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World Politics
Reference:

Nordic Defence Cooperation in the Post-Bipolar World

Bezhina Yuliya Viktorovna

ORCID: 0009-0006-8692-3974

Student, Department of World Politics, MGIMO University

76 Vernadsky Avenue, Moscow, 119454, Russia, Moscow

julia.bezhina@gmail.com

DOI:

10.25136/2409-8671.2023.2.40066

EDN:

RGRIND

Received:

28-03-2023


Published:

05-07-2023


Abstract: The author examines the specific features of defense cooperation in Northern Europe and considers its future prospects amid the transformation of the global political landscape. The author regards the Nordic sub-region as a regional security complex (RSC) and scrutinizes historical similarities and dissimilarities in the Nordic approaches to security issues; distinctive features of the Nordic integration in general and sub-regional defence cooperation in particular; structure and possible prospects of the NORDEFCO. The author concludes that defenсe cooperation deepened the integration model in Northern Europe significantly, thus highlighting the ability of the Nordic states to cooperate in matters of security. Nevertheless, the aspirations of Finland and Sweden for NATO membership overshadow the NORDEFCO as a local security mechanism. The author contributes to the study of the issue by suggesting possible scenarios of the Nordic defence cooperation development. It is highly likely that NORDEFCO will be marginalized within the framework of Nordic cooperation, since NATO will meet almost all needs of the Nordic states in the field of defense and security. The scientific novelty of the research results from the revision of the Nordic domestic and foreign policy priorities in the field of security after 2014 and 2022, the impact of the deteriorating relations between Russia and Western countries on defence cooperation in the sub-region and the political and military relevance of the issue for the future of Russia.


Keywords:

NORDEFCO, Nordic states, NATO, regionalism, regional integration, sub-regional groups, defence cooperation, RSC, national security, post-bipolar world

This article is automatically translated. You can find original text of the article here.

Introduction. Security issues, primarily in their traditional "rigid" interpretation, have historically occupied a leading place in the development of theoretical approaches to the study of international relations and world politics. Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Finland and Sweden – these Northern European states have historically had a "special path", including in the field of national security. This article examines the specific features of the Northern European defense cooperation and discusses its future prospects.

Yu. I. Nadtochey noted that European sub-regional cooperation in the field of security and defense is insufficiently studied [1]. The issue of the political appearance of the Northern European countries is not poorly studied, however, nevertheless, the list of scientific literature on this topic cannot be called extensive. This is especially true of the highly specialized topic of defense cooperation, which most often remains on the periphery of research and is only partially touched upon (the exception may be the works of authors such as Yu. I. Nadtochey and V. P. Zhuravel). The issues of regional security and developing subregionalization in general and in the north of Europe in particular were studied by B. Buzan and W. Waver [2], who created deep theoretical approaches to the study of this topic. In the Russian scientific community, it is possible to distinguish outstanding researchers who have devoted many works to the fundamental study of political processes in the north of Europe: L. S. Voronkov [3] and K. V. Voronov [4]. Security issues in the Northern European context were of particular interest to a number of foreign authors, such as N. Greger [5], N. Gledich [6], N. Padelford [7] and N. Orvik [8]. Yu. I. Nadtochey [1] and V. P. Zhuravel [9] paid special attention to the Northern European defense cooperation. A significant contribution to the development of the national school was made by the Institute of Europe of the Russian Academy of Sciences [10] and the Primakov Institute of World Economy and International Relations of the Russian Academy of Sciences [11]. The works of L. O. Babynina [12] and N. S. Plevako [13] are also devoted to the studied problems.

The regional process in the north of Europe was considered through the prism of the theory of regional security complexes (TRCS) by B. Buzan and W. Weaver. The theory of regional security complexes has connections with many trends of the bipolar and post-bipolar periods and represents a deeper look at the problem of the functioning of regions than the unipolar approach or the allocation of the center and periphery, and at the same time complements the above-mentioned models. It simultaneously has features of both a realist and a liberal approach with a considerable admixture of a constructivist component. The RCB is "a group of actors whose main security priorities, as well as securitization and desecuritization processes are strongly interconnected with each other in such a way that their security problems cannot be effectively addressed or resolved separately from each other [2]." The processes of securitization and desecuritization, that is, the social (de)construction of threats, will have a special specificity within the regional cluster. Friendly or hostile relations between the components of the complex, the presence or absence of signs of a common identity, which ultimately form an interdependence in security issues, play a decisive role in the formation and functioning of the RCB.

