Military intervention of Russia to the Crimean Peninsula in February-March 2014, further illegal annexation of the Crimea and Sevastopol, and military intervention of Russia to the unsolved conflict in the East of Ukraine resulted in considerable deterioration of Russia’s relations with the West, and created a new security situation in Europe. Putin’s efforts to challenge the established post-Cold War European security order and change internationally recognized borders by means of military force and non-conventional means led to uncertainty that comes far beyond the post-soviet territory. After Russian intervention to the Crimea, NATO had to review a lot of aspects of its relations with Russia. The Alliance has also initiated a range of measures related to strengthening military security of its eastern countries-members, namely, the Baltic States, Poland and Romania. Further to the North, the most northern member of NATO – Norway – observes with the increased vigilance the events development in Russia. The same related to non-aligned Sweden and Finland that tried to adapt to the development and the growing complexity of the security environment in the northern Europe.
Figure 1: European Arctic (map prepared by the author).
Traditionally, Russia has been and probably will be a key factor in Norway security policy and defense planning. At the northern end of the European continent as well as in the Barents Sea and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, Norway and Russia are doomed, due to geographical, historical and other circumstances, to be neighbors and cooperate on daily basis. This was not always easy. During the Cold War only two states-members of NATO had land border with the Soviet Union: Norway (since 1949) and Turkey (since 1952). Kola Peninsula situated close to the Norwegian-Soviet border at that period was the main site for deployment of the Soviet Navy, including the nuclear ballistic missiles and torpedo submarines. The presence of these forces strengthened feeling of strategic importance of the region, both in the East and West. Thus, the confrontation of superpowers led Norway and Soviet Union to local ‘field of tension’, that in fact was not much higher than the global one.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, when eastern borders of Turkey became the borders with three independent Caucasian republics, once again Norway became the only NATO state having common land border with its big eastern neighbor. But the country got a company in 1999, when Poland having common land border of 232 kilometers with Kaliningrad joined the Alliance together with Hungary and Czech Republic. In 2004, Norway and Poland were joined by Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania having common borders with the Russian Federation.3 Each of these borders is comparable in terms of length with the border between Norway and Russia, while in Estonia it is even longer (294 km).
Finland that is not member of NATO has much longer border with Russia having length of 1,340 kilometers. It is more than the total length of borders between Russia and Norway, Baltic States and Poland, but it is still much shorter than the Ukrainian border with Russia constituting almost 2,000 kilometers. The Finish-Russian border begins in Pasvik valley, at the west of the Kola Peninsula, where the borders of Norway, Russia and Finland come together at one point.4 The Finish-Russian border in the south direction goes through the uninhabited taiga woods and sparsely populated rural areas along to the shore of the Gulf of Finland (Figure 1).
The traditional role of Sweden and Finland as a “buffer” of the non-aligned territories between Russia and NATO in the northern Europe was under pressure especially in the period after the Cold War end and especially after Russian intervention to Ukraine in 2014. In Finland, as well as in Sweden, the voices were heard in favor of NATO membership.5 Though, there are few signs that this might happen in the nearest future of medium-term perspective. If Sweden and/or Finland decide to join the Alliance, it will not be received well in Moscow, and will probably lead to strengthening of Russian military presence in the Republic of Karelia. On the other side, Scandinavian expansion of NATO will probably contribute to expansion and deepening the defense and security cooperation in the Northern-Baltic region and formalization of obligation of the Northern and Baltic countries in terms of collective defense.
The purpose of this paper is discussion of how and to what extent the situation in the security field on the northern flank of NATO has changed, and how it can change in the years to come, considering the conflict in Ukraine and in the light of the current deterioration of relations between Russia and the West. The article begins with brief discussion of possible “lessons” that can be learnt from the study of the Russian intervention in Ukraine and continues with analysis of similarities and differences between the situation in the security of Ukraine and the security situation in Norway, and other Northern and Baltic States. Further, in the third section, some thoughts are considered on how the changes in relations of the East and West can lead to changes in security in the northern Europe. The fourth and the last section on the document discussed possible measures that can be implemented by NATO and states-members and partners in the northern Europe to keep regional stability under the circumstances of forming a new security environment.
Five lessons from Ukraine
The use of military force by Russia against Ukraine in 2014 and obvious absence of respect to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of its southern neighbors from this country caused concern not only in such countries as Moldova, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, but also in the neighbors of the northers Europe. Russian politician and technological and military operations of Russia in the Crimea before, during and after annexation of the peninsula in March 2014, and participation of Russia in the conflict on the territory of Eastern Ukraine since April of the same year taught us several lessons. The same is applicable for behavior of Russia in five-day war with Georgia in August 2008.
The first lesson that can be learnt from these conflicts is that Putin’s Russia wants to use military force and other means of influence in situations where this can serve to the national interests of the country such as interest in creation or support of the preference “sphere of influence” beyond its borders. The growing authoritarian nature of political system in the country, and the fact that decisions concerning war and peace, as it seems, are adopted by the narrower circle of persons prove that there are several internal obstacles for such behavior that we contemplated in Georgia and Ukraine. The role of the State Duma of Russia is largely reduced to the” stamping” institution that ensures without any hesitations provision to the President of all powers that he needs to implement his policy. The absence of free and critical media, fragmentary nature of the Russian opposition and low involvement of the society in internal political processes in the country seem to aggravate this situation.
