would bring in filling the existing gaps, and how closer will the Transatlantic relations would be after this Summit.



[i] See: Traynor, I (2014). Ukraine crisis: NATO plans east European bases to counter Russia. The Guardian. Retrieved from: on 06.07.2016. And: National Security News. (2016). US Troops, Armor Moving to NATO’s Eastern Front Full-Time as a Deterrent to Russia. National Security News. Retrieved from: on 06.07.2016

[ii] For a full list of incident, please see: Frear, T. (2015). List of Close Military Encounters Between Russia and the West, March 2014 – March 2015. European Leadership Network Retrieved from: on 17.09.2015

[iii] See: Emmot, R (2016). US activates Romanian missile defence site, angering Russia. Reuters. Retrieved from: on 06.07.2016.

[iv] This despite NATO manifesting that would probably join in the fight against ISIS. See: Buncombe, A (2016). NATO is considering joining fight against ISIS, says US defence secretary. The Independent. Retrieved from: on 06.07.2016

[v] As a matter of fact, Russia was holding military exercises in the Volgograd region by the times this article was being written, being such drills ahead NATO Warsaw Summit. See: The Telegraph. (2015). Russia hold military drills ahead of NATO summit. Retrieved from:

[vi] NATO (2016). NATO Summit Guide. Retrieved from:

[vii] On this regards, it looks that the general defence expenditure increased from -1.0 in 2014 to 3.0 in 2016. The US is far above the 2% framework, with the UK, Greece, Estonia and Poland reaching or slightly surpassing the same framework. In regards to the 20%, Luxembourg, Lithuania, Romania, Poland, Norway, United States, France, Turkey, the UK and Italy are those that surpassed or reached this framework. See: NATO (2016). Defence Expenditure of NATO Countries (2009-2016). Communique. Retrieved from:

[viii] Noteworthy to point out that, given the recent trends in both Sweden and Finland and their steps closer to NATO, it is likely that their potential NATO membership will be a discussion. This particular topic is of great interest given the strategic implications in case both Scandinavian nations become full members of the Alliance.

[ix] See: Stoltenberg, J. (2016). NATO and “Brexit”: Why the fundamentals are strong. Retrieved from:



Buncombe, A (2016). NATO is considering joining fight against ISIS, says US defence secretary. The Independent. Retrieved from: on 06.07.2016

De Luce, D., & McLeary, P. (2016). If Russia Started a War in the Baltics, NATO Would lose – Quickly. Foreign Policy. Retrieved from: on 06.07.2016

Emmot, R (2016). US activates Romanian missile defence site, angering Russia. Reuters. Retrieved from: on 06.07.2016

Eriksson, A. (2016). Sweden tightens NATO ties. EUobserver. Retrieved from: on 06.07.2016

Frear, T. (2015). List of Close Military Encounters Between Russia and the West, March 2014 – March 2015. European Leadership Network Retrieved from: on 17.09.2015

Gorka-Winter, B. (2014). Strengthening NATO’s Eastern flank. European Leadership Network. Retrieved from: on 06.07.2016

National Security News. (2016). US Troops, Armor Moving to NATO’s Eastern Front Full-Time as a Deterrent to Russia. National Security News. Retrieved from: on 06.07.2016

NATO (2016a). Defence Expenditure of NATO Countries (2009-2016). Communique. Retrieved from: on 06.07.2016

NATO (2016b). NATO Summit Guide. Retrieved from: on 04.07.2016

NATO (2016c). Relations with Montenegro. Retrieved from: on 06.07.2016

Stoltenberg, J. (2016). NATO and “Brexit”: Why the fundamentals are strong. Retrieved from: on 06.07.2016

The Telegraph. (2015). Russia hold military drills ahead of NATO summit. Retrieved from: on 06.07.2016

Traynor, I. (2014). Ukraine crisis: NATO plans east European bases to counter Russia. The Guardian. Retrieved from: on 06.07.2016

Weisgerber, M. (2016). Eying Russia, Poland wants More NATO Troops. Defense One. Retrieved from: on 06.07.2016

YLE (2016) Soini: NATO ties aim to strengthen Finland’s position and defence. YLE Uutiset. Retrieved from: on 06.07.2016

A Tale of Two Summits: NATO Wales Summit 2014 and NATO Warsaw Summit 2016 (Part 1)

Image 'NATOs hovedkvarter' by Utenriksdepartementet UD. Released under Creative Commons 4.0 (CC BY-ND 4.0) License

Image ‘NATOs hovedkvarter‘ by Utenriksdepartementet UD. Released under Creative Commons 4.0 (CC BY-ND 4.0) License


Two years have passed since the last NATO Summit, and many events have taken place since 2014. That Summit was a very important one, for it was a time where NATO was facing again and for the first time since the end of the Cold War, a threat that it was once considered all but gone. In addition, NATO was also facing a crossroads regarding Afghanistan, a long-time commitment of the Alliance to pacify and stabilize a country that was deemed as a hotspot for terrorism, and plagued by conflict on its recent history.

Now that the next NATO Summit is closer, many events have taken place, or to put it better, the events that shaped the Wales 2014 discussions have evolved in different ways, giving way to new issues or increasing the impact of those processes that began to develop back since. This time is also a good opportunity to assess how much NATO advanced on the objectives set back in 2014, the challenges it has faced in the period between Wales Summit and the upcoming Summit, and also the potential challenges NATO still –  and will – be facing.

A look at the past: Wales Summit, issues and objectives

Wales Summit was a very crucial moment in NATO history, and a milestone for Western and Global security. Not only because the future of NATO was a topic to be discussed, but also the outcome of the Afghanistan intervention and the role NATO would have in the country after withdrawal, how to manage the Ukraine Crisis and the resurgence of Russia, and the issue of ISIS and the crisis on Syria.

It is very known that NATO has been undertaking a re-adaptation process since the end of the Cold War, in which the big question mark has been throughout the years its mission and raison d’etre, at a time where it was considered that the West was facing only small threats from small conflicts and instability in other areas of the world. The Article 5 became the main – but not only – topic of discussion, more precisely on how to implement it for interventions beyond its usual area of action. Despite the experiences of the Balkans, Afghanistan, 9/11, Iraq, and more recently Somalia and Libya, it was unclear the role Article 5 was having on those scenarios, salve, 9/11. Moreover, it was not clear at all if NATO were to transform itself into a Global Security organization with peacekeeping and stabilization operations as a mission, of it was to remain a collective security organization operating only on the Article 5 area.

Afghanistan was also reaching its 13th year since Operation Enduring Freedom and NATO’s involvement, scenario which – like the War on Terror following 9/11 – framed the nature and missions of the Alliance for about more than a decade, and where it is clear that the threat from terrorism was still lingering. And even the measures to address terrorism were framed by the perennial debate between the US and some countries, and some European states – the ‘Atlanticists vs. Europeanists’ – about the approach to be implemented for both peacekeeping interventions and for measures against terrorism.

Then, the Ukraine Crisis took place, which opened a new debate about how to react to the challenge posed by Russia, but also added more uncertainty to the debate on NATO missions and nature. It clearly brought the attention back to Europe and a reestablishment of its core and original function: to provide collective and territorial security to its Allies vis-à-vis a Russia that, though not as strong as in the days of the Cold War, was still capable of posing serius challenges to NATO and EU security through unconventional methods, soft power and military means, combined. The nature of the challenge also prompted NATO to rethink not only its nature, but also the ways to have more flexibility when answering to unconventional threats posed by a conventional enemy.

What was discussed (and why) in Wales 2014

With this brief background, now we can take a look at the topics that were part of the Wales Summit agenda.

Russia: The Allies issued a declaration in which the invasion of Ukraine was strongly condemned, reaffirmed its commitment to Article 5, outlined a Readiness Action Plan and its elements, and issued reassurances to Eastern European allies with military presence. NATO commitment with its partnership with Ukraine was manifested, expressing support and aid to the Ukrainian armed forces in the chapters of interoperability, modernization, cyber defence and reforms (NATO, 2014; Brooke-Holland & Mills, 2014).

According to Čehulić and Begović (2014), and Larsen (2014), the Ukraine Crisis forced the agenda to focus less on Afghanistan, less on Crimea but almost entirely on Russia, considering that NATO-Russia relations were always a core element, at the point of establishing cooperation mechanisms acknowledging Russian importance on the international order. Russia was facing troubles on its transition process and that it was having desires to regain status and influence on the same international system, but it was also strongly opposed to an increasing EU influence after European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) was established.

Unsurprisingly, relations between Russia and NATO were always framed by mutual suspicions, especially given the latter’s opposition to NATO enlargement, and worsened after the Georgia War in 2008, and the Ukraine/Crimea crises in 2014 (Čehulić & Begović, 2014). This is the very reason why Russia became basically the main point of the agenda of the 2014 Summit. But not the only reason. In order to understand the reasons why Russia was the main topic of the agenda in Wales 2014 – and will still be such in Warsaw 2016), one must take a look briefly at the geopolitics – and strategic interests – behind the tensions and NATO’s concerns on Russia. Russia aims at hampering former Soviet space integration into NATO and the EU through ‘frozen conflicts’ including deployment of Russian troop contingents and military exercises, mainly because it considers NATO as an enemy and EU influence expansion as against its interests. But also because it seeks to regain influence over those areas formerly part of Soviet influence, which resulted in diplomatic and political pressures against the neighbouring countries to prevent them to get closer to the ENP[i].

The breaching of several agreements and treaties established in the post-Cold War by Russia is another reason behind the tune of the Wales 2014 declaration by NATO. For instance, the assurance treaties that established the territorial integrity of Ukraine (The 1994 Budapest Memorandum) was violated, let alone the territorial annexation by usage of military force.

Hybrid warfare: Another declaration was issued on ‘hybrid warfare’, in which NATO committed itself to acquire the means and capabilities to counter this threat, with the reinforcement of national armies and cooperation with other organizations as part of Readiness Action Plan implementation (NATO, 2014; Brooke-Holland & Mills, 2014).

As ‘hybrid’ warfare is an organic part of Russian strategy, NATO has been obliged to redesign and evaluate its response capacities to threats in which civilian unrest, information campaign and the Russian ethnic minority and insurgents – like Georgia and Ukraine – are parts of the scheme (Čehulić & Begović, 2014). Consequently, Wales Summit had as another important point the evaluation and consideration of response mechanism to cope with this form of ‘indirect threat’[ii].

