Shaping á Safer and More Sustainable World Together

Nordic Webinar, Nordic Embassies in Berlin, 8 September 2021

It is an honour for me to be with you here today and to get the opportunity to discuss the proposals put forward in my report on increased Nordic cooperation in the field of foreign affairs and security issues.

This report and its proposals are the fruit of my conversations with well over 100 people, like yourselves, over a six months working period. Experienced people with serious knowledge of the workings of the international system and deep insight into the practicalities of transforming words into actions.

Now, some might argue that with COVID and all the turbulence we are faced with, the Nordics have little bearing on everything that is currently going on in the international system.

I would argue quite to the contrary and say that Nordic cooperation has hardly ever been as relevant or as important as it is today. Important not just for the Nordic countries themselves but also for the liberal West in general.

Istockphoto-533432994-612x612I would also argue that increased great power rivalry, which is not lost on the Nordic region - and the Arctic in particular - has pulled the Nordics closer together. And this rivalry is of course an inseparable part of the theme that we are focusing on here today, that is to say Hybrid Threats and Cyber Issues - and also closely linked to the other themes of the report, that is climate change and threats to the international world order.

In the invitation to this Webinar two questions were raised: How to further develop Nordic cooperation in foreign and security policy? And second: Do we need a more integrated Nordic approach to tackle global challenges, such as hybrid threats and cyber issues?

As for the first question, I want to stress how fast Nordic cooperation in the field of foreign and security policy has developed since Thorvald Stoltenberg was tasked to write his report on these issues some 10 years ago.

He dealt directly with traditional military issues and some months after the publication of his report they became an integral part of Nordic cooperation with NORDEFCO, the Nordic Defense Cooperation. A revolutionary step compared to the situation during the Cold War when all things military were a taboo in the Nordic Council.

Nordic security links are now stronger than ever before. The US is for the first time involved in the defense of all the Nordics.

The US Air Force is very visible with its strategic bombers in the North – three B-2 Spirit stealth bombers were recently operating from Keflavik, Iceland.

The official purpose of stationing the bombers in Iceland was to train aircrew members in the North Atlantic area and to demonstrate US commitment to allies and partners.

Earlier US B-1B bombers conducted several training missions in the Arctic region from the Orland Air Force Station in Norway.

While this is happening in the Nordic region the Americans are withdrawing from Afghanistan and President Biden has indicated a diminished role for the United States as the world's policeman. They would only intervene in the future if there were clear goals and a fundamental national interest for the US.

The challenges and strategic developments taking place in the Nordic region, due to climate change, make it vital that the US remains engaged in maintaining necessary balance in the region.

The Nordics have more leverage together and thus generate greater impact when acting together. Their collective credibility and strength in areas, such as climate change, conflict prevention, peace mediation and gender equality provide ample opportunities for increased Nordic diplomatic and practical cooperation.

The Nordics should formulate a common strategy for the collective strengthening of networks to successfully reform multinational institutions.

With an administration in Washington interested in using peaceful means and wanting to strengthen Western influence through traditional international organizations, constructive Nordic proposals to reshape the rules-based world order will be well received

This is my answer to the first question.

Discussing hybrid threats and cyber issues I want to point out that the complexities and the analytical capabilities needed to build and maintain

resilience against hybrid threats and cyber-attacks, and to counter them, are so great that smaller states like the Nordics have everything to gain from pooling resources, experiences and lessons learned.

In fact we are at a place where we can ill afford not to deepen our relationship in these fields.

The benefits of facing these complex threats together greatly outweigh the potential costs. And in fact leaving one behind to deal with them alone is not an option, if one of the Nordics fails, the reputation of all takes a hit.

In my report there are four proposals in the area of hybrid threats and cyber issues.

One is for the Nordics to develop greater hybrid situational awareness, working towards a common conceptual and political understanding of the key hybrid threats facing them, both individually and collectively.

Each country needs to develop its ability to tackle hybrid threats on an individual basis. However, given the complex nature of hybrid threats, so called whole-of-society and whole-of-government approaches need to be complemented by international cooperation.

To develop a common terminology and a common understanding of the threats to each of the Nordics is important. It supports better situational awareness and prepares the ground for common deterrence strategies and eventually ways to effectively disrupt or prevent such threats.

The second proposal is to take into consideration positive experiences of some of the Nordics in the field of comprehensive defence, to better prepare for future crises.

In this regard it is important to note that during the COVID-19 pandemic states have seen a great increase in hybrid attacks.

We have seen hybrid influencing campaigns, fake news, serious cyber attacks, directed towards for example hospitals, medical research facilities, universities and health care systems.

Last May a criminal group made a ransomware attack to gain entry to the Irish health system affecting almost every part of the system, already worn down by more than a year of fighting COVID-19.

Although it has been almost four months since the attack, Ireland's healthcare service is still feeling the direct and indirect effects. No ransom was paid either by or on behalf of the Irish government.

The Irish police force continues to investigate the attack with the assistance of Europol and Interpol.

The police is also working with the cyber security industry, academia and other law enforcement experts, including the FBI, Canadian Police, the UK's National Crime Agency and the United States Secret Service.

Examples like these underscore the importance of both internal preparedness and of cooperation between friendly nations.

The Nordics should therefore unite in developing a common framework within hybrid and cyber for dealing with future threats such as pandemics, including a common early warning system, integrated planning, and unified Nordic action.

Public-private cooperation is highly relevant when promoting a democratic digital future including common Nordic values of free speech, privacy, free market, and transparency in the digital world.

In their effort to promote democratic governance and respect for human rights in cyberspace, the Nordics should actively seek support from like-minded countries and companies.

Defence against hybrid threats and hacking is now an integral part of national security. Both civilian and military means, public and private, are needed for this defence.

The focus is at present on 5G, but 6G is just around the corner and it is high time for Nordic governments to prepare for more technological changes by consulting on an integrated policy both internally and on a multinational level.

Hostile states and non-state actors in cyberspace are multiplying. New technologies will add risks for companies and society. This demands collaboration and knowledge sharing not only at the national level but also on the Nordic and international one.

The Nordics should engage in a strategic dialogue on new technologies, such as wireless network technology, artificial intelligence, quantum computing and blockchain technology.

Such an initiative would be a good example of how Nordic cooperation can strengthen each country in its response to conflicting diplomatic and political pressures from the great powers.

To conclude:
The Nordics matter.

They matter because they manifest the huge advantage of Western democracy, freedom and liberalism.

They demonstrate the enormous economic and social benefits of equality and the respect for human rights.

They underscore the value added of sustainable development and environmental protection.

They carry weight because if they fail, the Western world and what it stands for suffers a blow.

The Nordics should pool their resources both as a block in multinational cooperation and in the face of hybrid and cyber threats. Not just to their own advantage, but to the advantage of common goals and values of democracy, rule of law and human rights.

It is my conviction that enhanced Nordic cooperation is necessary not only for us in the North but for the continued prosperity of all.

Nordic success matters in the big picture.