The second lesson is that military potential of Russia increased considerably, since the modernization of the Armed Forces, started in 2008. The forces deployed in the Crimea in February-March 2014 were, obviously, the Spearhead Forces of the Russian military forces (special teams, navy and airborne troops). Their equipment, qualification level and professionalism do not necessarily represent the level of Russian armed forces in general. Though, there is little doubt that the military potential of Russia have been on a rise for some time. The forces are more mobile, better trained and equipped, better financed and motivated than they were before the beginning of the program of military modernization of the country that started seven or eight years ago. It concerns both conventional forces and nuclear power.
The third lesson for Russia’s neighbors is that Russian operations concept has changed. The former Russia’s concentration on ability to fulfil operations of “old school”, i.e. kinetic ones, seems to be replaced with the new, more comprehensive concept where non-traditional and non-military means of influence play more important role. As it could be seen in the Crimea, the military land operations were accompanied by large-scale (dis)informational operations, cyber-operations, different forms of economic pressure, international diplomacy and so on, to maximize the effect of campaign in general. Russia tried to, and to considerable extent achieved success in using element of surprise in its favor, and managed to use different ways of influence both military and not, in rather agreed and coordinated style. The use by Russia of “non-linear” or “hybrid” tactics of war, as we saw it in the Crimea and in Donbas region, can potentially be repeated in other regions, if the local circumstances enable such approach. As Valeriy Herasymov, Head of the General Staff, mentioned in his article, dated 2013, about the military industrial complex, the “role of non-military means in achievements of political and strategic goals increased and in many cases they are far superior in terms of efficiency than the force of weapons.”6 The fact that leading Russian military officers and political leaders recognized this, and are ready to change accordingly the operations concept can have long-terms effects for Russia’s behavior in future international conflicts. But this does not necessarily mean that the approaches used in Ukraine will be a template for operations in the Northern and Baltic States, and districts or other parts of the NATO’s eastern flank. In case of Russian military intervention in the northern part of the NATO eastern border areas, operations are not likely to be held as ‘Crimea 2.0 or Donbass 2.0’, but more likely as operations considering the specifics of the region.7
The fourth lesson that can have a special meaning for countries having big number of poorly integrated or unsatisfied national minorities within its borders is that Russia is ready to go rather far to “protect” ethnical Russians and Russian-speaking people living beyond the Russian borders or use them as a pretext for military intervention and territorial expansion. From the point of view of international law, the recognition of Russia’s right to the military intervention, wherever and whenever, if Moscow thinks that Russians have some problems, is quite problematic. Numerous Russian claims pretending that Russians and Russian-speaking Ukrainians living in the Crimea and in the East of Ukraine suffered from systematic discrimination or harassment after the bias of President Yanukovych in February 2014 are also difficult to justify, putting it mildly. But the rhetoric of Putin “for Russians protection” is widely recognized in public in Russia and he could use it as a pretext to send the army and establish control over Crimea and Eastern Donbass, very similar to that what happened in South Ossetia and Abkhazia six years ago. Thus, the intervention in the name of Russian-speaking people in other regions cannot be excluded.
The fifth and the last lesson is that Putin is able to get political profit from use of military forces against Ukraine in 2014, as it was done in the period after war in Georgia in 2008, and it can influence his desire to use the same means in other regions. Putin’s popularity in Russia increased after his intervention in Crimea. His rating reached 88 percent and remained high during 2014 and 2015,8 reaching its peak of 89 percent at the end of June 2015.9 It seems that worsening relations between Russia and the West, as well as the involvement of west sanctions did not have negative effect to his internal ratings and popularity. Russia has had a deep thought that Putin “did a right thing”, when he occupied and annexed the Crimea, and that the President showed determination and commitment, when he “went against” the Western world and post-Maidan regime in Kyiv. In the Crimea Putin achieved his goals quickly and without any military losses, and probably that was one of the reasons why later Russia decided to intervene in the Donbas. If somewhere the similar conflicts emerge, based on the Crimean experience they can make Moscow expect that military victory can be achieved at rather low price and during relatively short period of time, and such step can lead to high rating assessments inside the country.
Security situation of neighbors of Russia: similarity and differences
This bring us to the question how vulnerable are the Northern and Baltic States to military pressure and tactics of hybrid war, similar to those that in 2014 Ukraine suffered from. Are there any similarities or parallels between the security situation in Ukraine and situation in the security area in the Extreme North or in the region of the Baltic Sea? What are the main differences?
The short answer to these questions seems to consist in the fact that there are reasons for concern on the North flank of NATO, and that the security situation in the Northern-Baltic region felt negative impact due to the use of Russian military forces against Ukraine. It concerns first of all the Baltic Sea, where in 2014 we saw significant increase of Russian naval activity,10 and cases where Russian aircrafts breach air borders of Estonia, Finland and Sweden.11 In the region of the Barents Sea the situation seems to be more stable, and the behavior of the Russian armed forces in the sea and air seems to be more predictable and less provocative than in the Baltic Sea.
Security situation in Norway in the Extreme North can have some common features with situation in the security area of our neighbors in the east and south, i.e. Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, or in a sense with Ukraine, but there is a range of material differences. To understand the potential of Russian-Western conflicts in the Northern Europe better, we have to consider some factors and circumstances forming the situation in the field of security of the Northern European countries and Baltic Sea region. Among the potentially important factors there are: (I) historical experience of these countries with Russia and former Soviet Union; (II) ethnic composition of population, in particular, in districts bordering with the Russian territory; (III) their military alliance status; (IV) whether their security problems are connected to their land territories or sea districts that are under their jurisdiction. Each of these factors is considered below.