The following factors also have a great influence on the formation of the RKB: the anarchic nature of world politics, the resulting balance of power and geographical proximity. The regional level of security is an absolute priority for most countries of the world: within the region, the security of one actor is inextricably linked with the security of another, therefore they cannot be separated and must be considered in a complex. It is important to note that the RCB is a region specifically in the field of security. If we are trying to interpret the interrelationships of actors in other spheres (economic, social, cultural, etc.), then in this case the region may or may not coincide with the region in its understanding within the framework of regional security complexes.

It should be noted that the securitization processes in the Nordic countries are indeed interconnected, which confirms the existence of the Northern European RCB. For example, despite the noticeable differences in migration policy, after 2015 the Scandinavian states chose the same migration strategy for themselves – tightened border controls. This is a strategy that entailed certain risks (for example, such a step could be regarded as a violation of the provisions of the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees). Nevertheless, the Scandinavian countries chose this approach, citing similar arguments to justify the correctness of such a step – and this taking into account initially different approaches on the migration issue. These arguments included a narrative about the need to maintain the welfare state model in a stable state, as well as the expression of solidarity with refugees and the habitual positioning of states as defenders of humanitarian principles [14].

The processes of desecuritization in the Nordic countries also overlap with each other. Similar trends in the field of desecuritization developed in the states both in the bipolar and post-bipolar period [15].

The scientific novelty of the study is due to an integrated approach to the study of the policy of all five countries of the subregion in the field of defense and security relations, as well as an analysis of the latest world political trends and international events that influence the transformation of this policy. The paper takes into account the latest trends in the development of the foreign policy strategies of the Nordic countries. The author's special contribution to the study of this issue is to construct scenarios that take into account possible prospects for the development of a sub-regional format of defense cooperation between the Nordic states. The scenarios proposed in the paper can be studied by experts in the field of international relations for further research in this field, as well as in practical activities in the study of international security problems.

Features of the Northern European cooperation in the field of national security after the end of the Cold War. The states of Northern Europe, located at the "junction of geopolitical lines [11]", are primarily aimed at maintaining the state of security of the subregion. The Northern European states represent a single strategic space, and the crisis that may arise within its borders will have a negative impact on all countries of the subregion [16]. The commander of the Finnish Defense Forces, T. Kivinen, pointed out that the proximity of the Northern European states (in historical, socio-cultural, political, economic and ideological senses) determines the commonality of threats and challenges [17]. This observation confirms the existence of a regional security complex (RCB) in northern Europe. The understanding of the interconnectedness of threats in the subregion has existed for a long time, and Scandinavian politicians have repeatedly stated that the security of the Nordic countries cannot be assessed in isolation in each case [18]. The researchers also noted that the Nordic countries adopted similar approaches to the new threats of the post-bipolar period, placing special emphasis on the issues of "soft" security [15]. The existence of a common identity in Northern Europe is also not questioned by analysts. For example, Yu. Vilhelmsen notes that the Northern European states have become a single whole, contrasting themselves with the "Russian Other" [19]. It is also difficult to deny the existence of a special "Northern European identity" in a broader sense that goes beyond the boundaries of security issues. [20]

Sub-regional groupings were previously considered by some countries as an intermediate step in the transition to Euro-Atlantic or European cooperation [21]. However, in view of the current international situation, sub-regional cooperation based on common threats is coming to the fore. Much attention to the intraregional security system is due to three main groups of reasons [22]. First, intraregional defense policy is proving to be more financially effective. Secondly, the unstable situation in Europe due to the deterioration of relations between Russia and the West and the aggravation of the Ukrainian issue forces states to look for new ways to ensure their own security. Thirdly, the wave-like strengthening of intraregional interaction can be explained by the periodic increase in Eurosceptic and anti-Atlantic sentiments in the world. Nevertheless, to this day, the defense sector retains its weak positions in the overall integration interaction of the subregion, which does not allow for a full-fledged comparison with the developed defense forms of cooperation in NATO and the EU. 

