Too wee, too weak, too helpless Scotland? At least it’s a variation on a theme!
The Secretary General of NATO, former Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg recently (3 November) addressed a session of the Nordic Council. This was the first time ever that the head of NATO had addressed Nordic parliamentarians directly so it seems there was considerable interest in what he had to say.
He was of course addressing a group which includes nation states – including ones similar in many ways to what Scotland can be – that are co-operative and well integrated whilst also being independent and distinctive. Some but not all are NATO members; some but not all are in the EU. Stoltenberg’s remarks in the context of this diversity are notable and arguably have some relevance for an independent Scotland.
Firstly, he emphasised that the Nordic Region is strategically important to NATO “in part because the countries are members and close partners, but also because the region borders the Baltic, which has been subject to increasing tension and rearmament in recent years,”
Secondly, he stated that the Nordic Region is also “crucial for the North Atlantic link, protecting the ties between North America and Europe during times of crisis or conflict.”
So far so obvious – geographic location matters.
During the plenary discussion, Stoltenberg “reaffirmed that NATO’s door remains open to Finland and Sweden, but that he will NOT be giving the Finnish or Swedish prime ministers any good advice regarding membership.” (my emphasis) This appears to be a pragmatic acknowledgement of difference over NATO membership and the legitimacy of such a stance.
Perhaps of greater interest, Stoltenberg was positive about closer intra-Nordic co-operation on defence, and noted that “co-operation BETWEEN the Nordic countries helps to strengthen relations between NATO and the alliance’s close partners.”
He commented on the results of a recent opinion poll which suggests that a growing number of those living in the Nordic Region want to see closer co-operation on defence in the region. He said: “This is excellent. As small nations, it’s important that we work together to make even better use of our military capabilities.”
The implication seems clear: NATO values ITS RELATIONSHIPS with smaller nation states in strategically important geographic locations including with those that are not NATO members. And it sees value in the closer co-operation on defence BETWEEN smaller nation states even where not all are NATO members.