Budget and Defence Spending: But there was another important point of the Summit agenda, and it relates to a problem that has been present since the same end of the Cold War, whose implications are now comprehended, affecting mainly assets and capabilities. This problem is the budget constrains – by the 2008 economic crisis and the reduction of defence budgets, mostly in Europe – and the need to invest in new equipment whose costs are comparatively higher than the previous one.

NATO reached an agreement of reversing the negative trend on defence spending, reaffirming the 2006 agreed target of 2% of GDP on defence, while setting a new target of 20% of annual defence spending on new equipment and R&D, all to be achieved within a decade. Interestingly, NATO Secretary General back then recognized that the Russian assertiveness was a main catalyst for this focusing on defence (NATO, 2014; Brooke-Holland & Mills, 2014).

This is an issue that needed addressing, considering that the problem was further worsened by the fact that many allies are not making use of NATO Smart Defence mechanism, designed precisely to easy this problem while maximizing resources utilization via cooperation. Instead, many were still investing in their own capabilities, as expression of national sovereignty but also risking duplication of assets and resources (Andreeva, 2014; Čehulić & Begović, 2014). It would be interesting to see how this topic is assessed in Warsaw. In any case, the trend needs to be reversed, considering that other emergent powers are surpassing defence spending by European allies[iii].

Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD): Back in 2010 and 2012 at Lisbon and Chicago Summits, NATO agreed on implementing the first steps on BMD, with a first Aegis system to be deployed in Romania by 2015 – which is now completed and operational – with Allies acquiring related capabilities, and BMD-capable ships being deployed in Spain, all aiming at providing protection to European nations and inhabitants against threats originating outside Euro-Atlantic area (Brooke-Holland & Mills, 2014).

Ballistic Missile Defence indeed became another important point of the agenda, witnessing considerable progress on its development and implementation. Despite the fact that it was a factor of heated controversy even within the Alliance, the Ukraine crisis seems to have created consensus on the importance of this issue, while shovelling former ideas of a joint development between NATO and Russia of BMD (Čehulić & Begović, 2014).

Middle East, Afghanistan and Terrorism: The threat posed by ISIS and the related instability in Syria and Iraq, the Middle East in general and North Africa, as well as the post-2014 Afghanistan was an important topic of discussion in the 2014 Summit. Commitment to existing partnership with Iraq was stated, as well as a declaration in which actions by ISIS were fully condemned and rejected, callings were made for Syrian government to comply with UN Security Council Resolutions and with transition. The deployment of Patriot air defence missiles in turkey was also treated as a ways of NATO’s commitment with Allies’ security, while fight against terrorism was reaffirmed (Brooke-Holland & Mills, 2014).

Afghanistan, which was set to be the important topic of Wales Summit, was somewhat displaced by Russia and Ukraine. Nevertheless, NATO issued a commitment to Afghanistan’s security and stability – being Afghanistan part of international efforts against terrorism – as well as its support to the Afghan armed forces with training, advising and assistance after NATO and ISAF withdrawal by end of 2014. However, such aid was depending of a Bilateral Security Agreement between the Alliance and Afghanistan, and the Status of Forces Agreement, which is aimed at governing the presence of NATO troops after withdrawal (Brooke-Holland & Mills, 2014).

Transatlantic relations: It was a topic that was discussed almost as a secondary, in which NATO states that security of Allies via collective defence was still a central element for the Alliance, and in the light of the idea of a Europe being a whole, free and peaceful continent, and the challenges against such. This topic also served as a way for the US to express its concerns about the European Allies’ will and ability to spend more on defence and deploy forces, although efforts by NATO and EU member states on defence capabilities were welcome, with close cooperation and complementarity between the two organization labelled as important. Cooperation based mostly on shared strategic interests (Brooke-Holland & Mills, 2014; Zyga, 2014).

The Ukraine crisis and Russian assertiveness makes the EU-NATO partnership a factor of high importance for NATO, highlighting the need for both organizations to work together in order to face the current threat to European security emanating from Russia, as well as for actions beyond the Euro-Atlantic area[iv]. This also means that both organizations need to overcome those issues that hampers cooperation: the lack of delineation and labour division; the ambitions of the EU which are not met by a wide capabilities gap; the strong divergences on threat assessment and perception; the decreasing leading role and commitment of the US in Europe given the ‘pivot to Asia’; low defence spending and lack of Poling & Sharing/Smart Defence; and the Cyprus issue and the political problems derived from this (Andreeva, 2014).

Although obvious, it is important to remind that strategic cooperation on security is also important for both organization as their respective member states are facing the same threats, as a result of membership overlapping, the same nature of security threats – which are diverse, unpredictable and interconnected in nature, with “hybrid warfare” being an example – and the aforementioned low defence budgets (Zyga, 2014).

But there is another reason, a very important one, for NATO-EU closer cooperation and a NATO military presence in the Baltics and Central-Eastern Europe. This reason is the military modernization programmes that Russia has been implementing since the 2008 Georgia War, which has transformed the Russian army from a mass mobilization into a flexible and deployable one, with capacity of intervening in local and regional conflicts given the high-readiness of its units. Continuous exercises and manoeuvres, assets modernization – which gave as a product a new battle tank, the T-14 ‘Armata’, and changes in structure and command are part of such programme[v]. And what is the most striking fact, is that those modernizations are being designed for implementation in the post-Soviet areas, which could be benefited by the diminishing European armies and defence spending (Klein & Pester, 2014).

Open-Door and Partnerships: The Open-Door Policy and Partnerships programmes were also part of the Wales 2014 Summit agenda. At first sight, these might look secondary and of little importance. In reality, Open-Door Policy and Partnerships are both a crucial tool for NATO to work with (Brooke-Holland & Mills, 2014). As NATO Libya Operation ‘Unified Protector’ evidenced, Partnership countries contributed the most with the intervention with political, logistics, or intelligence and surveillance contributions[vi]. International organizations were also deemed as important actors to cooperate with[vii]. Addressing Russia is no exception. As a matter of fact, both policies were an alternative to an open conflict while outreaching sensible areas such as Georgia, Azerbaijan and – eventually – Ukraine, and could have had beneficial effects for NATO enlargement (Čehulić & Begović, 2014).

The outcome of Wales Summit

Having reviewed the main topics of the agenda and the reasons why they were discussed, it is time to take a look at the outcome of the Summit. By doing so, it will be possible to understand the nature and implications of Warsaw 2016, as well as the objectives that will come from the upcoming summit.

At a first, NATO managed to issue a joint declaration in which the invasion of Ukraine was fully condemned, overcoming inner divergences and approaches in regards to Russia, while bringing back emphasis on Article 5 and NATO original mission. This also lead to the creation of the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF), while at the same time of reinforcing NATO Reaction Force (NRF) responsiveness[viii]. However, it is very clear that, as no concrete actions were taken by NATO other than enhancing Baltic Air Policing and increasing some presence of sea and land contingents on a rotary basis, some strong differences among NATO allies persist[ix].

And I am plainly sure that the discussion between those in favour of a stronger presence and though measures, and those in favour of keeping sanctions and establishing new dialogue mechanisms, will be part of the upcoming Summit. In any case, assistance to Ukraine was a common agreement as another outcome of Wales Summit, while driving the country closer to the EU through such support (Larsen, 2014).

Secondly, Capabilities were also important in the Summit, so NATO could keep its commitment to its three core tasks[x]. In relation to this, and as a third outcome, NATO reaffirmed the goal of 2% of GDP on defence spending, while adding a new goal, which is the investment of up to 20% on assets and modernization. On the same way, the creation of the Defence and Security Related Capacity Building is a good signal on this way, and another bridge with partners (Matle & Scheffler, 2014).

Fourthly, BMD was further strengthened, although there was no tangible advancement on deterrence, being the statements a repetition of those issued in the Chicago 2012 Summing, and in turn, being this situation a worrisome manifestation of a lack of strategic thinking by the Alliance’s young officers, according to Matle & Scheffler (2014).

Fifthly, despite Open-Door and Partnerships being a crucial tool for NATO, it seems that there is no clear idea or agreement on enlargement, as it was yet to be defined the nature of contributions new Allies should add and thus being considered as potential new members. As the Russian factor – this is, eastwards expansion at the cost of raising Russia’s hostility – is present, it seems that expansion is more feasible in the Balkans (Matle & Scheffler, 2014). As a matter of fact, the recent acceptance of Montenegro as a new Ally seems to reflect those consideration, moreover when the 2014 Summit clearly manifested NATO interest on potential new Allies from the Balkans. And the winds have been favourable for the likely – increasingly likely by the day – of Sweden and Finland, both part of Partnership for Peace program, to become full members of NATO, given the fact that those two nations are also feeling the assertive and threatening actions by Russia.

And speaking of Partnerships, it is clear that those are still of great value for NATO. However, according to Matle & Scheffler (2014), it is unclear the purpose of those partnerships and the way the security of the Alliance and the partner country is being enhanced. It has been suggested that a differentiation between crisis management and capacities partners is to be established. And in relation to Partnerships, it was still pending definition of NATO role in Asia and the approach or role of the Asian partners.



[i] See: Čehulić & Begović, 2014, pp. 28-31. And: Larsen, 2014, pp. 8-9.

[ii] ‘Indirect threat’ that, given its nature, makes any Article 5 response rather difficult since, in principle, no military means are being used directly.

[iii] This problem is rooted in the optimistic assessment of the world system after the Cold War. However, Čehulić & Begović (2014) remarks that this problem has a more structural dimension, as most European allies tend to rely heavily on the US for their own security. See: Čehulić & Begović, 2014, p. 28.

[iv] As Zyga (2014) puts, Ukraine, the threat from ISIS and instability at Syria simply makes of EU-NATO cooperation rather a strategic imperative. See: Zyga, 2014, pp. 11-12.

[v] Noteworthy to point out the establishment of a Special Operations Command and a Cyber Command tasked with information warfare tasks. See: Klein & Pester, 2014, pp.2-3.

[vi] See: Lindström & Zetterlund, 2012, p.56-58.

[vii] See: Brooke-Holland & Mills, 2014, p.19.

[viii] See: Matle & Scheffler, 2014, p.3.

[ix] Those differences are based on Poland and other former Soviet/Warsaw pact states historical background and distrust about Russia, and many European nations strong economic ties – like arms trade or energetic agreements – with Russia, aspect which they are not keen to risk. See: Larsen 2014, pp.32-33; And: Belkin, Mix, & Woehrel, 2014, pp. 6-11.