Small Northern European countries, united by a common destiny and identity, are heterogeneous in many respects, ranging from territory and population to uneven participation in various international associations. Sweden and Finland have long been neutral, non—aligned states (and are not formally members of the North Atlantic Alliance at the moment), while Denmark, Norway and Iceland are the founding countries of NATO. Sweden, Finland and Denmark are part of the EU. Despite the commonality of many views and approaches of the Nordic countries, this closeness is not absolute. Northern Europe has managed to build a common socio-cultural space on its territories and establish effective and developed cooperation on a wide range of issues [7], but their foreign policy interests have been divergent for a long time. This was one of the factors of unsuccessful attempts to create structures of cooperation in the field of defense in the last century [4]. But after the end of the cold war, the countries were able to develop new institutions, systematically removing "controversial" issues from the agenda, but productively cooperating in areas of mutual interest. The Nordic States strive to represent a single consolidated force with a common position in the international arena, which allows them to exert greater political influence on international processes. This strategy has repeatedly proved its worth.

The post-bipolar world order brought with it more universalized principles of political life and homogenized threats and challenges. The Northern European states had to transform their foreign policy course against the background of the development of such centrifugal trends in world politics as the weakening of the role of the West as the undisputed world leader, accompanied by the strengthening of other regions of the world, and the decline in the effectiveness of international institutions [5]. The collapse of the bipolar system, on the one hand, had a negative impact on the Northern European identity — the special status of the "third way" proposed by the states of the subregion between capitalism and communism disappeared. A special Northern European security system based on balancing between two superpowers and neutralist principles (the so-called "northern balance") has collapsed. This is a subsystem of the bipolar world, expressed in the creation of a "buffer zone" in the context of the confrontation between the USSR and the USA. It included the following elements [3]: 1) the neutral status of Sweden; 2) the neutral status of Finland, close Finnish-Soviet ties based on the Soviet-Finnish Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance of 1948; 3) block Denmark, Iceland and Norway as members of NATO, but adhering to the "off-base" the policy [23] of refusing to deploy nuclear weapons and foreign armed forces. This course allowed Northern Europe to avoid becoming another arena of confrontation between the two centers of power. It seemed almost inevitable, given the strategic geographical location of the subregion on a straight line between the USSR and the USA and in close proximity to both [6].

Despite the fact that the Northern European states are an integral part of the community of Western states, their identity was built largely on isolation from the rest of the European space. The conflict between the West and the East was the axis of development of security policy for the states of the region: this is the reason for their attention to the military aspects of security [24]. But on the other hand, the destruction of the "northern balance" had a positive impact on the rapprochement of countries whose security space was previously conditionally divided. Such a division in the conditions of historical and geographical prerequisites seems unnatural. The subsequent expansion of cooperation in the security sphere was a breakthrough for the Nordic states — finally they were able to transfer their principles of highly effective "web" integration [8] with an abundance of multidirectional and multi-level, including informal, ties to such an important and sensitive area. The new principles of the organization of the post-bipolar world order and the 2014 European security crisis, which further united the Northern European states, led to the fact that by 2021 the Northern European states had extremely similar views on issues of ensuring national and international security [25].

NORDEFCO as a key format of the Northern European defense cooperation. After the unsuccessful experience of building the Northern European defense Union in the XX century, a second attempt took place only in the new millennium. In 2009, former Norwegian Minister of Defense and Foreign Affairs T. Stoltenberg became the architect of a new complex structure. Northern European integration since its creation in 1952 The Northern Council has come a long way to mature for deepening cooperation in the field of security – the "taboo" zone of the bipolar period. Since 2009, after the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding by the Ministers of Defense, the Nordic countries have been working together in the defense sector within the framework of a single structure — NORDEFCO (The Nordic Defense Cooperation). This low-institutionalized structure with an insignificant level of formalization streamlined and united other types of military-defense cooperation that existed in the region: the Northern Cooperation in the Field of Armaments (NORDAC), the Northern Coordination Mechanism for Peacekeeping (NORDCAPS) and the Northern Support Structure (NORDSUP) [9], which appeared after the end of the Cold War. It sought to resolve the nodal problem of the Northern European defense cooperation — the uneven bloc membership and their mosaic membership of the EU.

