New security challenges in the European north

Term Paper 2001 10 Pages

Politics - International Politics - Topic: Miscellaneous


Table of contents

1.) Introduction

2.) “New” Security Challenges after the Cold War

3.) Possible reactions to the “new” Security Challenges

4.) Nordic Co-operation and “New” Security Challenges

5.) Literature

1. Introduction

After the end of the Cold War the security situation changed totally. This is especially true for the European North, which was and still is as far as we consider the Kola Peninsula for some strategic reasons the most militarised area of the world.[1] This of course had serious influences on the security situation and the security policy of the Western countries. The Northern Countries with Sweden and Finland took the way of neutrality, while Norway and Denmark joined the NATO.

Now the old confrontation between West and East disappeared, so that problems relating to this do not exist anymore. But also new problems emerged and some problems only changed their face.

In the following I try to give a brief overview over the security challenges in the European North. Then I will show some possible reactions to this challenges and in the end try to value, if the existing Nordic Co-operation can be useful for this.

2. “New” Security Challenges after the Cold War

Although the danger for a confrontation between Russia and the members of the NATO is less important anymore, it is still possible. This decrease of threat does not mean that the military importance of the region also has decreased.[2]

This has several reasons on both sides. For Russia these are for instance the loss of naval facilities through the break-up of the USSR in the Baltic States and the Black Sea, here namely the Black Sea Fleet.[3] The START agreements between Russia and the USA also promotes this importance, because according to them the land-based nuclear weapon delivery systems are reduced to favour of more invulnerable submarine-based ones to reduce the temptation to launch am pre-emptive strike.[4]

The whole amount of Russian Air and Ground Forces has not been not reduced very much, what is due to the fact that the troops from all Eastern Europe and the Baltic States had to be redeployed. Especially in the St. Petersburg Region the concentration has significantly swelled.[5]

The whole region now is the key sector of Russian military defence. A use of this forces could still cause vast destruction in the whole region.[6]

This still great concentration of military forces and equipment in the region makes it for the Western Countries understandably difficult to reduce their military interest. This is not only due to the - currently decreasing – possibility of a direct military confrontation, but to other conflicts from outside or inside Russia. Although the Barents Region until now is a very quiet corner of international politics there is no guarantee that political and ethnic conflicts in other regions cannot spread as the example of Yugoslavia shows. This outside contagion could as well as a civil war in Russia lead to Russian government losing control over military forces in the Barents Region. As the confrontation between Jeltsin and the parliament in 1993 showed a civil war is not totally out of sight and the economic distress Russia is in for some years now makes it even more possible. Control over the concentrated military forces in the region with its nuclear weaponry is highly attractive. The ongoing conflicts with the Baltic states, especially with Latvia about the treatment of the Russian minorities also makes a civil war as well as Russian military actions possible.[7]

In case of military actions by Russia, Finland and Sweden already announced that they are not able to give any assistance guarantees to the Baltic States.[8]

A result of an armed conflict in the region would not only be vast destruction and disruption of the regions economy but also movements of refugees are expectable, which would be an additional burden.[9]

Besides this still existing military and strategic problems, which only changed there faces, there are two other big security challenges: border control and environmental problems, which did not really emerge after the Cold War, but which are much more visible then before.

While the Bloc Confrontation the Western Countries had to take much less care about the control of there borders, because the communist countries themselves exercised a very strict one. It was mostly motivated by their fear of unwanted outflow of people and goods. These rigorous control have now widely decreased, which is due to economic problems and also to difficulties in the process of establishing new states, governments and administrations. This situation leaves it for the Western Countries to prevent unwanted activities, such as smuggling of drugs or nuclear material, international crime, unwanted immigration and terrorism.[10]

The second big challenge is the question of protection of environment. In the Russian part of the area there is already a huge contamination of nature with exhaust fumes from power plants and with radioactive materials. This contamination of “international commons” of course is not only problematic in the Russian Area, but spreads for instance trough the water of the Barents Sea or through the air to other countries. Due to the economic difficulties of Russia the risk of an accident with pollution of the environment as its consequence has increased, because the procurement faced a slowdown. In the worst case an accident means a nuclear accident of a vessel in port, because of a technical malfunction or a collision on sea, which already happened.[11]


[1] Darst, Robert G., Contemporary Challenges to International Security in the Barents Region, in: Käkönen, Jyrki (ed.), Dreaming of the Barents Region, Tampere Research Institute, Research Reports No. 73, Tampere, 1996, page 91 (2)

[2] (2), p. 94

[3] (2), p. 94

[4] (2), p. 95

[5] (2), p.95

[6] (2), p., 90, 95

[7] (2), p. 95, 98, 99, 101

[8] Vesa, Unto, Legitimacy pressures upon Finland and Sweden, in: Pesonen, Pertti & Vesa, Unto, Finland, Sweden and the European Union, Tampere Research Institute, Research Report No. 77, Tampere, 1998 (5)

[9] (2), p. 101

[10] (2), p. 102-104; Tunander, Ola, Norway, Sweden and Nordic Cooperation, in: Heininen, Lassi & Lassinanti, Gunnar (eds.), Security in the European North – from hard to soft, Arctic Centre Reports 32, Arctic Centre University of Lapland, Rovaniemi, 1999 (4), p. 129

[11] (2), p. 90, 107, 108; (4), p. 126


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Title: New security challenges in the European north