[x] Those tasks are: Crisis management, collective security, and cooperative security. All of these tasks were outlined by NATO 2010 Strategic concept. See: Matle & Scheffler, 2014, p.4. And: NATO (2014). Strategic Concepts. Retrieved from: on 04.07.2016



Andreeva, C. (2014). The EU-NATO Relationship – With New Leadership to New Impetus. Atlantic Voices, 4(12), 2-10. Retrieved from: on 29.07.2015

Belkin, P., Mix, D., & Woehrel, S. (2014). NATO: Response to the Crisis in Ukraine and Security Concerns in Central and Eastern Europe. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service. Retrieved from: on 17.09.2015

Brooke-Holland, L., & Mills, C. (2014). NATO Wales Summit 2014: Outcomes (Report SN06981). The House of Commons, Library. Retrieved from: on 25.11.2014

Čehulić, L., & Begović, M. (2014). NATO Summit in Wales: From global megatrends to the new Euro-Atlanticism. Croatian International Relations Review, 20(71), 11-41. Retrieved from: on 25.11.2014

Klein, M., & Pester, K. (2014). Russia’s Armed Forces on Modernization Course. SWP Comments,(9), 1-7. Retrieved from: on 03.02.2014

Larsen, H. B. L. (2014). Great Power Politics and the Ukrainian Crisis: NATO, EU, and Russia after 2014, Report 2014:18, Copenhagen: DIIS, Danish Institute for international Studies. Retrieved from: on 29.07.2015

Lindström, M., & Zetterlund, K. (2012). Setting the Stage for the Military Intervention in Libya. (Report FOI-R-3498-SE). Stockholm Swedish Defence Research Agency (FOI). Retrieved from: on 17.09.2015

Matlé, M., & Scheffler, A. (2014). After the Wales Summit: An Assessment of NATO’s Strategic Agenda. Facts and Findings, (162), 1-6. Retrieved from: on 25.11.2014

NATO (2014a). Strategic Concepts. Retrieved from: on 04.07.2016

NATO. (2014b). Wales Summit Declaration. Retrieved from: on 25.11.2014

Zyga, I. (2014). The EU-NATO Partnership: Opening a New Chapter After The Ukraine Crisis. Atlantic Voices, 4(12), 11-15. Retrieved from: on 29.07.2015

The Battle of Kadesh (Year -1274) – The Empires of the Deserts Collide. Part III



Analysis and Conclusions


The aftermath of Kadesh: the long dusk of two empires.

The dust is settled. Ramses II is not entirely happy, though his actions at Kadesh would be forever remembered, as he, proud of his deeds in Kadesh, will immortalize the battle with carvings at the stones of Egypt. He and the troops that fought the Hittites back are returning with a sense of pride, knowing that they will be received as heroes, claiming victory. Indeed, they were able to inflict a heavy blow to Muwatalli and his troops, even resisting the famous Hittite war chariots and changing the tide when disaster was all but a certainty.

But the Hittites could be satisfied with the fact they were able to put a halt on the Egyptian advance, yet they were unable to advance further and an easy victory has escaped away from their hands. Small details and mistakes made of Kadesh a sound tactical victory for the Egyptians.

Nowadays, more than three thousand years, the event and actions that took place at Kadesh are well known, and now it is possible to analyse the consequences the battle had for both sides. Kadesh is in fact a singular battle on this regard, for its effects were peculiar in nature: The Egyptian Empire did not meet its strategic goals at all, yet its tactical victory gave some strategic gains. The Hittites, on the other hand, were able to secure their southern flank yet lose the chance to defeat Egypt once and for all. It could be said that Kadesh ended with both adversaries winning in the short term, and losing on the long term, for the shadows of new threats would emerge, as Kadesh marked the beginning of the end for both Empires.

Indeed, an analysis of the aftermath of Kadesh shows that both sides won and lost at the same time, being the battle a draw in strategic terms. Breasted (1905) and Ralby (2013) remind that the strong casualties inflicted on Ramses II prevented him to accomplish the main aim, which was to take Kadesh, although the Egyptians were able to defeat an important portion of the Hittite army. The Hittite army, in turn, was able to keep Kadesh but at a heavy cost[I].

Furthermore, Kadesh became a milestone for a further 3-years campaign in which the Egyptians were able to put a halt on the Hittites’ advance and even recover some lost ground, forcing a peace treaty and a pact on equal terms between Ramses II and Hattsusili III, the next Hittite king (Egipto, del -1570 a Alejandro Magno, 1989; Cau, 2011; Carney, 2005; Ralby, 2013; Wanner, 2005)[II].

This treaty, as Wanner (2005) explains, came after Hattsusilis – who wanted to turn to Egypt during Kadesh – deposed Muwatallis and adopted a friendly policy towards Egypt. This attitude gave way to the aforementioned treaty, which consisted in the continuation of the non-aggression prior to Ramses II campaign, mutual assistance in the form of military aid, to guarantee security in Hattsusilis’ succession, and the mutual extradition of fugitives. The result was a peace between the long-term strategic contenders.

However, Kadesh did not mean, like most battles, the rise of a nation and the downfall of another. Kadesh, instead, was that historical milestone that seems to mark the simultaneous decadence of both the Egyptian and Hittite Powers. Both Empires began to face the same threat in the form of the Assyrians, yet each Empire faced threats of their own, especially Egypt with the Libyans and the Peoples from the Sea or Phoenicians. This situation also explains why the Treaty came to be arranged by both parties. (Egipto, del -1570 a Alejandro Magno, 1989; Las ultimas dinastias, 1996; Los Hititas, del -1700 al -1200; 1989).

Wanner (2005) adds that, in fact and although the Hittites were able to stop Egypt’s expansion, they suffered heavy defeats and loses in the hand of the Assyrians, as they defeated Mitanni and removed the buffer zone defending Hittites Eastern flank, forcing a defensive stance. Later on, a sort of civil war took place when the throne was contested that further eroded the Hittite Empire, which felt to the Phoenicians some seventy years latter (-1200).

Egypt, in turn and according to Wanner (2005), remarks that Egypt was also forced to retreat from Kadesh to address a revolt in Canaan which weakened further the Egyptian army, lost control over trade by the hand of the same Phoenicians, which as a consequence the Empire shrunk and declined. Furthermore, the combined aforementioned threats, further internal disorders and the division of the Egyptian Empire accelerated the decline of the Egyptian Empire. Egypt was bound to never recover the days of glory past (Las ultimas dinastias, 1996)[III].

In regards to warfare itself…

Kadesh can provide an understating on warfare, strategy and tactics of the Ancient times, allowing the analyst to realize that those are not different in essence to current strategies and tactics, with technological advances being the only – obvious – difference. It looks also that the strategic objectives and context are not that different from the current times, instead, many of the strategic interests both the Egyptians and Hittites had are strikingly similar to those the US and the USSR had during the Cold War, for example. Or those of the Habsburg Empire and England and France… many examples depicting the similarities can be given.

Regardless of if an Empire or state focus on trade rather than on military aspects alone, this sphere will be needed in order to secure the commercial interests and even the resource or trade routes. In fact, trade and economic interests can drive a nation to mobilize its armed forces in order to secure those objective, or gain access to such. The same goes with territorial interests. On this sense, the Egyptian Empire is an historical case highlighting these factors, and a case that was even able to master the technological assets of the times and exploit them properly.

Inevitably, with expansion comes clashes with other nations that are in pursuit of the same general interests, and they might even compete over the same areas, with their defence becoming a matter of survival: the reviewed strategic background and the dynamic competition between the Egyptian and Hittite Empires clearly reflects this. In fact, the territories of Syria, Lebanon and what is now Israel were important not only for the trade routes, or the resources and the wealth. The area was an important buffer zone to secure the core Egyptian Empire against another Power, like it happened with the Hyksos[IV].

Another observation is that reforms after defeat – and even reforms alone – are a need that comes after the circumstances. The Egyptians clearly saw this and began to implement the indicated military reforms[V]. Reforms that allowed them to recover from domination and raise an empire that would be remembered in the times to come. More importantly, the Egyptian learned how to make use of those innovations against an occupation power, which and ironically, introduced such reforms into Egypt following the conquest.

In regards detailed operational aspects of the battle, it seems that both sides were rather sophisticated in the planning and execution of operational and tactical aspects. Breasted (1905) remarks that there was a clear understanding of placing troops in advantageous positions prior the battle, along with the understanding of gaining superiority by executing clever manoeuvres from the beginning, or that the “science of waging successfully battles” were fully grasped. Both sides – but especially the Hittites – were able to do this.

Egypt, for instance, demonstrated this with the division of its forces into smaller divisions. Divisions that in due time, were able to provide reinforcements and mutual support, helping in defining the result of the encounter. The Hittites also demonstrated tactical understanding, with the rouse set on Ramses II, with the fact they also took advantage of the terrain as some features – tall grass – allowed their movements to be concealed at a time, as well as the encirclement manoeuver and that they were changing positions while setting the trap.

Additionally, and following Carney (2011), Kadesh was the battle that allowed Egypt to show its military efficiency, where the assets and the leadership were able to produce good tactical outcomes, at the point of turning a certain defeat into a clear tactical victory[VI]. The military reforms introduced when the New Kingdom began but especially those of the 19th dynasty, gave Egypt the assets – the chariot – to wage campaigns beyond its original borders, enhanced and instilled a more offensive mentality, with the result of an extended empire that gave Egypt economic and political power and transformed the nation into an important military power back then[VII].

More importantly, the Battle of Kadesh allowed to show the troops and leading qualities of both sides[VIII]. And also the mistakes. Ramses II committed two important mistakes that nearly costed not only the battle but his life: the first is the way in which Ramses underestimated the Hittite soldiers, as he called them ‘effeminate’ and therefore not a worthy force[IX]; the second is his eagerness in taking Kadesh, which led him to fall into the Hittite spies’ rouse and the dangerous separation of forces. In addition, the behaviour of many troops from the Egyptian side is reasonably questionable, as their fleeing from the battlefield worsened the tactical situation of the Egyptians at the initial moments of the battle[X].