The structure of NORDEFCO has two levels: political and military. Iceland participates in the activities of the association only at the political level and cannot preside due to its specifics — the absence of its own regular armed forces and the Ministry of Defense. The Chairman is replaced on a rotating basis once a year. At the political level, the organization is led by the Ministers of Defense of the states, at the military level by the Military Coordination Committee, which works in five main areas (areas of cooperation, COPAs): operational activities (COPA OPS), human resources and education (COPA HR&E), military potential (COPA CAPA), professional training and exercises (COPA TEX), weapons (COPA ARMA). At both levels, executive meetings are held at least twice a year. In 2023, the chair belongs to Sweden. In the role of chairman, Stockholm, as expected, focused on further assistance to Ukraine and the adaptation of defense Northern European cooperation to new circumstances [26], which, in addition to the acute crisis of European security, include the expected accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO and the cancellation of the reservations that have persisted since Denmark's accession to the EU in the field of CSDP [12].

The NORDEFCO format is a non—block form of cooperation. The low level of formalization of the structure determines the absence of permanent institutions: in addition to regular meetings, the organization's activities are based on individual, including informal, contacts. NORDEFCO is not a military association with strict binding conditions of participation, because the Northern European states are closer to the "British model" of integration with the preservation of full sovereignty [27]. Northern European cooperation as such rejects the supranational principle, and the more "sensitive" defense sphere is not an exception, of course [1].

NORDEFCO is subject to the traditional principles of Northern European cooperation: voluntary participation and non-mandatory comprehensive involvement. Such an association operates rather on the principle of a forum. In the course of NORDEFCO's activities, each participating country, as usual, determines the areas of cooperation and its scope: NORDEFCO is focused on ensuring the national defense of the participating countries, combining forces in areas of mutual interest and developing coordinated and effective solutions [28]. This made it possible to achieve the maximum possible effectiveness in the defense issue, taking into account the differing views of the States of the subregion on national security issues and their uneven blockage.

NORDEFCO is developing, albeit at a slow pace, but in accordance with changing international political conditions. In the context of the pandemic, a Crisis Consultation Mechanism was introduced within the framework of NORDEFCO [29]. The annual report of NORDEFCO for 2020 states that defense cooperation within the framework of the structure has been significantly strengthened over the past years, and the pandemic has once again proved the need for such an institution to ensure the reliability and security of supplies [30]. Thus, the coronavirus pandemic has given impetus to the securitization of new aspects in the field of security within NORDEFCO. In 2020, the first official meeting of representatives of NORDEFCO and the United States on military cooperation was held [31]. This was a natural realization of one of the main goals of NORDEFCO in the near future – the development of transatlantic relations and the creation of mechanisms for joint action. This is due, among other things, to the desire to receive status benefits from such interaction, which seems to be a very important motivation for small states existing in conditions of limited resources to construct their image and strengthen their position in the international arena [32]. Northern Europe and the USA have historically had strong ties with each other. The United States and NATO appeared to be an increasingly large center of gravity for the Nordic countries in parallel with the increasing tensions in relations with Russia. Despite the fact that the "ideological inspirer" [33] of Northern European military cooperation, T. Stoltenberg, stressed that it should develop in a harmonious combination with Scandinavian-Russian interaction, world political processes are drawing an increasingly clear dividing line between Northern Europe and Russia. This largely pushes the Northern European countries, especially Sweden, to build up military power and closer cooperation with NATO. Among other things, deeper cooperation with the EU and NATO in the defense issue helps the small states of the North partially offset the limitations of their military potential, which exist simply due to their status as "small states" [34]. Thus, membership in NATO began to be seriously evaluated in previously neutral states as one of the effective ways to ensure national security [35], and Moscow's actions have long been regarded in the subregion as revisionist and expansionist [36]. A similar line, according to the Minister of Defense of Finland Yu. Niiniste, backed by significant resources, capabilities and ambitions [37]. NORDEFCO sees the Russian Federation as a troublemaker of the international order, which poses a danger not only in the traditional military sense, but also in the sphere of new threats: cybercrime, illegal intelligence activities, etc. Since 2014, the pan-European focus has clearly shifted from cooperation to confrontation [38], and the Nordic countries are no exception. In 2015, representatives of the Northern European states announced their intention to increase cooperation in the defense sphere: "the ongoing aggression in the east of Ukraine has significantly worsened international security and led to the build-up of military power in our region [16]." Thus, after 2014, the Northern European countries placed special emphasis on traditional security threats – for example, military cooperation in a possible armed conflict [39]. After the Ukrainian issue stimulated the securitization of the "eastern threat" for the Nordic countries within the framework of political discourse, the states of the subregion revised their priorities for cooperation in the NORDEFCO format, shifting the focus from the issues of "soft" security. For example, the States of the subregion began to plan the implementation of the possibility of free movement of each other's troops throughout the Northern European space [40]. February 24, 2022 also became a turning point for European security, "dividing life into "before" and after" [41]. This thesis is also confirmed by the sensational decision of Finland and Sweden to abandon doctrinal neutrality, which for many years of the neutralist course has become an important tradition and elements of the mentality of these countries of the subregion [13]. The conflict in Ukraine acted as a major impetus for the consolidation and deepening of defense cooperation in Northern Europe. The response to Russia's actions was "unity, determination and solidarity" [42].