If we start from historical dimension, it can be noted that historical experience of Norway with Russia and former Soviet Union differed from those of Finland, Baltic States and Poland. 196-kilometer border of Norway with Russia was historically peaceful border. These two countries were not making war with each other. The fact that the eastern part of the Northern district of Norway, Finnmark, was liberated by Soviet army in October 1944, and the fact that this army was withdrawn from the territory of Norway after the liberation, created the basis for good and quiet neighborly relations between two countries after the World War II, namely, at the local level. Nevertheless, during the Cold War, the intensity of the cross-border cooperation at the level of individuals, organizations and enterprises remained rather restricted due to the geopolitical context. But the movement and cooperation between the districts Finnmark and neighbor regions of Murmansk and Archangelsk through the Norway-Russian border in Sturscug grew rapidly in 1990-s and 2000-s, namely, after establishment of cooperation in format of the Barents region in 1993. Since the beginning of 1970-s, the main unsolved question in bilateral relations between two countries was dispute regarding the maritime delimitation in the Barents Sea that was solved in form of compromise decision reached by means of negotiations in 2010.12
The ethnic composition of population in Eastern border districts of Schengen zone varies largely. Today, it is hard to imagine how the “Crimean scenario” could be performed, for example, in Kirkenes or other parts of northern-eastern territories of Norway. Russian population in Kirkenes constitutes less than 10 percent of general population of border city.13 The most Russians living there and in other regions of Norway are well integrated, many of them are married to or live with the Norwegians (as a rule, Russian woman and Norwegian man), and just few of them declare to suffer from discrimination. The same situation is in most of eastern border districts of Finland. This leaves little space for using local ethnic or linguistic tension as a pretext for military intervention. Such scenarios, with higher probability, can take place in Estonia or Latvia, having big Russian minorities within their borders, and in many cases, located in the districts close to the Russian Federation. For example, largely Russian-speaking cities Narva and Daugavpils, accordingly, the third and the second largest cities in Estonia and Latvia were named as examples of places that could be vulnerable for tactics similar to those being used in the Crimea.14 During the last years the Baltic States faced tougher rhetoric of Russia, numerous accusation regarding linguistic discrimination,15 and FSB provocations, such as kidnapping and subsequent illegal detention of a policeman, Ashton Kokhver in September 2015.16 The similar incidents did not take place and are not likely to happen on the Norwegian and Finnish border with Russia.
When it comes to the status of military grouping, there is little doubt that role of NATO as a provider of security for countries if the Northern Europe increased, especially after the Baltic States joined NATO in 2004. Sweden and Finland that are important partner countries for NATO in the recent years strengthened their relations and cooperation with the Alliance17, as well as cooperation in the military sphere.18 Sweden and Finland also made an important contribution to the cooperation with NORDEFO.19 But since they are not NATO members they are not subordinated to the articles on collective security of the North-Atlantic Agreement.20
In this sense they are in different, probably more disadvantageous situation than Norway and the Baltic States. On the other hand, Sweden and Finland are probably regarded by Russia as not as important threat as the northern members of NATO. In addition to Sweden, Finland and Russia, the Baltic Sea is surrounded by six NATO countries: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Germany, and Denmark. Further to the North, in the Barents Sea, Norway is the only one coastal country, except for Russia, and the sole regional representative of NATO. As soon as a crisis emerges in the region, or Norway suffers from Russian military provocations on the land, in the sea or in the air, Norway has to deal with it separately, using forces that are available in the region, at least until the forces of the allied countries can be engaged by air or sea. Thus, crisis management and transfer of support are important elements in planning of response to the predictable military situations and educational activities on the north flank of NATO.
In case of Norway, the undesirable incidents and episodes involving Russian state or non-state subjects will take place in the sea rather than on the land. Land border of two countries is relatively short, indisputable, and essentially unchangeable since 1826.21 But it continues to the North for the length of 1,700 kilometers in the Barents Sea and Arctic Ocean. The marine zone between the north coast of the European continent and archipelago Svalbard, Franz-Josef Land and Novaya Zemlya (Figure 1) are the treasury if living marine resources, and continental shelf under it is considered to have significant deposits of oil, gas and minerals. The offshore oil activities in this area, as it was before, are quite restricted mainly due to the low oil prices, but fishing in the Barents Sea is an industry bringing billions of dollars, providing many new jobs and profits for Northern Norway and Northern West of Russia. Big scope of commercially important fish stocks in these waters are used by Norway and Russia jointly, fishing is made not only in exceptional economic zones of two countries, but also in Svalbard fishing protected zone (FPZ) created by Norway in 1977. More than a quarter of annual catch of rod is performed by Russia in the North-South Arctic in waters of Svalbard.22 In a range of cases Russia questions the legal basis of Norway regarding the establishing of zone and right of Norway to exercise coastal jurisdiction in these waters. Compulsory measures of the Norwegian coastal guard regarding the Russian trawlers working in the Svalbard zone in some cases led to sharp reaction of the Russian side.23 In current geopolitical environment, the discussions related to industrial fishing in this and other zones of the Barents Sea can lead to escalation. The same related to the differences related to the questions of rights of Russia and other signatories of the Svalbard agreement on fulfilment of the seismic research or exploration drilling on the continental shelf out of Svalbard without consent of Norway.
Thus, if we compare the security situation of Norway after 2014 and security situation of other countries of northern flank of NATO after 2014 we can find some similarity and considerable differences. Historical experience of the Northern and Baltic maritime States with Russia varies significantly, there are also considerable differences regarding their alliance status, ethnic composition and geopolitical position. The most probable scenario for Norway in case of conflict with Russia shall not be mandatory similar to the most probable scenario of conflict with Estonia or Latvia, and vice versa. One of the common features they have is that they are relatively small countries located on the periphery of Europe, and their armed forces are restricted in size, at least comparing to those of Russia.