Yet despite these two important operational mistakes and the troops issues, the Egyptian army proved to be far more superior in the battlefield, precisely by the quality of command, the troops, and the combination – and combined utilization – of two important assets: the bow and the chariot. Ramses II and some troops were able to regain the initiative in the face of disaster and took immediate control of the battlefield, with the famous counterstrike to break the siege of the camp and neutralize many of the adversary troops taking the advantage of the Orontes River. The assets that helped in doing so where the Egyptian chariot and bow, whose characteristics made such counterstrike also possible and gave them the tactical advantage over the much heavier chariots of the Hittites[XI]. It must be reminded that one core doctrine of the Egyptian army was the exploitation of the battlefield and the importance of the commander to take the initiative. And clearly, Ramses II leadership is a factor by itself.

The Hittites, on the other hand, proven very skilled at manoeuvres, concealment, and intelligence. The utilization of the spies and their role in driving Ramses II directly into their trap is a remarkable feat, let alone the cleverly devised ambush and the continuously moving army, which made scouting for the Egyptians a nightmare. They also took clear advantage of the terrain characteristics, like the tall grass used for concealment, as well as the advantage of the adversary, knowing that Ramses II was eager on taking Kadesh on a fast manner thus setting their trap. Even their moment of attack with their heavy chariots was a feat, for it nearly destroyed not only an Egyptian division, but basically the whole Egyptian army and the campaign.

But on the crucial moments of the battle, the Hittites shown that their leadership failed in grasping the momentum and making use of their operational doctrines and tactics, missing many opportunities and, in the end, allowing the Egyptian to take initiative and control over the battlefield. Even the characteristics of their main asset – the war chariot – failed. Perhaps the most remarkable mistake was the decision by Muwatalli of not committing the very skilled infantry, which led the chariots attack to be successful at a given moment, but a failure for its lack of infantry support, as the Hittite tactics established. This resulted in facilitating the Egyptian counterattack and the heavy losses suffered by the Hittites, from which they were unable to recover. The Hittite chariot, in turn, failed despite its great firepower and its heavy characteristics that allowed it to make a strong strike against the infantry formations. In the end, it proved to be no match for the more agile and lighter Egyptian chariots, which were able to exploit the lack of mobility resulting from the heavyweight of their counterparts.

Two armies can have the same of similar assets, yet the difference lies at the intended ways for their operational utilization, and such can mark a big difference.

In the end, luck is the main factor that ends in defining any battle, in combination with factors mentioned in these articles about the Battle of Kadesh: it was perhaps a sheer luck that the Egyptian divisions ended in being distanced, as some of them reinforced Ramses II, his guard and the Amon in their counterattack, thus deciding the encounter. In addition, the fact that the Hittite troops and charioteers that made to the Egyptian main camp decided to loot, was also another factor that made easier for Egypt to take initiative and control the battlefield, defeating the Hittites. The lack of discipline from the Hittite army was a very important aid for the Egyptians.

In Some lessons…

I will always remark that by approaching and understanding the past, or history, one is able to identify the mistakes made back then, so the current mistakes can be plainly identified, providing valuable lessons for the future. The Battle of Kadesh and the strategic background that led into it are no exception.

A first one is that, no matter how a group of nations or a nation pretends to see the world, any way of expansion, be territorial or of influence will inevitably lead into conflict with another power or group of nation, moreover if they happen to have interests over the same area: one side as a way to consolidate an integrated economic area, for example, and the other as a defensive buffer zone against a perceived threat. Inaction, however, is the worst course of action any nation or group of nations can do to asset its interest, as inaction will be understood as a free way for the other part – or even a third – to take advantage and fill the vacuum.

This is clearly what is going on with the West or the European Union, namely, in the former soviet areas, Central Asia, the Caucasus and Eastern Europe. The few actions that the Union has done so far in those areas are restricted to partnerships and trade deals, which are not strong enough vis-a-vis a Russia that is set to compete. Moreover, the clear vacuum of power left after the fall of the USSR is not being filled by the EU, or being filled very timidly, a situation that Russia is capable of taking advantage from[XII]. Egypt made a mistake in not filling the vacuum of power left Mittani following its fall; the EU is doing such mistake now. And like the Hittites, Russia is more keen in filling such vacuum, by clearly aiming at re-establishing its buffer zones and areas of influence[XIII]. This is a clear dangerous precedent, for this increase paradoxically the likeness for a head-on confrontation between the two sides[XIV].

Like Egypt, the reluctance of increased military presence by both NATO and the EU will result in the strategic areas and countries to be an easy prey for the counterpart, which seemingly is more willing on making its (military) presence to be noticed. And as the EU is an economic-commercial power, like Egypt, its inaction will in risking the markets it sought to access and dominate; one must remember that even commercial and economic interests need military power for their protection. Treaties, agreements and institutions are simply not enough in securing those economic and trade interests, a factor that it seems the EU has not yet fully grasped. And especially when, like the vassals of both Egypt and the Hittites, are prone to fall under the influence of the other, driving them to clash further when contesting for that influence.

In addition, like Queen Hatshepsut, the desire for maintaining peace might produce actually the contrary effect, fuelling further the situation as the other part might take it as a lack of preparation and will from which it can take advantage from, exploiting it for its own benefit[XV]. International politics and Great Power politics are not of good will and intentions, but rather of a constant competition with conflict being a latent factor that, sooner or later will take place. Peace is not an eternal condition.

Furthermore, given the inevitability of conflict, any action made with realistic assessment or good will only mark the difference on how soon or later a given conflict might take place: if it weren’t for the appeasement policies of Queen Hatshepsut, the Hittites would not have been emboldened and the threat they posed to Egypt would have been of lesser degree than the one Ramses II ended in confronting at Kadesh. Another battle with a very different balance of power – and outcome – would have been reviewed here, and perhaps Egypt would have seen a better hour lasting for longer than it actually did. Inaction does not guarantee that conflict will not come at the doorstep, and it must be reminded that even neutral nations had to made considerable investments on defence to safeguard their own integrity and to address conflict.

The same is taking place with the US, specifically in the Middle East and Asia, despite its current focusing on the latter. China is also a nation that increasingly, it is taking advantage of US inaction and indecision, while augmenting its military hardware. The current clash over the contested maritime territories and the makeshift artificial island are just a proof of what might become, and the same as with the EU, US lack of clear action or exerting a stronger military presence and influence over the surrounding countries – let alone the lack of support – would send the wrong signals to China, further emboldening it to assert more proactively its interest: the result would be a confrontation on the high seas.

Therefore, it must be accepted that conflict is an inevitable path in Great Power politics and international politics, for the different powers’ interests will end in clashing, sooner or later. Preparation is the best recipe for addressing any situation and to exert an effective deterrence. As Egypt lacked of preparation, of action and deterrence, this by itself contributed in heating further a competition bound to take place, and as a result there was the reviewed battle. And while Egypt implemented the necessary reforms and modernization, the West seems to be napping in contrast to a China and Russia that are closing the technological gap by the day, and even refining its strategies and tactics[XVI]. Any army must always be in a process of constant evolution while evaluating, identifying and preparing to deal with the incoming (possible) threats.

Overconfidence is the worst enemy of any general, of any nation and of any army, as well as underestimating the adversary: the balance of power can be changed by a sole asset with the proper operational and tactical ways of usage, capable of having strong political consequences no matter how big a budget or an army is, so it best not to be taken for granted. Arrogance is the best ally of any adversary.

Armies and statesmen must be prepared always for the worst, and when such happens, to perform the best they can in order to manage the conflict and achieve triumph the less traumatically way as possible. This includes also a diplomacy that, instead of achieving a mere appeasement or a ‘giving-up’ mind-set, must serve as a complement of the strategic and military actions, so to gain peace or a relatively stable balance through sole deterrence and political will. The stream of times does not forget those that are caught asleep or are simply negligent.



[I] After Ramses II retreated from Kadesh, the Hittites waged some incursions that Ramses II was unable to stop, according to Wanner (2005). Those incursions were short-lived, as it could be seen further on.

[II] This treaty, however, was a tangible consequence of the Battle of Kadesh than of the following campaign in Syria, recognizing also the changes within the Hittite Empire due to the battle.

[III] Egypt would fall under the dominance of the Nubians, while the Hittites would fall under the power of the Assyrians.

[IV] Experience ends in framing any policymaking in regards to defence and security, it could be said, as well as the doctrine and strategy of an army.

[V] See: The Battle of Kadesh, part I.

[VI] Although the main objective was not fulfilled, the tactical victory of Egypt helped in achieving some other strategic objectives.

[VII] And this is an important observation, as many relate Egypt with their constructions and their interesting religious and existential beliefs, not realizing that Egypt indeed was also a formidable (military) power, even capable of expelling foreign rulers after mastering the art of warfare.

[VIII] See: The Battle of Kadesh, part II.

[IX] See: Cau, 2011, p. 19.

[X] However, one must recognize that the wide separation of Egyptian forces was a factor behind their inability to give some resistance.

[XI] Those assets even deterred Muwatalli from committing the infantry.

[XII] The vacuum has not been filled at all with strong military presence except for humanitarian and peacekeeping operations, as the EU took the collapse of the USSR to do this kind of interventions. See: Grant, 1999, p. 2. And even humanitarian interventions or peacekeeping are deemed as meaningless. See: Vaknin, 2001. Indeed, humanitarian operations and/or peacekeeping operations are enough for solving temporarily a crisis, yet not enough to establish a solid influence or control over an area. The assets required for that kind of interventions are not the same than those needed for national defence or even power projection.

[XIII] See: Friedman, 2009, pp. 98-109, and pp. 137-157

[XIV] And even turf wars can take place before the final encounter, being the current ‘frozen conflicts’ in the aforementioned regions an example.

[XV] And this is what happened to Neville Chamberlain in the second half of the 30’s, as well as to the Western European Powers by the same time.

[XVI] India is another example, where it is not making use of its considerable naval and air power to assert its control over the Indian Ocean, thus leaving the initiative – and the control of that zone – to China.



Breasted, J. A. (1903). The Battle of Kadesh: A study in the Earliest Known Military Strategy. Chicago, IL: The Decennial Publications, University of Chicago Press. Retrieved from: on 09.04.2016

Carney, R. (Spring 2005). The Chariot: A Weapon that Revolutionized Egyptian Warfare. History Matters: An Undergraduate Journal of Historical Research, (2). Retrieved from: on 10.05.2016.

Cau, P. (2011). Batallas del Mundo. [Battaglie, Maria Pilar Queralt, trans.]. Madrid, Spain: Editorial Tikal (Original work published in 2006).

Egipto, del -1570 a Alejandro Magno. (1989). Gran Enciclopedia Didactica Ilustrada: Historia Antigua. Mexico: Salvat Editores.