The "Perspective 2025" (Nordic Defense Cooperation Vision 2025) developed in 2018 within the framework of NORDEFCO also notes the relevance of new hybrid threats [43]. A curious priority of NORDEFCO is the development of "green" defense, which takes into account the need to preserve the environment by reducing the carbon footprint resulting from military activities (which correlates with the image of Northern Europe as an actor actively promoting the environmental agenda – so, M. L. Luchko speaks of an "ecological mentality" [44]). Also in the area of direct interests of NORDEFCO are issues of cooperation with the Baltic states and in the Arctic. Another area of activity for the structure was the search for opportunities to use European instruments in the military sphere for the benefit of Northern European cooperation: for example, the mechanisms of the European Defense Fund. Since the beginning of NORDEFCO's activities, the organization has been based on a broad, not limited only to military threats, understanding of security.

However, the reduction in public coverage of NORDEFCO's activities on the official resources of the defense forum in 2022-2023 suggests that the interest of the Northern European states in this format of interaction is decreasing, and the focus of attention is increasingly shifting towards the North Atlantic Alliance without alternative. However, how could this situation change in the future?

Building scenarios for the development of Northern European cooperation in the field of security.
The study of the Northern European defense cooperation and the priorities of the Nordic countries in the field of security allows us to apply the method of political forecasting to build assumptions about the future status of the Northern European RSC and its elements.

Table 1

Scenarios for the development of Northern European security cooperation

Scenarios for the furure of Nordic security cooperation

The Northern European scenario

 

The least likely scenario in the current conditions is the strengthening and development of NORDEFCO to the level at which the grouping could freely compete with NATO and the EU. Perhaps the states of Northern Europe would try to recreate the "buffer zone" of the bipolar period in their own space in the conditions of increased international anarchy, less bound by international institutions, due to the established historical attraction to such an approach. First of all, Northern Europe would focus on internal problems, refusing to actively participate in the settlement of conflicts around the world.

The role of NATO and the EU: This scenario assumes a sharp and significant weakening of NATO and the EU as centers of power and influence, which may be due to deep disintegration processes provoked by external circumstances.

The status of NORDEFCO: in the conditions of the existence of the current NATO and the EU, NORDEFCO would never be able to become comparable with them in terms of potential and capabilities, since the resources of the Northern European structure are significantly limited simply due to the nature of the Northern European states themselves. However, in the event of a sudden and sharp erosion of the main institutions of Euro-Atlantic security, NORDEFCO could become the only possible alternative for the Northern European states, which would cause a sharp shift in focus and the infusion of new resources into the Northern European structure. In this case, the priority for the Northern European states would be issues of "tough" security and ensuring the territorial integrity of the subregion, and the institutionalization of NORDEFCO would probably increase.