Norway and Russia: Consequences of changes in relations of the East and the West
Security situation in the Extreme North and the nature of bilateral relations between Norway and Russia are largely shaped or at least influenced by events in other parts of the world and the dynamics of Russia-NATO relations. Thus, the Cold War enabled the ‘normalization’ of bilateral relations between Norway and Russia, allowed establishing cooperation in the format state to state, region to region and nation to nation in a number of areas.
The efforts were made to overcome the old division between the East and the West, and replacement of the Cold War antagonism logic with the new logic, based on shared values and common interests. Border cooperation at the level of individuals, institutions and organizations developed rapidly during the 1990s and early 2000s. Security-related restrictions of commercial and industrial activities in the Barents Sea region also have been eliminated, and new models of civil-military relations began to emerge. At the beginning of the 2000s in the Barents Sea and other parts of the Arctic that in the past were considered mainly as a theater of war, is increasingly regarded as an arena for international cooperation and economic activities such as fishing, shipping and offshore oil exploration.24
Norwegian-Russian cooperation in the Extreme North is not limited to non-military sectors, such as fisheries management, environmental protection and cultural exchanges. The contacts were established between the military forces of two countries. In 1994, the Norwegian and Russian naval forces conducted the first joint military maneuvers in the Barents Sea, entitled ‘Pomerania’. Similar maneuvers have been conducted intermittently until the spring 2013, and with more prominent focus on security strengthening. Along with other joint efforts in the military area, such as dialogues at the level of regional military commanders, it gave valuable information about the counterparty’s military potential and, at least temporarily, with an increased level of confidence at the regional level. Some common activities such as maneuvers “Northern Eagle” in 2012 were also attended by the US Navy.25
During the post-Cold War period, i.e. during the 25-year period between 1989 and 2014, Russia's relations with NATO have passed through a series of “ups and downs”. Some of the “downs” adversely affected the climate of military cooperation at the bilateral level. For example, in 1999, during the period after the NATO’s air campaign against Serbian forces in Kosovo, Russia decided to suspend military cooperation with Norway and other NATO members. Few years later, though, the cooperation was renewed. The military cooperation between Russia and Norway in the Extreme North was also suspended in 2008, this time upon the initiative of Norway. The reason for this was the use by Russia of military force against Georgia in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Again, the political obstacles to military cooperation were gradually overcome and joint activities in the military field were renewed, as indicated by successful Norwegian-Russian Pomor exercises in 2011, 2012 and 2013.26
Shortly after Russian intervention to the Crimea, Norway, in March 2014, decided to suspend military cooperation with Russia, including all scheduled visits, exchanges and joint exercises.27 Norwegian-Russian-American military exercise ‘Northern Eagle planned for spring 2014 was canceled.28 Soon after this, in April 2014, NATO foreign ministers agreed to suspend all NATO practical cooperation with Russia, both military and civilian.29 EU and Norway also set individual restrictions on travel, in form of visa sanctions of the Schengen area for several senior officers who are believed to play an important role in the planning and execution of the Russian intervention in Ukraine. The list of such persons includes, among others, the Head of General Staff, General Valery Gerasimov and Commander of the Western Military District Colonel-General Anatoly Sidorov who made an official visit to Norway in October 2013.30
Norway temporary suspension of military cooperation with Russia in December 2014 was extended till the end of 2015, the same was done by NATO. Further extension of the ban on military cooperation with Russia and other restrictive measures in these and other areas is likely to continue. Unless Russia decides to play a more constructive role on Ukrainian territory, the current situation, characterized as a comprehensive freeze in cooperation army to army, could become a “new norm” in NATO and the eastern EU border regions. If, within the current dialogue, the lack of interaction and cooperation between military commanders and military forces in northern Norway and north-west Russia is a long-term or semi-permanent situation, it can encourage the creation of the climate of reduced military transparency and increased suspicion.
As during the Cold War, the conventional military operations on the Norwegian side - on land, at sea and in the air - are likely to be interpreted in Russia as an expression of “aggressive” NATO's intentions in the Extreme North. Despite the small scale, the exercises taking place in the Extreme North-East, i.e. in the county of Finnmark, are likely to be viewed as a threat to Russia's strategic interests in the region. For example, the exercise ‘Joint Viking’ in the region of Finnmark in March 2014 being joint national exercise involving about 5,000 personnel, was described by RIA Novosti as ‘a provocation of NATO’.31 Short-term presence of Norwegian frigate in Kirkenes, at distance of 8 km from the Norwegian-Russian border and 150 kilometers from the headquarters of the Russian Northern Fleet in Severomorsk, was considered as particularly problematic, according to Russian media.32
Participation of troops, ships and aircrafts from other NATO countries in military training activities in Northern Norway, such as the exercise “Cold Response” that are held on more or less regular basis since 2006, was also a source of Russian security concerns. These exercises usually held further, in the south, mainly in the county of Troms, are increasingly interpreted in the context of worsening relations between NATO and Russia. For example, the exercise “Cold Response 2014” that was attended by about 16,000 soldiers from 16 NATO and partner countries, including Sweden and Finland, was not perceived well by Russian military and political elite.
Similarly, the military activity of Russia in this region that has grown significantly over the last seven or eight years, could lead to new security issues on the west side. This is particularly typical for so-called “unexpected exercises” that are not announced and are often large-scaled. Despite the good intelligence, Russia's western neighbors have no means of knowing whether such exercises are held only for military training purposes, or are performed to cover the preparing to the armed aggression. In this context, the lessons learned from Ukraine and Russia’s conduct before the interventions in February 2014 should be taken into account.