Friedman, G. (2015). Los Próximos 100 Años. [The Next 100 Years, Enrique Mercado, trans.]. Mexico, D.F.: Editorial Océano (Original work published in 2009).

Grant, C. (1999). European defence post-Kosovo? London, UK: Center for European Reform. Retrieved from: on 21.06.2016

Las ultimas dinastias. (1996). Atlas de la Historia Universal El Tiempo. Bogota, Colombia: Casa Editorial El Tiempo.

Los Hititas, del -1700 al -1200. (1989). Gran Enciclopedia Didactica Ilustrada: Historia Antigua. Mexico: Salvat Editores.

Ralby, A. (2013). Atlas of Military History: from Antiquity to the Present Day. Bath, UK: Parragon Books.

Vaknin, S. (2001). The Balkan Question Revisited. Retrieved from: on 21.06.2016

Wanner, R. (2005). Kadesh. Retrieved from: on 10.05.2016


Image '57mm_stealth_swedish_navy' by Times Asi. Released under Creative Commons 4.0 (CC BY 4.0) License

Image ‘57mm_stealth_swedish_navy‘ by Times Asi. Released under Creative Commons 4.0 (CC BY 4.0) License


* This article and the image were originally published in globalpublicpolicywatch


The Viking Saga V: The Northern Realm of the Pines and the Ragnarök

Protecting Asgard, or the Ragnarök beneath the Northern Lights (Conclusions).

Three are the sons of Loki: Hel, Fenrir and Jörmundgandr. Three are the corners of the High North Strategic Triangle: Finland, The Arctic/High North and the Baltic region. The three sons can unleash the Ragnarök and make the terrible Naglfar and Garmr appear. A lack of capacity in Sweden to secure all three corners of the high north strategic triangle might encourage Russia to exert political and military pressure, to release its own Naglfar and Garmr, on the aforementioned areas or even the core of the triangle, Sweden. And such problems in the High North will have consequences for Sweden’s neighbours in Finland and even in the Baltics. The renewed aggressive and expansionistic actions made recently towards Ukraine by a Russia adopting an openly confrontational behaviour towards the West, has made the possibility of confrontation in the arctic region a highly likely scenario.

The Baltic countries and the Swedish interests that lie there are the most vulnerable of all, not only because of their proximity to Russia but also because of the Russian minorities who reside there that might be used as an alibi for a potential invasion and annexation just as what happened in Crimea. If this were to happen not only would Sweden lose its buffer zone but also most of its economic investments and revenues in the region.

Finland also has the problem of sharing a large border with Russia and is therefore also vulnerable to any attack from Russia. Finland does not have any significant Russian minority but it was part of the Russian Empire from 1809 to 1917 following an invasion against the then Swedish territory. And it seems that such a history could be used as a possible argument for Russia to invade the country as a whole; according to Withnall (2014), a former advisor of President Putin has warned of a possible intention to argue that the grant of Finland’s independence was a way to repair the mistakes that the Bolsheviks and the Communists made against the country[i]. Even if such intentions are not totally accurate, they, along with the aggression from the Soviet Union against Finland in the late 30’s and the relationships both nations had after the World War II, might provide a hint of what is to come. To make matters worse, for Russia Finland occupies an important strategic position when it comes to preventing invasion and protecting St Petersburg (Puheloinen, 1999)[ii].

The High North/Arctic has the potential to become the next geopolitical hotspot of the 21st century, if it has not become so already. Russia clearly wants to secure by any means (military mostly) its interests and the High North/Arctic, especially when it is considered the resources that could be exploited or invested in there (along with other economic activities) that the Russian economy desperately needs. And it must be reiterated that Russia perceives the High North/Arctic as a strategic zone to keep any western “intrusion” away, meaning that Russia will wage in a very assertive way the contest for the control of the aforementioned resources.

If Russia dared to invade a sovereign country simply because it began to stray off the track of its intended interests (and to harm the interest of the West, mostly that of the European Union), the possibility of Russia invading or attacking a Scandinavian nation just because of a tension regarding the Arctic or because it wants to level-up its political strength is not so unimaginable. And even if Russia threatens the Baltic States instead of Scandinavia, Finland and Sweden inevitably will end up involved due to the proximity of the area to their own territory[iii]. To hold the idea of an Arctic as a stable and peaceful place where institutions, dialogue and cooperation will mark the pace of relations is at this point a wishful and unrealistic perspective, and Sweden must assess the situation in order to realise the extent of the threat lurking nearby.

The fact that Sweden has been shrinking and reshaping its armed forces to perform missions that belong to a world in which the strategic mind-set is based upon the idea that the era of contest between great powers has become a thing of the past, and where small conflicts and humanitarian operations are the main tasks of European militaries, is proving to be a mistake in a world that it is witnessing the renewal of such Great Powers competing. And this resurgence of national interest based behaviour puts the Arctic squarely on the map as a future region for conflict [iv]. Moreover, the recent actions of Russia have simply blunted the idea of a cooperative Russia contributing at keeping the stable and peaceful environment on the continent. Both the Georgia war in 2008 and the Ukraine crisis in 2014 show that the Russian threat was and still is a reality and will be a reality whether the West wants to accept it or not.

Following this, the first step that Sweden must take in order to secure the High North/Arctic area along with the Triangle as a whole and the integrity of its core is to implement a re-armament program that reinforces not only the quality of the Swedish armed forces but also its quantity to a reasonable level to defend its national territory and secure the corners of the Triangle, as well as to provide a credible and strong cooperation with and to the neighbouring nations, either Scandinavian or Baltic.

Aviation is an area that has been well looked after by Sweden during the last two decades and the SAAB JAS 39 Gripen is a very good platform to execute defence missions. However it could be optimised further to take a more aggressive role that could improve its deterrence function helping to prevent or deter intrusions into Swedish airspace. Very recently an airliner operated by Scandinavian Airlines nearly collided with an intrusive Russian Il – 20 intelligence aircraft near Malmö, in southwest Sweden[v]. The good news is that such a move is actually being untertaken, with the Gripen being modified to deploy cruise missiles increasing the strike capacities of the multi-mission aircraft and their deterrence capacities too[vi]. In addition, if Sweden were to join NATO, the cruise missiles could be armed with non-conventional warheads under special NATO policies and instances for non-conventional weaponry.

Sweden’s navy could also be reinforced with the introduction of more Visby class stealth corvettes or similar models, along with the overhauling of the very effective and famous Swedish submarine fleet to deny Russian vessels the possibility of sailing in Swedish and its friend nations’ territorial waters or block any attempt by the Russian fleet to raid the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Finland. However the problems regarding political decisions and technical issues on the new submarines needs to be cleared if Sweden really wants to have a powerful submarine branch to face the Russian surface fleet[vii].

Sweden’s army could also enhance its winter & arctic warfare preparation and develop new land combat systems in order to prepare the country to repel any Russian incursion on either Finnish or Swedish soil.

Sweden is already seeking to deepen its cooperation with Norway, Denmark, Finland and Estonia under the Nordic Defence Cooperation but further cooperation with countries such as Poland would be smart [viii].

Sweden must take a decisive role in the task of defending the High North/Arctic and Scandinavia against any aggressive Russian attitude, even at the slight political threat. By doing so it can promote the integration of the Scandinavian Defence Industries and other related industries as well as of the respective nations’ Armed Forces, pushing for an efficient supply of material and the development of different combat systems in the sea, land and aerospace realms. If this is made, Scandinavia can even supply the Baltic armies under NATO frameworks with military hardware and training, thus the need to enhance the cooperation between Scandinavia and the Baltics.

In the face of the renewed Russian threat, Sweden must consider along with Finland the very serious possibility of joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization[ix]. Neutrality for both nations is no longer feasible and given the fact that the balance of power is firmly with Russia, to remain so would just decrease the possibility of both nations’ ability to defend themselves effectively. And now that there is a certainty of the future behaviour of Russia, political considerations should be discarded in favour of gaining a (collective) defence of Sweden and Finland. But Sweden especially must prove to NATO that it will be an important member as Norway has been, thus the aforementioned leading role and increasing of its armed forces in both quality and quantity are a must[x]. The Russian threat is a harsh but true reality that Sweden and other nations must face, especially when Russia simply mocks through a video the Swedish Military power and suggest by a “joke” that Sweden should join Russia instead of NATO[xi]. Such attitude and certain Russian activities are fostering great concern in Sweden[xii].

Following this, should Sweden then abandon the Nordic Defence Cooperation and other regional alliances schemes (like the ones it has with some Baltic nations)? The answer in such a case is certainly no.

Firstly, some NATO countries are also Arctic Nations and Scandinavian Nations. This means that the Nordic Defence Cooperation, instead of being discarded, could actually be integrated as a military region within the NATO operational and political structures. This would provide NATO with the advantage of covering the entire Scandinavian theatre of operations thus having a Nordic wing, making it much easier for the Alliance to deter Russia and to also have a more firm grounding in the Arctic region and have an integrated Artic/Scandinavian Command. In addition to this, the Alliance would also have full coverage from the Arctic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea, covering completely the Russian and Belarussian borders.

Secondly, the Baltic Nations are also NATO nations and if Sweden and Finland decide to join NATO, things would be much easier when it comes to securing the corners of the Stategic Triangle and for the latter to guarantee its own integrity and avoid the nasty situations the country saw in 1809 and in the Winter of 1939 – 40[xiii].

Thirdly, such integration can help both NATO and the EU guarantee their own defence (their own continental defence) against the Russian threat, and might even provide the EU with enough teeth to secure its interest at the Arctic and also to deter Russia.

And last but not least, the preservation of the frameworks provided by the Nordic Defence Cooperation can help not only Sweden but all of Scandinavia to boost their own economies by enhancing the defence sectors and even allowing them to create a Porter’s cluster economy model that can include indirect sectors and activities to defence, an important aspect to bear in mind given the stormy conditions of the European economy as a whole. Such a cluster can also act in benefit of NATO by simply having a selected and ample branch of hardware and technology, not to mention the potential collaboration between Sweden and the European members of the alliance[xiv].