Relations with Russia: In this scenario, Russia acts as the main threat, so cooperation is minimized, however, if possible, it is conducted in a neutral manner of the "buffer approach".

Assessment: The logic of the legacy of the Cold War for the Nordic countries leads to an isolationist approach in conditions of less regulated anarchy in international relations, which actualizes the security dilemma within the region and damages international security as a whole. However, a return to the old isolationism seems extremely unlikely at the moment.

Inertial scenario

The long-term trend towards strengthening sub-regional cooperation will continue through the development of common mechanisms and practices, mainly in the field of "soft" security, which, however, will not acquire the status of a possible complete replacement for pan-European and Euro-Atlantic alternatives. It seems extremely unlikely due to external circumstances exerting strong pressure on the region.

The role of NATO and the EU: The priority for non-aligned states will remain the development of security policy at the EU level, but since deep structural contradictions have matured in the European integration association, Stockholm and Helsinki will pay considerable attention to cooperation with NATO. Along with the limitation of American influence, cooperation with NATO and the United States will deepen, and over time, the nature of the NORDEFCO-US relationship will become a confident partner, the American side will acquire a special, privileged status.

NORDEFCO status: Complementary mechanism.

Relations with Russia: In this scenario, Russia remains a dangerous neighbor with whom it is necessary to build constructive cooperation, but there is no real trust and willingness to build a common security space in these relations.

Assessment: This most favorable and balanced scenario for Russia seems unlikely, since the extreme turbulence of international relations established after the escalation of the conflict in Ukraine does not allow Northern Europe to maintain previous relations with the Russian Federation and causes its proactive actions in the Atlantic direction.

European scenario

It presupposes the development of a strong, united Europe, the further strengthening of the European integration model through the resolution of internal crises and contradictions.

The role of NATO and the EU: In this case, we can expect an increase in the effectiveness of the USPB and the CSDP, the transformation of the European Union into an independent center of power in the field of security, a powerful competing pole of influence on a par with NATO, which can provide solid real security guarantees. Perhaps the strengthening of the role and importance of the EU will push Norway and Iceland to join the ranks of the Union due to fears of possible marginalization of their status in Europe, weaken the strong Atlantic orientation of the countries.

NORDEFCO status: NORDEFCO can act as a sub-regional junior structure of the EU while maintaining significant autonomy and independence, in which Norway and Iceland can conditionally act as external partners (similar to the situation with the Schengen area). NORDEFCO will be subject to the general principles and rules of the EU, which will reduce the independence of the group and make it more formalized and institutionalized.

Relations with Russia: in the context of an acute crisis in the field of international security, pronounced antagonism between groups is expected. At the same time, such a confrontation would be more stable than a confrontation with NATO.

Assessment: It is possible to weaken the influence of NATO in the subregion, the organic integration of Northern Europe into a single European security system and the rejection of the former "mosaic" membership in organizations — the states of Northern Europe will finally be able to fully unite within a large macro-structure. It is unlikely in the context of the increased importance of NATO for Northern Europe against the background of the crisis in Ukraine.

Atlantic Scenario

It implies further positioning and strengthening of NATO as the sole guarantor of global security and weak EU defense structures subject to erosion. A necessary component in this scenario is also the presence of a major external threat, primarily from Russia.

The role of NATO and the EU: Together with the accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO, the North Atlantic Alliance becomes the dominant structure in the Northern European security structure.

NORDEFCO status: As part of NATO, NORDEFCO will lose almost all independence and become the common "northern flank" of the North Atlantic Alliance. The erosion of defense cooperation to the NB8 format (5 Nordic countries and 3 Baltic states) is likely.

Relations with Russia: In this case, a sharp increase in tension along the Russia-West line is expected, a significantly increased further militarization of the Northern European subregion due to the build-up of NATO's military presence, politicization and militarization of the borders of the Northern European states, primarily Finland. Russia will be viewed as an unfriendly, aggressive rival, which will lead to an extreme deterioration of diplomatic and economic relations between Northern Europe and the Russian Federation.