Facing new security challenges
As it was stated in the introduction, the use of Russian military force against Ukraine in 2014, against Georgia in 2008, and the obvious lack of this country’s respect of sovereignty and territorial integrity of its southern neighbors, caused concern in Northern Europe. Security situation in Europe deteriorated as a whole, as well as Russia's relations with the West and NATO. Thus, the direct and indirect consequences of the conflict in Ukraine can have serious and long-term character both for Russia and Russia's western neighbors. The fact that the Russian-Ukrainian conflict occurs during major economic difficulties in Europe, and during the rapidly growing security problems on other fronts, especially in the south and south-east, makes it difficult for Europe to cope with the Russian challenge effectively and in a coordinated manner.
The renewal of NATO’s attention to the need of strengthening confidence to the Alliance's collective security guarantees that occurred during the summit in September 2014 in Wales33, was an important step in the right direction. The same applies to ongoing efforts to improve the readiness of NATO, as well as the size and capabilities of the rapid deployment forces of the Alliance.34 Although NATO as an alliance still has an obvious conventional advantage over Russia, its limited advanced presence on the periphery of Europe means that Russia still retains a small advantage over conventional neighbors at the local level.35 For example, in the region of the Barents Sea, Norway never could and will never be able to respond equally to Russian naval, air and ground forces that are located on the Kola Peninsula. But for Norway it is important to develop the potential of national defense that would correspond to the development of the new security environment, and allow showing by means of routine military presence and regular national and allied exercises in priority areas, that the country is seeking to protect its territory, its rights and interests in the region, if necessary, through its 27 allies. In addition, it is important for Norway to show solidarity with the Baltic countries and other countries of northern Europe, as well as other countries that may face challenges in relations with Russia
The use of “nonlinear” or “hybrid” methods of warfare by Russia that was demonstrated in the clearest way in the Crimea is a source of concern, at least for some of the eastern states-members of NATO. For western neighbors of Russia it is important to understand how these methods have been applied in Ukraine and what lessons we can learn from this. As one of the staff officer of the Department of International Defense Policy and Planning Department of NATO mentioned “Russian approach to the conflict includes without any doubt political, diplomatic, economic, nonlinear and hybrid vehicles that are hidden in armed conflict.36 These measures may be used not only for the “achievement of strategic military purposes without violence’ but also “cause a rapid, sudden escalation before the military stage.”37
As this article shows, the suitability of methods of ‘hybrid struggle’ in the countries on the northern flank of NATO can vary, but what is important for NATO as the Union and for individual states-members vulnerable to such tactics, is that we need to develop tools of combating scenarios similar to those described above. This may include not only defense cyber strategies and methods of neutralization Russian (dis)information operations, but also strategies to combat the fact that Mark Galeotti calls “rebel geopolitics,” 38 i.e. use of special forces, armed groups and subversive agents.
In this respect, the efforts of the European Union aimed at strengthening support for independent media in the countries of the ‘Eastern neighborhood’, raising awareness of the potential of ‘deceptive activities of external subjects and improving the EU's ability to anticipate and adequately respond to such measures are interesting.39 To do this, the EU has recently set up a unit known as “East StratCom Team” that helps the Eastern Neighborhood countries in their efforts to promote freedom of media and access to alternative sources of information, including Russian-speaking. This initiative may prove to be an important addition to the efforts of NATO and other subjects aimed to reduce the playing field for Russia with purpose of using “non-linear” or “hybrid” methods of warfare.
As it has already been mentioned, it is important to note that increasingly sophisticated Russian non-military means, asymmetric and unconventional impact, demonstrated in Ukraine in 2014, were applied together with military, symmetric and traditional activities. They should be seen as a complement to other, more traditional means of influence, and not as their replacement.
Russia will continue to upgrade its armed forces, including its conventional facilities, as it is being done since 2008; the use of conventional military force against smaller and potentially weak states still remain an option in the toolbar of Moscow.
This means that neighbors of Russia – and NATO as an alliance - must be prepared not only to scenarios in the “Crimean style”, but to the scenarios of the type discussed before the intervention in Ukraine. But since the ‘full range’ of military capabilities is beyond the capacity of smaller NATO members, the emphasis should be placed on multinational cooperation. NATO's ambitions for 2020 consist in having ‘harmonious complex of deployable, interoperable and sustainable force, equipped, prepared, trained, manageable, being able to work together with partners in any environment’. 40 These are big ambitions, imposing heavy demands on NATO in terms of accelerating the modernization and combat training in the next five years. Since 2015, NATO will carry out major maneuvers of “high visibility” every third year. In 2018 exercises in this format will be held with the participation of about 25,000 soldiers in the Extreme North and will be organized by Norway.
At the end it should be emphasized that the security and stability of the European Arctic, Baltic and other regions bordering with Russia in the West, South and East will depend not only on our efforts to deter and defend against the Russian aggression, but on our possibility to find common ground with Russia in areas of mutual interest. Today, we do not know how long the current Russian authorities will survive, and how long the current impasse in Russian-Western relations will last.
There is little indication that the situation will improve soon or in the medium-term perspective, so we should be prepared for potentially long "winter" in our relations with Russia. However, keeping the pressure on Russia in form of sanctions and other punitive measures, we must also try finding a modus vivendi while we are waiting for spring.
