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Nordic Nations Create Partnerships

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

STOCKHOLM, Sweden, Oct. 3, 1996 – At first, Finnish and Swedish officials did not want to join NATO's Partnership for Peace. The nations had always relied on their own defense forces for security.

But they discovered they had something to give, rather than get, from the new organization. Central and Eastern European nations emerging from behind the Cold War's Iron Curtain needed their knowledge and experience. They needed help building national defense forces.

Since joining the partnership, Finland and Sweden have become powerful, effective charter members, according to U.S. Defense Secretary William J. Perry. They've become primary contributors, producing positive and instructive results, he said.

Perry recently visited Finland, Sweden and Denmark on his way to NATO meetings in Bergen, Norway. He recalled an earlier visit to the Nordic nations in 1993 when Partnership for Peace was just being born.

Norway and Denmark, as NATO members, automatically became partnership members, Perry said. Finland and Sweden were reluctant at first.

"In this new era after the end of the Cold War, we had to develop a new way of providing security and stability for Europe," Perry said. "The old order had died, and a new one had not yet been born. The old way, which was a standoff between NATO and the Warsaw Pact, was no longer relevant. Partnership for Peace was the first really solid move in that direction."

Finland and Sweden have helped build a new security arrangement in Europe, Perry said. They reached out to the Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, to Poland and the rest of Europe. Finland's military trains Estonian officers and NCOs. Nordic troops from Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway train the Baltic Battalion, a peacekeeping force in Latvia. Nordic troops serve with U.S. forces in Macedonia and as part of the implementation force in Bosnia.

Denmark hosted the Conference on the Future of Baltic Sea Region Defense Cooperation Sept. 23 in Copenhagen. Its aim was to foster cooperation across the old NATOWarsaw Pact lines, Perry said.

"The best experience we've had doing that so far has been when a few NATO countries make special connections with a few of the newly emerging Central and European countries," he said. These relationships have been more successful than trying to form relations on a massive scale with all the partnership countries, he said.

During his visit to Helsinki, Perry met with Defense Minister Anneli Taina. Though Finland is not a NATO member, Taina said, the Baltic security situation is of vital interest to her nation.

Finland shares an 800mile border with Russia. For centuries, according to a Finnish journalist, Finns have watched Russia rise, weaken, even fall and in time, it always renews its strength. Today, Finns warily watch events evolving since the collapse of the former Soviet Union, the journalist said.

In a national emergency, the nation of about 5 million can call up a 500,000strong military force of active duty, reserves and border guards, a Finnish defense ministry spokesman said.

The two defense leaders also discussed NATO enlargement. Taina said some people fear NATO enlargement will create a new dividing line in Europe with NATO on one side and Russia on the other. She said it is important Russia's opinion be considered when accepting new members into the alliance.

Avoiding an adverse Russian reaction to NATO enlargement will require convincing Russian officials NATO is not a threat, Perry said. The alliance is trying to create an encompassing circle for European security, not a new dividing line, he said. "We want Russia participating inside the circle, not outside it."

Perry recommends NATO and Russia expand relations, creating a new charter to include setting up offices on each other's turf and having meaningful, indepth discussions on the future of nuclear weapons in Europe. Perry said the Nordic nations will be able to help bring Russia into Europe's security structure.

NATO will probably accept new members sometime next year, according to Perry. Membership criteria include having a strong, established democracy and a functioning market economy, civilian control of the military and military forces compatible with NATO.

"There are many nations applying for membership, and it is unlikely they can all be accepted or are ready to be accepted," Perry said. "It is quite clear that some of them cannot meet the criteria yet, but that does not mean that they might not be able to in two or three years."

NATO may need to create an expanded, "Super Partnership for Peace" so they can stay within the European security circle while working on becoming members, Perry said. Peacekeeping exercises could expand so member candidates could participate in combined joint task forces. IFOR serves as the ideal model, Perry said.

"It does not remain to define how to do it," he said. "It only remains to build on the model which has already been created and to institutionalize that. That's what the Super Partnership for Peace would have as its goal."

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