In conclusion, the three corners of the Triangle are to be protected and secured by Sweden through enhanced alliances with both Scandinavian and Baltic countries, as well as a full overhauling and expansion of the Armed Forces (plus the introduction of more and new assets capable to deter and defeat the Russian threat) and by joining – with Finland – NATO. The integration of the Nordic Defence Cooperation is a good possibility to do so and can help both NATO and Sweden in meeting their strategic interest in Scandinavia, the High North/Arctic and its vicinities. Cooperation could also go beyond Scandinavia and the Baltics and include Poland, a nation that will be a strategically important in deterring Russia and to address any tension that the later wants to exert following a conflict at the Arctic, and against the West in general. Also, a cooperation of that kind can strengthen the local economies via the defence sector, where the gains can include the development of assets needed to patrol the skies over the Baltics, Finland, the Arctic Ocean and Lapland, as well as the waters at the Baltic Sea, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Svalbard and the Arctic Ocean against any intruding Russian naval and aerial assets. But it is clear that Sweden must increase and strengthen its armed forces to secure its strategic interests and secure its High North/Arctic interests as well, not to mention to avoid the Ragnarök by one of the mentioned three corners of the Triangle, which are clearly interconnected.

Only through a military build-up at the same scale of the Cold War plus a joining of NATO can help Sweden to secure other priorities and objectives that are non-military related in the High North/Arctic, not to mention the integrity of the country itself. This, of course needs overall a change of mentality where reliance on an obsolete neutrality policy and a wishful approach based on cooperation and institutions are to be changed by a more assertive and realist approach within an area that is going to be a very important source of international tensions and competition.

The Russians are coming. The Ragnarök is waiting. Sweden must be prepared.



[i] See: Whitnall, A (2014). Vladimir Putin ‘wants to regain Finland’ for Russia, adviser says. Retrieved from: on 17.05.2014.

[ii] Even if the core interest is the securing of the Gulf of Finland in order to support the interests that Russia has at the Baltics, to do so the whole country (Finland) might be involved, if not threatened and attacked. In the worst of the situations, a double sided move by Russian troops against the Baltic States would put the control of the southern areas of Finland as a priority, and involving also a sea and air control over the area.

[iii] Just remember also the Göteborg Islands factor as both a source of conflict and a strategic asset that Sweden must protect if it want to neutralize the advantages that Russia would obtain by seizing the place a la Crimea.

[iv] And the consequences of such wishful thinking are being reflected by the fact that Sweden can fight ‘only for one week’. See: The Local (2013). Report confirms ‘one – week defence’ analysis. Retrieved from: on 20.05.2014.

[v] See: Cenciotti, D (2014). A SAS Boeing 737 had to change its course at the last moment so as not to collide with a Russian Il-20 off Malmö, Sweden. Retrieved from: on 09.05.2014.

[vi] See: AGENCE FRANCE – PRESSE (2014). Sweden to Arm Fighter Jets With Cruise Missile ‘Deterrent’. Retrieved from: on 24.04.2014.

[vii] See: Turnbul, G (2014). Sink or swim: Sweden’s new A-26 next-gen submarine in doubt. Retrieved from: on 17.05.2014.

[viii] As a matter of fact, the effectiveness of Poland as a watch of the East depends not only on a strengthened Sweden but also on a more decided and proactive Germany. Its attitude might make the difference between a Europe able to guarantee its own integrity before Russia or Europe being unable to deter and neutralize any threat made by Putin.

[ix] Finland has been making some moves in that sense, by signing off a NATO assistance deal and partnerships with NATO (and Sweden). See: Finland to sign off on NATO assistance deal. Retrieved from: on 23.04.2014. And: O’Dwyer, G (2014). Finland Builds Multiple Defense Partnerships With NATO, Sweden. Retrieved from: on 10.05.2014.

[x] Even the dilemma of quantity versus quality can be solved by reaching an optimum equilibrium where hi-tech and professional forces can see an increase that can provide a good complement to the quality.

[xi] See: The Local (2013). Russia mocks Sweden’s lack of military might. Retrieved from: on 05.04.2014. The link of the video where Russia mocks (and threatens) Sweden is available here:

[xii] See: The Local (2014). ‘Russian plans for war on Sweden’ cause concern. Retrieved from: on 10.04.2014

[xiii] And also for the Baltic States in the sense that along with the current NATO members, it can receive the reinforcement of the Kingdom of the North.

[xiv] Czech Republic and Hungary, for example, have within their ranks the JAS 39 multirole jet fighters. This cluster model can even place the Swedish and other Nordic Defence industries in a very competitive stance regarding other military – industrial complexes.



Cenciotti, D (2014). A SAS Boeing 737 had to change its course at the last moment so as not to collide with a Russian Il-20 off Malmö, Sweden. Retrieved from: on 09.05.2014.

Defensenews (2014). Sweden to Arm Fighter Jets With Cruise Missile ‘Deterrent’. Retrieved from: on 24.04.2014.

O’Dwyer, G (2014). Finland Builds Multiple Defense Partnerships With NATO, Sweden. Retrieved from: on 10.05.2014.

Puheloinen, A (1999). Russia’s Geopolitical Interests in the Baltic Area (Ruhala, K; Ed.). Finnish Defence Studies, (12). National Defence College: Helsinki, Finland.

The Local (2013). Report confirms ‘one – week defence’ analysis. Retrieved from: on 20.05.2014.

The Local (2013). Russia mocks Sweden’s lack of military might. Retrieved from: on 05.04.2014.

The Local (2014). ‘Russian plans for war on Sweden’ cause concern. Retrieved from: on 10.04.2014.

Turnbul, G (2014). Sink or swim: Sweden’s new A -26 next – gen submarine in doubt. Retrieved from: on 17.05.2014.

Whitnall, A (2014). Vladimir Putin ‘wants to regain Finland’ for Russia, adviser says. Retrieved from: on 17.05.2014.

Yla (2014). Finland to sign off on NATO assistance deal. Retrieved from: on 23.04.2014.


Image 'Aircraft_Fighter_Jet_Saab_JAS-39_Gripen_1'. Released under Creative Commons 2.0 (CC BY-SA 2.0) License.

Image ‘Aircraft_Fighter_Jet_Saab_JAS-39_Gripen_1‘ by mashleymorgan. Released under Creative Commons 2.0 (CC BY-SA 2.0) License.


* This article and the image were originally published in globalpublicpolicywatch


The Viking Saga V: The Northern Realm of the Pines and the Ragnarök. (Continuation)

Dominium Maris Baltici

There is a lot of history between Sweden, the Baltic States and Russia. Since the early modern times of Europe, both Sweden and Russia have clashed over control of the Baltic region and sea. Even if the Arctic becomes the new “Baltic” or a new source of clashes between the old rivals, the Baltics States and the Baltic Sea would once again become a scenario for further and renewed confrontations. Given recent Russian attitudes, it is conceivable that the region could be another scene of major tensions with Russia over the Arctic.

In the past, Sweden’s desire to control Russian trade and the ensuing Livonian War, during which the first major clashes with Russia took place, resulted in it gaining control of Estonia and Latvia. As a result, for many years Estonia was the cradle of the Swedish Empire and turned the capital issue of every Swedish policy onwards [i]. The Baltic possessions were then lost to Russia after the Great Northern War (1700—1721), a war in which the Russian Czar founded St. Petersburg as a forward post to halt Sweden and to control the ever-contended Baltics (STRATFOR, 2009).

However, the fact that the Swedish dominance over the area ended long ago does not mean that the Baltic States are no longer an issue for the Swedish defence. In fact, Sweden considers the so-called peaceful times after the Cold War as being anything but granted, and that the use of force is very likely to be needed in future. Russia is the main state indicated in this regard, especially after the attitudes it is taking with the resuming of aerial patrols with nuclear bombers over the High North/Baltic area, cyber-attacks and protest after the removal of a monument in Estonia and the War in Georgia of 2008 (Gotkowska, 2013). Moreover and as Gotkowska (2013) remarks, other sources of unease are those related to the increase of energy resource transport in the Baltic and the presence of significant Russian minorities in Estonia and Latvia. Also, the sole presence of resources at the High North along with fishing and maritime transportation, in addition to Russian ambitions, modernization and willingness to use its armed forces are a factor in the Swedish perceptions regarding both regions.

The presence of the Russian minorities can be a source for instability in the aforementioned countries just as it happened in Ukraine in Crimea and now in the Donetsk region. As Neretnieks (2011) remarks, Sweden will, beyond any doubt, be heavily affected by any conflict in the area and the factor of the Russian minorities is regarded as one possible cause for high tensions in the area. This could have the effect of, at the very least, dragging Sweden into participating in NATO naval exercises to deter any Russian action. This scenario is becoming more and more likely day by day now that Russia is promoting unrest in its neighbouring nations to justify either interventions or territorial annexations. Once again, Ukraine and Georgia are the examples of a similar situation.

A second possible cause for tensions is a direct Russian threat of invasion of the Baltic States via a military build-up in response to Stockholm allowing its bases to be used by NATO aerial assets and NATO inviting Sweden to participate in a deployment of its forces as a deterrent in the area.

A third possible cause is a war unleashed by Russia against the Baltic States and the NATO north-east Area with Sweden collaborating in the defence of the countries and with the probability of its airspace being used for NATO operations (Neretnieks, 2011). As Neretnieks (2011) points out, it seems that even in the worst case scenario, the Swedish aim is not to wage a confrontation with Russia on Swedish territory but in a nearby territory, with the aim of preventing Russia reaching its mainland. A quote from King Gustavus Adolphus during the Thirty Years’ War, cited by Neretnieks (2011), definitely sums up this strategic stance: “…the enemy should be prevented from gaining a foothold on the Baltic coast and that the war should be waged on foreign soil.”

Any of these scenarios are not only a matter of national defence for Sweden however; as STRATFOR(2009) points out, Sweden and the Baltic States also have strong economic ties. For example, Estonia alone receives three quarters of its total external investment from Sweden and Finland (Aruja, 2014), or about 3.65 billion Euros by 2011, as well as 12.49% in Latvia and 11.1% – 60 million Euros – in Lithuania by 2011 (Zeljković, 2012). There is a new sort of Dominium Maris Baltici (Baltic Sea dominion) that could be jeopardised by any hostile Russian action, even if tensions take place in a “far” place such as the Arctic[ii]. And the Baltic States are vulnerable to any clash between Russia, the West and Sweden. As such, so are the Swedish interests in the area which would be very vulnerable in the case of a crisis in the High North.

The Land of Ice and Snow

But its not just the Baltic region that is cause for concern for Sweden when it comes to its competition with Russia. Finland, for instance, also plays a role in both scenarios and is an important element for Sweden’s defence policies and interests.