This is especially important for those who are still living in peaceful border areas of Northern Europe. For this reason, Norway together with Sweden and Finland has decided to continue their cooperation in the format of ‘people to people’ with Russia in the Barents region. In the absence of cooperation and joint activities with Russia in the military sphere, Norway decided, though, to develop cooperation with Russia in other, non-military fields. This includes, among other, generally successful joint efforts of the Coast Guard to combat the illegal fishing in northern waters, cooperation in search and rescue services in the Extreme North and the long-term cooperation between two countries between the local police and border commissioners. This shows that it is possible, at least for Norway and Russia, to maintain cordial relations and healthy level of dialogue in the ‘people to people’ format and cooperation at the local level, together with the implementation of sanctions and freezing military contacts. In a political climate that is characterized by increasing fear, suspicion and mistrust between the East and the West, these and other confidence-building measures at the local level can be an important contribution to regional stability.
Werner Fasslaband, President of the Austrian Institute for European and Security Studies (Austria). Russia and the security situation in Central Europe: Austrian view
First of all, I would like to thank Mr. Ohryzko for the invitation. I was pleased to come here and listen to the first panel where I felt I have got a lot of data about different approaches. In addition to the fact that all are aware of the situation, I prepared a Power Point presentation with 20 slides. I will not present them all; I’ll just try to highlight a few aspects that, in my opinion, will be important for relations in the format of the EU-Russia-Ukraine and their future.
First, I would like to answer specific question about relationships and perception of threat in Central Europe. It is certainly different from the situation in the North Baltic region. You can say that on the delimitation line the south of Poland from its northern part there is quite serious sense of threat in the context of the future development of the south and west, where the sense of threat is almost absent. The same situation is in Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Austria and other countries. Of course, there are many reasons that are probably rooted in history and in development in general. And when I talk about history, I mean the same thing as most of you. You know, when I was elected to parliament there were still Russian or Soviet regular troops in the western part of Vienna. I lived directly next to the “iron curtain,” my house was at a distance of 100 meters from it that prompted me to struggle against this situation during my life. However, you also need to understand that it was some experience that we received both before and after the collapse of the Soviet empire, the experience of intentions of Russia regarding the Western Europe.
I remember very well when discussing the bridge over the Morava River with their neighbors from Slovakia, they said that the question of a bridge does not solve the question of the readiness of all bridges across rivers in Austria, as Slovaks were intended to occupy all Austria. But then the situation has completely changed, especially because of the danger from Russia deepened at 1,000 miles and now we have a friendly relationship, and people do not believe that Russia can be so powerful to invade the territory of Western Europe.
Why? Of course, this is actually a military issue. Because, on the one hand, NATO is much stronger. We cannot compare two sides. On the other hand, we see the weakness of the Russian political authorities existing for decades. I want to focus on this. If you do not mind returning to those times, this is quite interesting story.
I have prepared a map of 500-year-old Russian geopolitics, including Muscovy and the territories that were conquered by Russia in the 18th and 19th centuries. Interestingly, almost all the countries, all the land that Russia seized in the 18th and 19th century, were lost after the collapse of the Soviet Union. At least in Europe and Central Asia. The only area they own is Kamchatka peninsula and the Amur region. However, all other territories are lost. This is an indicator that the unification under the Russian authorities in reality is not so strong to hold such vast territory under control. And Europeans both central and eastern have realized this before.
If you look at the political speeches, events and rebellion in Central Europe, you can see from Germany and Berlin, Hungary, the Czech spring, and the examples of Yugoslavia and partially Romania that Russia was relatively powerful, in order to keep these regions. As we can see, the power integration aimed to keep all lands obtained during the last two decades is not apparently strong enough. But why is it important for Russia? This led me to question whether it is just a Putin’s war or this is a long term strategic goal of Russian politics? I am clearly inclined to reply that it is not only Putin's line, but it is also Russian strategy. Why? I believe that this is a question not only of 500 years of political experience expansion. It is not a question of one person, but to a large extent a question of elites in general: military, diplomats, politicians, professors, academics and others. We need to understand that perhaps this issue is a long-term one. Of course, this long-term issue has some extra conditions acquired over the past decade that are very important.
The most important that I see, of course, on the one hand, is the fact that the US remains a superpower, and on the other hand, there is a growing power of China. There is also the growth potential for other countries like India and the EU, on the other hand. And of course, almost automatically the question rises on the place of Russia.
A number of circumstances act in favor of Russia, but there are many conflicting circumstances. The biggest problem that has been and will be of great importance for the future policy of Russia is the demographic factor. Why? Because this vast empire is inhabited by only 142 million persons, the population reduced and may soon be less than 30 mln. And they have so many minorities. Therefore, the question of whether Russia will be capable to find a place on the world scene at the higher levels as the global state between China and the Western world is the question that is likely to lead them to the conclusion that the present and future possibilities of human capital are not sufficient to take an appropriate place in the world.
Look at China with a population of 1.4 billion persons, India with 1.2 billion and if you add the population of the Western Europe constituting 500 million persons and America with population of more than 300 million persons, you will get additionally almost one billion and so on. Of course, in such situation this country (Russia) has no real chance for competing. It can have nuclear power and can produce nuclear weapons, but this is not enough, because it cannot dominate the world through nuclear weapons.
And now they obviously tend to some extent to revive Soviet space to be able to get opportunities due to human potential. However, they miscalculated. Obviously, Putin miscalculated. I mean that unleashing war against the fraternal people was completely the opposite of what he could do in order to return the position of Russia. It was the biggest mistake.
