• The Finnish Commitee For European Security

    Suomen Toimikunta Euroopan Turvallisuuden Edistämiseksi



For the 16th time, STETE and the town of Lohja organised in cooperation a traditional summer seminar. This year the topic was “Different Faces of Nato”. The seminar took place in the City Hall of Lohja on.

In the event, diplomatic representatives from various Nato-member states gave their views on the importance of Nato. Also a presentation about Nato’s future prospects and challenges was given, as well as an expert’s analysis on non-member Finland’s partnership and cooperation with Nato.


Pekka Myllyniemi, Mayor Emeritus, Chair of  STETE ’s Security Council
Simo Juva, Mayor, City of Lohja


Pekka Haavisto
, MP (Green Party), Special Representative of the Foreign Minister of Finland in African crises specializing in Sudan and the Horn of Africa


Markku Salomaa, Adjunct Professor, Chairman of the Board, Foundation for Foreign Policy Research

Denmark, Ambassador Jens-Otto Horslund
Estonia, Ambassador Mart Tarmak
France, Ambassador Eric Lebédel
Lithuania, Director Gediminas Varvuolis, Transatlantic Cooperation and Security Policy Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Norway, Defence Attaché Per Ingar Enger

Karoliina Honkanen, Defence Policy Adviser, Defence Policy Department, Ministry of Defence

You can find the summary of the event below.


Different faces of NATO

STETE held a traditional summer seminar together with the City of Lohja on 24 August 2011. This year’s theme was: “Different faces of NATO”. The intergovernmental military alliance’s member states have varying motives and reasons to be members – an aspect that is often forgotten in the Finnish debate on NATO. Therefore, without taking any stand on the issue, STETE wanted to provide a fairly rare opportunity for the Finnish audience to hear different NATO countries’ representatives, and their varied views and experiences. A presentation about NATO’s future prospects and challenges was also given, as well as an expert analysis on Finland’s partnership with NATO.

Mayor Emeritus and Chair of STETE’s Security Council, Pekka Myllyniemi and the Mayor of Lohja, Simo Juva, welcomed the speakers and the audience to the 16th summer seminar in Lohja. The seminar was chaired by Member of Parliament Pekka Haavisto, who started the discussion by pinpointing, how joining NATO is not under particularly heated debate currently in Finland: this because the majority of the general public’s opinion clearly expresses, that Finland should not join the military-political alliance. Haavisto laid out three commonly used arguments against joining NATO. The first and most “traditional” argument, according to Haavisto, is usually the relationship with Russia. Another is an isolationist attitude. The third argument usually emphasizes the difficulties NATO-forces have experienced in Afghanistan and, at the time, in Libya. In August NATO appeared to be stuck in Libya, Haavisto observed. He was curious to hear from the attending NATO nations’ representatives, how the role of the Organization is debated in their countries, and where did they see the Organization’s future leading to.

Ambassador Mart Tarmak explained how joining the most powerful military-political alliance was the most important step towards security for Estonia, a NATO member since 2004. The membership is seen as a security insurance for the country, as international security developments have a direct link to Estonian security, Tarmak maintained. He also quoted an opinion poll, according to which 65 per cent of the public regarded Estonia’s NATO membership as the country’s main security guarantor. Good relations with Russia came second and the country’s membership in the European Union third as other significant factors in safeguarding security. According to the Ambassador, they had strong faith in the Article 5, and therefore they saw no need to build full defence capabilities at this point in time. For instance, air space defence is costly and, hence, this very expensive fighter capability is provided for Estonia through NATO. He also emphasized Estonian capability to influence the decision-making within NATO, and reminded that “outsiders” cannot ignore this fact. For instance, in cyber security matters Estonia believes its voice is heard – despite Estonia being a small country. Furthermore, in 2008, NATO opened its Cyber Defence Centre in Tallinn. Estonia is also Finland’s “contact point” for NATO.

During the discussion, Haavisto asked the Estonian Ambassador about the Baltic NATO defence plan. There had been some concern in Estonia that there was no proper plan in place. Had this now changed? The Ambassador replied affirmatively, but was not able to elaborate the issue any further, as it was not public information.

A Lithuanian point of view was brought to the debate by Director Gediminas Varvuolis from the Transatlantic Cooperation and Security Policy Department of the Lithuanian Ministry for Foreign Affairs. Varvuolis spoke about, how Lithuania sees the membership, and how they fathom the benefits and the future. As in Estonia, Varvuolis assured that there was overwhelming public and political support for NATO membership. However, the country has had to carry out major adaptations to update and modernise its armed forces in order to participate in NATO operations.