Assessment: The complete loss of independence and a sharp increase in tension in the subregion will lead to its accelerated militarization and undermine the national security of individual States.

Conclusion. Finland has repeatedly stated that, despite the different approaches to ensuring national security and the fragmentation of the region in the issue of membership in the most important international organizations, these features do not harm cooperation, but make it more flexible and pragmatic, which generally contributes to strengthening regional security [18]. NORDEFCO serves as both a complement and a counterbalance to the obligations of states in NATO and the EU, on the one hand, allowing the implementation of agreements already reached in the most effective and efficient way, and on the other hand, preventing the dominance of larger groups over small Northern European countries. NORDEFCO, unable to compete independently with the pan-European and transatlantic security systems, creates an auxiliary local security system.

In the field of military cooperation, the Northern European states are more involved in cooperation within the framework of NATO. Nevertheless, the emergence of even such a "secondary" format of sub-regional cooperation was a significant achievement for the Nordic countries. Moreover, there are issues to which the Northern European states pay special attention, but they occupy a peripheral position in the area of NATO interests. One of the most striking examples for a long time was the Arctic issue, which has been rapidly securitized in the NATO discourse in recent years, but is gaining new significance for all new non-Arctic states [45]. Cooperation in such "vulnerable" areas at the sub-regional level closes gaps in the military-defense sphere. However, due to the extreme tension in relations between Russia and the community of Western countries, it is most likely to strengthen cooperation between Northern Europe and NATO to counter a possible threat from the "eastern neighbor" of the Northern European subregion. Such dynamics are highly likely to make an independent sub-regional format of defense cooperation untenable and existing only on paper, the boundaries of which may also blur to the North European-Baltic annex to NATO [46].

Despite the fact that the importance of NORDEFCO as a mechanism for smoothing the uneven blockage of the Northern European states is declining, this system of cooperation can potentially remain an important element of Northern European cooperation to strengthen the synergetic efforts of countries in the field of security, if the states of the subregion are able to realize the stated ambitious goals of developing a new concept for the development of NORDEFCO, taking into account the ongoing global political shifts. However, the declared adaptation of NORDEFCO to the new conditions is recorded only in a few highly specialized program documents and is not a key point of the rhetoric of Northern European politicians. At the moment, their main focus lies in the Atlantic direction – lower-level cooperation formats have found themselves in the all-consuming shadow of NATO.

 

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The article is devoted to the study of the features and prospects of the Northern European Defense Cooperation (NORDEFCO) in the context of the growing confrontation between Russia and Western countries. The author focuses on the specifics of cooperation between Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Iceland in the field of security and identifies several scenarios for the development of this cooperation. Taking into account modern geopolitical realities, the relevance of such a statement of the problem is beyond doubt. As for the methodological basis of the study, it is not clearly defined by the author. At first, it seems that the author relies on the theory of "regional security complexes" by B. Buzan and O. Weaver. So, at the beginning of the second section of the article, the author gives a quote from the commander of the Finnish Defense Forces regarding the common threats and challenges facing the Nordic countries, and also refers to A. Rati's speech. This seems to the author sufficient to talk about the existence of a "Northern European regional security complex". In conclusion, the author casually mentions the "securitization of the Arctic issue." Obviously, however, if we are talking about the securitization process, then a much larger number of actors should be involved in it, and from all countries of the Nordic countries (and not just from Finland). In the remaining sections of the article, the author focuses on describing the structure, functions and main areas of activity of NORDEFCO, without undertaking research on the mutual influence of securitization processes (i.e., social construction of threats) and the distribution/redistribution of material power. Although only on the basis of such an analysis could we talk about the existence of a "Northern European regional security complex". At the same time, the author achieves greater success in using the script construction method, although this method is not mentioned in the text. Due to these methodological shortcomings, the scientific novelty of the work does not seem obvious, especially since the author does not clearly formulate - what exactly is the contribution of the article to the existing literature? The title of the article also raises questions regarding the mention of the "post-bipolar period", which, as is known, began after the collapse of the USSR. However, the NORDEFCO investigated in the article was created in 2009, which limits the time frame of the work to the last 14 years. In addition, there are also inaccuracies in the text itself. For example, the author uses the expression "off-base policy", although most likely we are talking about "off-block policy". Expressions such as "major impulse" and "bipolar superpowers" also seem to be unsuccessful. Regarding the last example, I note that "bipolarity" is a property of the system, not of individual states. As for the bibliography, the author attracts a fairly wide range of primary and secondary sources. However, we can recommend paying attention to such works as - 1) Khudoley K., Lanko, D. The Finnish security dilemma, NATO and the factor of Eastern Europe // World Economy and International Relations, 2019, No. 3; 2) Thorhallson, B. The Role of Small States in the European Union, Aldershot: Routledge, 2000; 3) Carvalho, B., Neumann, I. Small State Status Seeking: Norway's Quest for International Standing. Abingdon: Routledge, 2014. In general, the manuscript makes a fairly favorable impression and, subject to correction of these shortcomings, may be of interest to the readership of the World Politics magazine.