But that was not only him who made a mistake. European and Western world committed error too. Our biggest mistake was that we did not react to the invasion of territories to South Ossetia and Abkhazia. This enabled the next step of Russia. For me, the next step in the form of attempts to return at least part of the post-Soviet space was quite obvious. I cannot say that it was only the Crimea, but I’m certain that such a move was made. If you look at the map, in particular in Transnistria, Crimea, Luhansk, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, you will see that it was not only the protection of Russian-speaking population, especially in the south, where it amounted to not more than 2-3% of the total population, and therefore there were not any strategic reasons.
So, what have we done? We did not respond and now we have to pay for it. On the one hand, Ukraine, and on the other Europe as a whole. After all, if the EU accepts this, it would mean abandonment of our principles. And what is the EU without their values and if it is unable to protect even their neighbors in making their own decisions? This should be the principle. And if we do not handle this, we lose our own identity and the possibility of values transformation. This is one side. But more importantly, I think, in this case the inevitable consequence will be a shock, the shock of all civil order.
I can tell you I know dozens of people of high rank, diplomats and politicians of Eastern Asia and other regions saying OK, let's act like Putin. Let us just occupy a region and then we shall wait whether the West will react or other forces will. But we will not do like this. There will be only protective measures. If we do not find a way out of the crisis or do not find a tool to create clear principles and concepts, it will be a big defeat for the security, not only European security, but also to global one. I could go into many details, but I do not want to do it. Though, I would like to say that we should not underestimate Russia. It has strengths. Of course, it is the largest country in terms of area and has profitable location between the Baltic Sea and the Pacific Ocean. And also it has a military force. Also I would like to overestimate the Russians because they were in a period of stagnation between 1990 and 2000, the same applies to the Russian army.
I would like to say the following, when there was a discussion on Sevastopol, I said that the Russians will not leave the port because otherwise everybody will realize that the biggest part of the fleet cannot leave the port at all. But, it is worth saying that they have changed since 2008. Their military actions in Georgia were weak, even losing. This is my personal opinion. The forces that are now in the Crimea, the special teams, were slightly improved, but they invested more money in modernization and this should not be underestimated. I heard from unofficial Russian sources that in 2015 the security sector for the first time will receive more than 50% of the Russian state budget, the entire security sector, police and intelligence.
What can we do? Of course, to improve ourselves; their options will be limited if we stick to our principles and if we are ready to invest in your country, of course, in the military sphere and in the Western system in political terms. I am sure that we will bring it almost to the end, because Putin cannot constrain the near future. It threatens to result in other reasons, but not in escalation.
This is one point. And of course we still have the resources for the basket of possible sanctions. Much more important is the possibility of financial sanctions. It would be very formal. On the other hand, there is one thing that should not be over or underestimated. This is dependence on the oil sector, especially in the gas sector between Western Europe and Russia. And of course the importance of the Russian market to the neighboring Central and Western Europe. But so far the European Union has shown a very clear position that will remain so. Even if the Prime Minister Orban makes certain gestures, do not overestimate them. He was and will remain in the mainstream, as well as Bulgaria and Greece.
Currently, you can be confident that Ukraine will be in the group, but not militarily. No one would be willing to support it militarily, because people fear that it could lead to escalation. But we will be united politically and economically. It will not be easy. You have to find your own way. The Russian economy is very weak without gas sector and natural resources. They are very, very weak. Their exports are placed between the export of Austria or Switzerland. Currently, we can say that it is not a great state; it is an average state, as we say about our country. Let us not overestimate.
On the other hand, you have to focus on important issues. Of course, the agricultural market will be lost in future. You need to find new markets for your agricultural products. You have to find them, showing initiative and professionalism. We are ready to help you. There are many initiatives from Europe to help Ukraine in this battlefield, transferring our knowledge and experience in these areas. I think it's a challenge. I have no doubt that this is a long-term problem that we have to fight. But we not only have all the chances to win, but we have all the conditions and circumstances to get this victory, so we are optimistic.
1* Research Fellow, PhD, Norway Center for Defense Studies (FFI). Statement at the International Conference “The military strength of Russia: Myths and Realities”
2 Thoughts expressed in this article are the author’s statement and cannot be attributed or related to the Norway government.
3 Estonia and Latvia border Russia on the east, while Lithuania border Kaliningrad on the south-west.
4 Point known as a ‘Three-country pyramid’
5 http://yalejournal.org/article_post/why-its-time-the-case-for-swedish-membership-in-nato/<span >; and by Mark Zayp: ‘Cautious about Putin, Finland studies the option of the NATO membership’, Newsweek, June 4, 2015, http://www.newsweek.com/fearful-putin-finland-explores-nato-membership-339428.
6 Valeriy Gerasimov: “Meaning of science in forecasts,” Military-Industrial Courier (MIC), 2013, No. 8, p. 1-3, available at http://vpk-news.ru/sites/default/files/pdf/VPK_08_476.pdf.
7 See Octavian Manea: “Hybrid of war as management war” (interview with Dr. Mark Galeotti)”, Little wars book, August 19, 2015.
8 See ”Putin’s approval’ at the web-site of Levada-Canter, http://www.levada.ru/eng/indexes-0.
9 Michael Birnaum: “Putin’s rating reached 89 percent, the highest rating ever”, The Washington Post, June 24, 2015.
10 See Matthew М. Aid: “Intensified of Russian naval activity in the Baltic Sea”’, The Baltic Times, August 6, 2014 http://www.matthewaid.com/post/94053933211/intensified-russian-naval-activity-in-the-baltic.