According to Varvuolis, with NATO membership, Lithuania actually improved its relations with its neighbours – including Belarus and the Russian Kaliningrad region. For Lithuania, NATO membership provided more confidence to cooperate with Russia and Belarus. “Geopolitical awareness” is now off the table, which allows for more constructive cooperation and dialogue than if Lithuania would have remained outside of NATO. A question was posed to Varvuolis concerning the Lithuanian debate about potential consequences on joining NATO. He replied that geopolitical clarification of Lithuania’s status was more important for the nation than relations with a certain country, referring to Russia.

As to the NATO policies and future prospects, Varvuolis talked about the new strategic concept and the notion of collective defence. As the security environment has changed, traditional military concepts do not work anymore. Therefore there is increasing emphasis on the new threats, such as cyber security. Varvuolis also believed that energy security will have a stronger influence in the future. A new Energy Security Centre was opened in early 2011 in Vilnius.

Most of the 28 NATO member states are also EU members, but Norway isn’t. Defence Attaché Per Ingar Enger presented Norway’s perspectives on NATO, which is seen as a fundamental security guarantor for the country. Norway is one of the founding members of NATO. After the Second World War, joining NATO was an answer to Norway’s security needs, since no Northern European solution was emerging, Enger explained. Today’s security threats exceed Norway’s defence capabilities, so the country prefers to rely on the alliance. Like Estonia and Lithuania, Norway is a small country, and through NATO it gets access to more capabilities while still being heard within the Organization. When questioned, whether Norway sees that NATO has a role in the Arctic area, Enger answered: “Norway sees that NATO is already there simply because Norway as a NATO member state is located in the area. Hence, it is indeed Norway’s interest that NATO is there. “

Ambassador Jens-Otto Horslund put forth the “Danish face” of NATO. He stated that during the Cold War Denmark – also a founding member – simply had to choose its side. Horslund stressed that Article 5 is still a core function of NATO, and also for a small state like Denmark, the “one for all and all for one” approach is particularly important. This despite that there are no direct threats anymore, which is why NATO should and has started to restructure itself, said Horslund. For Denmark, the operation “Ocean Shield”, NATO’s contribution to international efforts to combat piracy off the Horn of Africa, is particularly important due to the country’s sizeable fleet in need of protection.

Like other NATO members, Denmark has been active in Afghanistan in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which, Horslund stressed, is in reality a UN operation, in which NATO is just doing the operative work. At the time, Denmark had lost as many as 41 soldiers in Afghanistan – the largest number of ISAF casualties, when compared to the country’s population. As to the current Libya operation, Horslund remarked that this was not a “real NATO operation”, but actually a European operation with a NATO “hat”. After all, the US was not fully participating. With regards to the comprehensive approach in crisis management, Horslund acknowledged that NATO would need to plan more and reach more out towards the civilian organisations. “This is simply common sense”, said the Ambassador.

On his turn, Ambassador of France, Eric Lebédel, spoke about his own personal experience from within the NATO International Staff, as former Head of Cooperative Security and Political Crisis Management Section in NATO. Lebédel also claimed that NATO’s “enemy”, and thereby the justification for its existence, did not disappear along with the Warsaw pact, because a new enemy came into the picture in the form of insecurity and instability.  He reminded that military power is still needed today, along with soft power that for example the European Union has. But sometimes soft power is not enough. “And therefore we still need the military assets”, emphasized the Ambassador, and used Srebrenica and Benghasi as examples. When talking about NATO’s operation in Libya, Lebédel emphasized that NATO was not a political actor, but just a military actor, aiming at preventing genocide. Much like Ambassador Horslund, he also reminded how the operation in Libya was the first operation where the United States didn’t exercise full leadership.

Adjunct Professor Markku Salomaa gave a presentation on the future prospects and challenges of NATO. According to Salomaa, Europe’s own ”security architecture” will remain long into the future as unable to replace the role and capacity of the US forces in NATO, and there is no particular need why it should. When it comes to challenges, he said that NATO’s current problems are due to its role as crisis manager, which goes much further than traditional peacekeeping. Referring to Afghanistan, Salomaa argued that NATO has got involved in a crisis inside a totally different civilization, which is exactly where the future crises seem to arise.

Karoliina Honkanen from the Ministry of Defence gave on overview on Finland’s partnership with NATO. She maintained that it is important for Finland to improve defence capabilities in cooperation with NATO, and make sure we have a capability to participate in crisis management operations – no matter if it’s NATO-lead or not. Honkanen mentioned also Finland’s recently increased cooperation with various NATO agencies, such as the Cyber Defence Centre in Tallinn. Finland has also advocated that NATO partners should have more influence, which apparently had been taken into account in the new Partnership for Peace programme, said Honkanen.