In anticipation of the NATO Chicago Summit 2012, between 10 - 11 May in Tallinn, Estonia, GMF and The International Centre for Defence Studies (ICDS) held an event titled: ‘Regional Security Cooperation in the Baltic: Risks, Challenges and Threats’. The aim of the workshop was to strengthen cooperation and dialogue between the Central European, Nordic, and the Baltic states on the issue of regional security.
The event commenced with a policy dinner, which was moderated by Andrew Michta, Director of the GMF Warsaw Office and Matthew Bryza, Director of ICDS. The introductory remarks were presented by the President of the Republic of Estonia, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, who spoke about the weakening state of the transatlantic relations and the risky European strategy of disarmament. The President said that Europe is no longer high on the U.S. foreign policy agenda due to the absence of immediate outside threats, and warned that if these trend continue, contemporary transatlantic relationship might leave Europe with no constituency in the future U.S. administrations or their public opinion. He said that the U.S. will be more engaged in the Middle East, Central Asia, and China but Europe still needs to prove itself as reliable ally in NATO. President Ilves said that the EU member states should strive to increase their military budgets but it is a challenging task as most are still suffering the impact of economic crises. He stressed further that EU and U.S. must continue to live in close symbiosis for the sake of regional and transatlantic security. After President’s speech, a lively discussion followed revolving around the topic of Baltic – Nordic security and much was also said regarding NATO’s involvement in the Baltic basin following the US pivot to Asia, and the overall future regional cooperation.
The next day participants debated at three different sessions presenting regional opportunities, challenges and engagements that should be implemented by Baltic states in matters of regional security. The first session on: ‘Key security Challenges in the Baltic Sea Region’, was inaugurated by Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland, Boguslaw Winid. Other panellists included Ambassador Kęstutis Jankauskas, Head of the Permanent Representation of Lithuania to NATO, Andreas Kasekamp, Director of Estonia Foreign Policy Institute, and David Kramer, President at Freedom House. Participants debated on key security challenges in the Baltic Sea Region, significant political developments in Russia as well as future security of the Baltic region, and about the EU’s role in the context of regional security.
At the second session, which was focused on NATO’s role in the Baltics, speakers stressed NATO’s regional significance, its changing strategy following U.S. strategic pivot towards Asia, and the overall future of the U.S. involvement in the region. Amongst the panellists was Merle Maigre from the NATO Policy Planning Unit, Paal Hilde, Senior Fellow and the Norwegian Institute of Defence Studies, and Kurt Volker, Senior Fellow at the Centre for Transatlantic Relations and the former U.S. Ambassador to NATO.
The final, and third session on: ‘Regional Security Cooperation’ emphasised the present states of security cooperation between the Baltic states and the Nordics, key areas of Baltic-Nordic cooperation and possible future consolidation, and about the ideas to include the Baltic Sea regional security into a larger transatlantic context. Speakers at this panel were: Ambassador Baiba Braže, Director General at Security Policy Department Ministry of Foreign Affairs Latvia, Stephen Flanagan, Henry A. Kissinger Chair in National Security Center for Strategic and International Studies U.S., Genearl Karlis Neretnieks a Researcher Swedish Defence Research Agency in Sweden, and Eugeniusz Smolar, Senior Fellow The Polish Institute of International Studies Poland.
In the concluding remarks, Andrew Michta has invited guests to participate in future GMF initiatives on the regional security cooperation in the Baltic. Michta said that the outcome of each workshop discussion is to be summarized in a series of policy papers.
At the closing luncheon, the hosts welcomed U.S. Ambassador to Estonia Michael Polt who further emphasized the importance of regional security in the Baltics and encouraged future cooperation amongst the EU and non-EU states alike.