11 See article of Sam Johns and Richard Miln “Soldiers replied to Russian reconnaissance aircraft that breached the air area of Estonia” http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/8e28123e-5a09-11e4-8771-00144feab7de.html#axzz3m52ZVIsY; and Richard Miln: “Scandinavians prevented Russia after air bomb random shot”, Financial Times, December 15, 2014, http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/95751ff2-837e-11e4-8a84-00144feabdc0.html#axzz3m52ZVIsY.
12 Agreement on Norwegian-Russian delimitation that marked the end of 40-year dispute regarding the maritime delimitation was signed in Murmansk on September 15, 2010 and came into force on July 7, 2011. The text of the agreement is available by reference: https://www.regjeringen.no/globalassets/upload/SMK/Vedlegg/2010/avtale_engelsk.pdf.
13 Russians constitute 300-400 of local population out of about 3,500.
14 Edward Lucas:”‘Upcoming storm – Report on safety in the Baltic Sea.” Washington, district Columbia: Center for Analysis of European Policy, 2015. http://www.cepa.org/sites/default/files/styles/medium/Baltic%20Sea%20Security%20Report-%20(2).compressed.pdf, p. 11.
15 For more details see “About Ashton Kokhve,” the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Estonia, updated in September 2015. https://www.siseministeerium.ee/en/eston-kohver.
16 See, for example, “MFA of Russia established the guilt of Estonia in discrimination of Russian language,” NTV, September 18, 2015. http://www.ntv.ru/novosti/1528856/.
17 Alister Scruton & Sakari Suoninen: “Russian roaring, Swedish, defense options from the point of view of Finnish, NATO,” Reuters, April 1, 2014, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/04/01/us-ukraine-crisis-nordics-idUSBREA301AD20140401.
18 Johan Akhlander: “Sweden and Finland plan to expand military cooperation considering the tension of Russia,” Reuters, February 18, 2015. http://uk.reuters.com/article/2015/02/18/uk-sweden-defence-idUKKBN0LM15F20150218.
19 “Finland and Sweden strengthened relations with NATO,” The Guardian, August 27, 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/aug/27/finland-sweden-strengthen-ties-nato.
20 NORDEFCO is a Scandinavian organization of cooperation in the field of defense, created in 2009 that includes Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Iceland.
21 The only major exception is that Norway has no land border with Russia/USSR between 1920 and 1944. In 1920 the region Petsamo was transferred to Finland, giving Finland access to the Barents Sea, and former Norwegian-Russian border became part of the Norwegian-Finnish border. Petsamo was transferred to the Soviet Union in 1944, and Norway - Soviet Union border was determined.
22 Christian Atland: ‘The status of Svalbard and its consequences for international politics’ Baden-Baden 2014, p. 147
23 For more information, see Christian Atland & Christine Fan Bryushard: ‘When the security language does not work: Russia and ‘Electron’ incident’, Security Dialogue, vol. 40, number 3 (2009), p. 333-353
24 Christian Atland: “Northern Fleet of Russia and oil industry: Rivals or Partners? Oil, Security and Civil-Military Relations in the post-Cold War European Arctic,” Armed Forces and Societies
25 See. Jerald O'Dvier “Norway welcomes the ‘Northern Eagle’ as a bridge-builder,” Defense News, August24, 2012, http://archive.defensenews.com/article/20120824/DEFREG01/308240002/Norway-Hails-Northern-Eagle-Bridge-builder; and Trude Petersen: “Norwegian-Russian Pomor-2013 naval exercise starts this week”, Barents Observer, May 7, 2013, http://barentsobserver.com/en/security/2013/05/norwegian-russian-pomor-2013-naval-exercise-starts-week-07-05.
26 Illia Kramnyk: “Pomor 2013 Russian-Norwegian exercise: looking for common ground,” Golos Rossii, May 12, 2013, http://sputniknews.com/voiceofrussia/2013_05_12/Pomor-2013-Russian-Norwegian-exercise-looking-for-common-ground/.
27 Norwegian Ministry of Defense: “Norway suspends all planned military activities with Russia,” Press-release No. 25/2014, March 25, 2014, https://www.regjeringen.no/en/aktuelt/Norway-suspends-all-planned-military-activities-with-Russia-/id753887/.
29 NATO: “Declaration of the NATO Foreign Affairs Ministers,” Press-release No. 062/2014, April1, 2014, http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/news_108501.htm.
30 See EU: Council Decision 2014/145/CFSP and Council Decision 2014/308/CFSP, respectively, as of March 17 and May 28 2014, available at: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/homepage.html.
31 Alexander Kholenko: “NATO exercise against North Norway: intelligence or provocation,” RIA Novosti, March 17, 2015, http://ria.ru/authors/20150317/1053024319.html.
33 See “Wales Summit Declaration,” Press-release 120/2014, September 5, 2014, http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/official_texts_112964.htm.
35 Matthew Kroning: “Preparing of NATO to new Cold War,” Section 57, No. 1 (2 015), р. 54.
36 Dave Johnson: The Approach to the Conflict - Consequences for NATO's deterrence and defense. Rome: NATO Defense College. Studies document No. 111/2015, http://www.ndc.nato.int/news/news.php?icode=797, ст.10
38 Mark Galeotti: “Putin, Ukraine, and asymmetric politics,” Johnson’s list, April 14, 2014, http://russialist.org/putin-ukraine-and-asymmetric-politics/.
39 Richard Jozviak: “EU plans to activate the struggle against the Russian propaganda”, Radio Svoboda. Europe. June 24, 2015, http://www.rferl.org/content/european-union-russia-propoganda-georgia-moldova-/27091155.html.
40 NATO: “Connected Forces Initiative,” change as of August 31, 2015 http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/topics_98527.htm.