There is a long history between Sweden, Finland and Russia, with Sweden having controlled Finland for 6 centuries until 1808 when it was lost to Russia in the Finnish War. During that war, Sweden saw the peril of falling under Russian rule as the Russian troops advanced towards Stockholm through Swedish territory, using Finnish territory as a base to launch its attacks. Despite losing control over Finland, Sweden did manage to stop that Russian invasion but since then it has used Finland as a strategic buffer to avoid a similar situation – even aiming to prevent Finland from ever being used as a base for a similar attack – by using the Northern Area of Scandinavia as a possible scenario to do so (STRATFOR, 2009).

Sweden, despite its neutrality, played a significant role in the independence of Finland and the following Civil War (a Soviet attempt to retain control over Finland through a local communist army and party) and during the Winter War. In the first case, Swedish volunteers formed a Brigade that fought alongside the Whites in the Battle of Tampere, contributing to their victory over the Russians and their local supporters[iii]. In the second case, Sweden provided Finland with 8000 troops, supplies and weaponry (from light infantry weapons to field artillery, anti-aircraft and anti-armour artillery. Even 17 fighters, 5 light bombers, a transport aircraft and 3 reconnaissance aircraft were given as an aid[iv]. The reasons behind these moves were much the same as those today, as Sprague (2010) points out: firstly, to keep Finland as a buffer zone against any Soviet aggression and secondly because of the brotherhood between Sweden and Finland. Interestingly, the aid was planned several months prior to the aggression and the very same day Soviet troops invaded Finland, recruitment centres were opened in Sweden.

The Northern Warriors and the High North Defence: NATO and NORDEFCO

It is often thought that the Partnership for Peace and the collaboration between NATO and Sweden is something recent but during the Cold War, and despite its neutrality policy, Sweden actively sought NATO and Western assurance that they would assist in the event of a war breaking out in Europe to avoid Soviet occupation (Gotkowska, 2013). This means then that Sweden’s approach to NATO is not something new, today the changing circumstances have simply allowed the country to openly approach NATO.

This relationship can be of absolute benefit for Sweden in the case of an Arctic-Finland-Baltic crisis, as Sweden can now have access to NATO capacities and support in the worst of the cases. As Gotkowska (2013) points out, Sweden prefers NATO since it offers advanced command structures and capabilities to execute military operations during a crisis. And those definitely benefit Sweden to manage its defence and to address any crisis in what I would call the “High North Sweden’s Strategic Triangle” (and issues): The Arctic, Finland, and the Baltics and facing Russia as the main threat[v].

The declaration of solidarity in 2009, in which Sweden expressly declared its willingness to provide assistance to any EU or Nordic nation simply made the ties with NATO stronger, and was a move that comes after the realization of the absolute involvement of Sweden in one way or another in the case of a crisis (Gotkowska, 2013). And since Russia views the West in a negative way and as an entity to be confronted, a hypothetical situation with the Arctic as the starting point and subsequently sparking tensions in the other areas is not unlikely and would mean Sweden would be forced to take an active role to protect itself and its interests.

Given the recent developments in Ukraine and the Eastern-Baltic areas of Europe, NATO has increased its strategic value for Sweden for the sake of its defence and of the Strategic Triangle. And of course it has sparked a strong debate in the country. NATO is now perceived as a must as a result of years of defence cuts, reforms and the shifting of strategic aims from National Defence to peacekeeping operations. This situation makes the country even more dependent on foreign assistance than during the Cold War and a full membership to NATO can secure such assistance during a crisis. This comes after a crude realization that Sweden cannot defend itself alone, and some current policies and mechanisms are not effective either (Salonius – Pasternak, 2013). As Ford (2014) remarks, Crimea is pushing Sweden to consider a full NATO membership as the most practical option to face Russia, as a similar situation to that of Crimea could take place with the island of Götland, a key strategic position that could provide Russia with a strategic control in the whole Baltic area [vi]. That, combined with a nearby Russian pipeline, could give Russia all the more reasons to move in. Indeed, Putin declared his intentions on defending such economic assets to the extent that Russian bombers and fighters intruded upon Swedish airspace to simulate an attack on Götland[vii].

In any case, Sweden has participated in NATO-led operations since 2009 and in the Partnership for Peace Programme within the Nordic Region and even outside Europe, such as the operations in the Horn of Africa and Libya.

The European Union came to the table as well and through the Nordic Battle Group, comprising the nations of Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Denmark and Iceland, Sweden expects to enhance cooperation with the Nordic Nations’ armed forces (Swedish Armed Forces, 2009). But Sweden has another mechanism, well related to the Nordic Battle Group: The Nordic Defence Cooperation, comprised of Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland. This mechanism seeks to enhance the members’ defence via cooperation and by defining the strategic needs, setting up inter-operational capacities, effects and quality, and by technological cooperation and any other forms of assistance and military integration. This general objective may also enhance the national defence capacities of the members as well as to allow them to reach an efficient production of defence assets and to enhance contributions to other operations led by UN, NATO, and the EU (NORDEFCO, 2013).

This mechanism in particular can be of extreme importance and benefits for Sweden and the other Nordic Nations not only for the sake of their own defence strategic needs and the defence of Scandinavia as a whole, but also because all of the aforementioned nations are members of the Arctic Council, having in turn their own strategic needs and policies regarding the area. All of them are facing the same military-strategic threat posed by Russia in the Arctic and will be affected in the same way if tensions between the West or between one of the Nordic-Arctic Nations and Russia, erupts.

What can Sweden do at last to face a Ragnarök unleashed by Russia? How can Sweden secure its Arctic/High North area while at the same time being prepared to secure its other strategic areas following a Russian will to drive possible Arctic tensions into those areas? In short, how can Sweden avoid and/or even manage a perilous situation taking place at its Northern Corner of the Strategic Triangle and how will that affect the Baltic and Finnish corners? The elements, problems, advantages and weaknesses have been pointed out, but these questions will be answered as a sort of recommendations and conclusions on Sweden and its High North in the light of all the previously mentioned elements in the next article.



[i] This is also known as the “Dominium Maris Baltici” policy, or in other words, the Swedish aim to gain control of the Baltic Sea to further its geopolitical and economic interests. See: Roberts, (1984) pp. 16 – 17.

[ii] STRATFOR (2009) accounts that the current prosperity of the region is pushing Sweden to lead and take advantage of it.

[iii]See: Juhani & et al (n.a.). Swedish Brigade. War of Independence. Retrieved from: on 20.04.2014. And: Sparks, B (2014). The Warfare Historian. Finland’s Civil War 1918: Red & White Suomi and the Kinship Wars, 1918-1922. Retrieved from: on 20.04.2014. It worth to note that even Estonian and Swedish volunteers, along with Finnish troops, fought in the Estonian War of Independence.

[iv] See: Rare Historical Photos (n.a). A Swedish Volunteer in the Winter War, Finland, 1940. Retrieved from: on 20.04.2014.

[v] The reader must keep in mind that the three corners of the triangle are highly interconnected with each other and that any crisis in one could and would have effects on the other two, affecting its core: Sweden’s main territory.

[vi] The value of the pipeline is of $ 11 billion and transport 55 billion cubic meters of gas to Western Europe, according to Ford (2014).

[vii] See: Ford, M (2014). After Crimea, Sweden Flirts with Joining NATO. The Atlantic. Retrieved from: on 02.02.2014.



Aruja, E (2014). Estonia. Economy. In: Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved from: on 14.04.2014

Ford, M (2014). After Crimea, Sweden Flirts with Joining NATO. The Atlantic. Retrieved from: on 02.02.2014

Gotkowska, J (2013). Sitting on the Fence. Swedish Defence Policy and the Baltics Sea Region. In: Point of View. 33. Centre for Eastern Studies. Warsaw, Poland.

Juhani & et al (n.a.). Swedish Brigade. War of Independence. Retrieved from: on 20.04.2014

Neretnieks, K (2011). Sweden and Stability in the Baltic Sea Region. In: Nordic – Baltic Security in the 21st Century: The Regional Agenda and the Global Role (Nurik, R., & Nordenman, M. Eds.). pp 12 – 15. Atlantic Council, Washington, US.

NORDEFCO (2013). Annual Report 2013.

_________ (2014). The Basics about NORDEFCO. Retrieved from: on 20.04.2014

Rare Historical Photos (n.a). A Swedish Volunteer in the Winter War, Finland, 1940. Retrieved from: on 20.04.2014.

Roberts, M (1984). The Making of the Empire. The Swedish Imperial Experience 1560 – 1718. (pp. 1 – 42). Cambridge University Press, United Kingdom.

Salonius – Pasternak, C (2013). Swedish defence illusions are crumbling. In: FIIA Comment, 6. The Finnish Institute of International Affairs, Helsinki, Finland.

Sparks, B (2014). The Warfare Historian. Finland’s Civil War 1918: Red & White Suomi and the Kinship Wars, 1918-1922. Retrieved from: on 20.04.2014

Sprague, M (2010). Introduction. Swedish Volunteers in the Russo-Finnish Winter War, 1939-1940. (pp. 1 – 6) McFarland, North Carolina, US.

STRATFOR (2009). The Geopolitics of Sweden: A Baltic Power Reborn. STRATFOR, Austin, Texas. US.

Swedish Armed Forces (2009). The Pocket Guide to the Swedish Armed Forces 2009. Public Relations Office. Stockholm, Sweden.

Zeljković, N (2012). Scandinavian investments in the Baltic States and Nordic-Baltic cooperation. Norden Centrum, Nordic Monitor. Retrieved from: on 14.04.2014




Image 'Viggen_08b' by Released under Creative Commons 2.0  (CC BY-NC 2.0) License

Image ‘Viggen_08b‘ by Released under Creative Commons 2.0 (CC BY-NC 2.0) License


* This article and the image were originally published in globalpublicpolicywatch


The Viking Saga V: The Northern Realm of the Pines and the Ragnarök. (Continued)

The Warriors’ Sagas

February 27, 2013. As the world follows the crisis in Ukraine after the protests fuelled by the desire of many Ukrainian people to have closer ties with the EU, armed men, said to be pro-Russian, seize the Parliament of Crimea. The next day, more armed men – suspected Russian Special Forces – seize two important airports in the Crimean peninsula while the former pro-Russian president of Ukraine, Viktor Yakunovich, reappears in Russia after fleeing the country. Events escalate further when on the 1stof March the Russian president Vladimir Putin asks his parliament for an authorization to send troops into Ukraine. At the same time, Ukraine asks for NATO’s help.

Crimea is still under occupation and dangerous tensions continue to build. But what does this terrible scenario have to do with Sweden and the Arctic?

Russia and Sweden have clashed before in the past both in the Baltic and Finland in wars started by both sides, and it is easily conceivable that the Arctic could simply become just another new theatre for those clashes of interest to take place[ii].

The Crimean crisis evidences Russia’s dismissal of cooperation in favour of the fulfilment of its own interests and Ukraine is perhaps the first step down a path that Russia might take from now on. Many of the Arctic nations (except Norway) rely highly on cooperation, dialogue and on Russia’s good behaviour in Arctic Institutions and its abiding by the rule of International Law[i]. But Russia has now shown that if it wants, it will use its armed forces (which are currently being modernized and expanded) and willingly break international law [iii].

None of this is good news for Sweden, especially considering that its current state of defence is not prepared to handle such a complicated situation. This was seen when on two separate occasions in 2013, Russian TU – 22 bombers, SU – 27 fighters and an ELINT IL-20 violated Swedish air space and the Swedish Air Force either reacted at a very slow pace or failed to scramble fighters to intercept altogether [iv]. This is a consequence of the downsizing and reforms made by Sweden and other European Nations immediately after the Cold War when there was the idea that Russia was a lesser threat. But, as Howorth (2007) remarks, such shifting was necessary because of the challenges that were taking place in the Balkans and other parts of the world at the time. Military reform was needed in order to transition from the national defence mentality of the Cold War to the development for overseas deployments capacities to accomplish other non-traditional missions such as peacekeeping and humanitarian interventions.

Sweden’s defence policies from the 20th century to the present

Sweden has had a policy of neutrality since 1810, staying out of both the First and Second World Wars, that aimed to isolate the country from Europe. However, the policy has bias towards the West which as a result defines the country’s relations with Russia in regards to the aforementioned conflicts and the Cold War (Lundquist, 2013). In short, although Sweden is neutral, it has always been closer to the West rather than fully isolated.

It was during the Cold War that tensions between Russia and Sweden took a turn for the worse, since Russia perceived Sweden not as a neutral but as a “western nation”, and therefore a hostile one. Interestingly, even before this situation, Sweden had strengthened its armed forces to give credibility to its neutrality and even considered the possession of nuclear weapons (Lundquist, 2013)[v].

Tensions between the two nations reached their peak on a number of occasions, most notably when the Soviet Union shot down an intelligence and a search and rescue airplane inside Swedish territory (near Gotland) in 1952. There were also frequent Soviet submarine intrusions in the 80’s and 90’s, the most remarkable incident being when a Soviet submarine became stranded outside the Swedish naval base in Karlskrona in 1982 (Lundquist, 2013).

The end of the Cold War meant for Sweden stronger cooperation with NATO and the EU, as it embraced the idea of interdependence and of a peaceful and stable Europe. Sweden, as a result, began to implement reforms in their security sectors transforming its defence forces into ones that would deal with fighting wars abroad, peacekeeping and domestic policing. Also, the idea of an independent EU being able to have a strong military collaboration was on the table at this time (Lundquist, 2013).

The elimination of conscription and the modernization of military hardware were the most prominent steps taken after the Cold War, the first boosted by the performance and outcome of the First Gulf War in 1991 (professional vs. conscript-based army) and the need for a transformation of the forces to execute peacekeeping operations by 1993[vi]. The second led Sweden to decrease its emphasis on quantity, opting instead for quality thus acquiring Leopard 2 (Stvr 122) battle tanks and JAS 39 Gripen multi-role fighters (Lundquist, 2013).

In NATO, Sweden had an active participation in many of the missions carried out by the Alliance since 1994 and under the Partnership for Peace Program, where Sweden saw an opportunity to seek guidance and information for its forces’ adaptation and interoperability with NATO operation (Lundquist, 2013). However, a full NATO membership was ruled out for the sake of neutrality but enhanced cooperation with NATO and Swedish membership in the Partnership for Peace Planning and Review Process has allowed the country to focus and gain security of Europe and the Baltic through cooperation.

This approach to NATO is most likely part of the reason for Russia’s distrust of Sweden. This coupled with the fact that Sweden has active interests in the Arctic means that it could be perceived once again as part of a hostile West by Russia, potentially marking it as a target where Russia can, in the best of cases, exert military pressure and in the worst of the cases, unleash a war[vii].

The Sweden-EU membership had a long debate on neutrality, given the country’s long tradition and the lack of will for any involvement in a conflict. The solution consisted of readapting the policy into a one where Sweden as a state would defend itself keeping the action within its territory. Later on, both Sweden and Finland both managed to shift the focus on common defence to a new one on crisis management and peacekeeping operations with a special chapter of cooperation in non-military areas (Lundquist, 2013).

The War on Terror with its Afghanistan chapter and the financial crisis of 2008 also affected Sweden and its defence capacities.

Europe, along with Sweden, realized that to combat terrorism other tools that were a combination of military and civilian were needed, while the objectives to defeat terrorism consisted mainly of fighting terrorism itself, the decrease of WMD proliferation, and addressing regional conflicts and organized crime. This resulted in the inclusion of the nation without a formal membership to either NATO or the EU (Lundquist, 2013).

The financial crisis of 2008 forced Sweden to decrease its defence budget while facing the same dilemma as Europe of gaining better self-defence capabilities with a US that is also shrinking its military expenditures and shifting its strategic interests (namely towards Asia and the Pacific) (Lundquist, 2013).

In the meantime the Battle Group was launched with the intention of establishing rapid reaction forces with assets in the three military domains (Air, Sea and Land) and with the task of executing humanitarian aid, peace enforcement, crisis management and post-conflict stabilisation operations. But such initiatives never went beyond the blueprints (Lundquist, 2013). Thus the Swedish security concept was based on conflict prevention either in the vicinities or in another part of the world.

A strategy of Solidarity was adopted by the end of the first decade of the 21st century, where Sweden would collaborate on any UN, NATO and EU peace support operations, while at the same time launching the Nordic Defence Cooperation (NORDEFCO) with the aim of setting a common defence framework to facilitate mutual defence, including operational cooperation and development and acquisition of material between the Nordic/Scandinavian nations (Lundquist, 2013). NORDEFCO is regarded as an important instance for cooperating in training, exercises and to manage resources, as well as in operations executed in international operations. Cooperation has so far been achieved with Finland, Norway and Latvia.

In 2009, Sweden issued its latest security and defence policy with the general objectives of safeguarding the population, the functioning of society and the protection of the Swedish ability to maintain values such as democracy, rule of law, human rights and freedom. Protection of sovereignty, rights and national interests, preventing and managing conflict and war, and protection of society and its functionality by aid to civilian authorities were also included. (Lundquist, 2013).

Interestingly, the Swedish Home Guard is considered as an important element for national defence, with national established forces permanent units on standby for fast availability and issued with modern hardware, equipment and improved training. Contracted personnel are also an organic part of the Home Guard and although based in the Swedish regions, they have a new concept of mobility that will allow them to support the tasks of the regular Armed Forces whenever and wherever needed[viii]. This is achieved by having a mix of contracted and voluntary units, as well as the Army, organized into battle groups with a “manoeuvre battalion” acting as a core of the group comprised of sections of different units. [ix].

The Air Force, in turn, is intended to develop capacities for multinational operations across Scandinavia & the northern countries, and even outside, and also to be able to execute operations within low-scale and high-intensity conflicts. The multi role SAAB JAS 39 C/D Gripen will be the core of Sweden’s air defence, while the helicopter battalion will have new models introduced[x].

Not to be left out, the Navy is to be operating in the Arctic region, with the amphibious battalion transformed into one manoeuvre battalion with amphibious capacities whose focus are the off-shore sea combat and port areas. Cooperation with other nations in the region is also contemplated.

The Defence Policy of 2008/2009 reflects the Swedish efforts to transform its army, but the most remarkable is that all of the forces has now voluntary personnel, or to say more accurately, professional personnel with compulsory service only for the worst of the cases. In addition, the Ministry of Defence (2013) points out the role of the Ministry (and thus the Armed Forces) in coordinating and executing in the prevention and response to accidents, disasters, crises and even war. Disaster relief is also included along with search and rescue and reconstruction. Even humanitarian assistance is mentioned.

However, despite all this, Sweden still seems not to be ready at all to protect itself and the neighbouring states in the Baltic and Scandinavia, and it would be even less prepared if the Arctic turned into a geopolitical hot-spot. A situation that due to the events in Ukraine has become so much more believable and one that might also include Finland and the Baltic nations. The next part will focus then on whether Sweden is really prepared or not, why Finland and the Baltics might feel the weight of tensions between Sweden (and other Western Arctic Nations) and Russia, as well as the NATO and NORDEFCO implications for Swedish defence.



[i] This point in particular will be further elaborated later on.

[ii] Of course, Denmark and Canada are those that are also investing in a significant military presence in the area, although they do not have the same extent and power as the Norwegian one.

[iii] The reader must bear in mind the author’s previous review on Russia illustrating its military build up.

[iv] See: Retrieved on 01.02.2014

[v] Neutrality, however, did not prevent the Swedish participation in the Korean War.

[vi] However this was fully implemented by 2010.

[vii] This probably by attacking Swedish territory from the sea or by advancing across the Baltic States and Finland to drive Sweden to battle.

[viii] For what concerns only the Artic/High North areas, by 2012 The Home Guard has 8 battalions stationed in the mid and upper areas of Sweden, all of them with air, reconnaissance, amphibious and even Chemical, Biologic, Radiologic and Nuclear defence as well as Arctic capacities. See: Åkested (2011), Hemvärnsförbaden 2012, pp. 14 – 15.

[ix] On the sole Arctic aspect, the army has the Norrbotten Regiment, with two mechanized (STVR 122 battletanks and CV90 Combat Vehicles included) and a ranger battalion tasked with developing the Ranger’s capacities and the overall Swedish Armed Forces’ winter warfare capacities. Also, there is the Arméns jägarbataljon which is a light elite infantry battalion and part of the Norrbotten Regiment, the Artillery Regiment with the tasks of Close Air Support, development of indirect fire support assets and the new Archer artillery system. See:

[x] The Norrbotten Air Wing is the aerial element for an Arctic scenario with the SAAB JAS 39 C/D as main assets, and a helicopter squadron based in the location as the Norrbotten Air Wing. See:



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