Second Peer Review

Peer reviewers' evaluations remain confidential and are not disclosed to the public. Only external reviews, authorized for publication by the article's author(s), are made public. Typically, these final reviews are conducted after the manuscript's revision. Adhering to our double-blind review policy, the reviewer's identity is kept confidential.
The list of publisher reviewers can be found here.

The subject of the peer-reviewed study is the process and institutions of ensuring Northern European sub-regional cooperation in the field of security and defense. Given the fact that Finland and Sweden will complete the process of joining NATO in the near future, which indirectly indicates their lack of confidence in the sufficiency of the NORDEFCO format to ensure their security, the relevance of the topic of defense cooperation between European states as an alternative and/or complement to NATO cannot be overestimated. The methodological basis of the reviewed study, in addition to the quite obvious systemic approach in this context, was a successful combination of realistic (geopolitical component) and constructivist (theory of (de-) securitization) principles in the concept of regional security complexes by B. Buzan and W. Weaver. Having considered in some detail the main approaches to the study of regional security processes, the author quite rightly explains his methodological choice in favor of the tools of the Copenhagen School of International Relations with higher heuristic capabilities of this tool when studying the functioning of regions in a post-bipolar world. The correct application of the described methodology allowed the author to obtain results with signs of scientific novelty. First of all, this novelty is due to the very comprehensive approach to the study of selected cases in the context of the concept of European sub-regional cooperation. In addition, the author's conclusion on the complementarity of sub-regional defense alliances with pan-European and transatlantic ones is of scientific interest. At the same time, the work recognizes that sub-regional formats like NORDEFCO are under pressure from more global formats, calling into question the very existence of sub-regional cooperation, making it "untenable and existing only on paper." This makes it necessary to reform sub-regional organizations in order to adapt them to the tasks of "synergetic efforts" in the field of security together with higher-level organizations. Structurally, the work makes quite a positive impression: its logic is consistent and reflects the main points of the research. The following sections are highlighted in the text: - "Introduction", where the scientific problem is formulated, its relevance is argued, a brief but thorough review of the main approaches to the study of this problem is conducted, as well as theoretical and methodological reflection; - "Features of Northern European cooperation in the field of national security after the end of the Cold War", where the specifics of interaction are investigated the Nordic countries in the field of security at the current stage of development of international relations; - "NORDEFCO as a key format for Northern European defense cooperation", which reveals the history and main characteristics of NORDEFCO as one of the key security institutions for the Nordic countries; - "Building scenarios for the development of Northern European security cooperation", where, taking into account the identified The previous section of the NORDEFCO crisis highlights four possible scenarios for the development of defense cooperation between the Nordic countries; - "Conclusion", which summarizes the results of the study, draws conclusions and outlines prospects for further research. In terms of style, the reviewed article can also be qualified as a scientific work that leaves a completely positive impression. There are a number of typos in the text (for example: "Features of Northern European cooperation ... after the end of the Cold War"; or another example: "... To strengthen the synergetic efforts of countries in the field of security ..."), but in general it is written competently, in good scientific language, with the correct use of scientific terminology. The bibliography includes 46 titles, including sources in foreign languages, and adequately reflects the state of research on the subject of the article. The appeal to the opponents is presented in a fairly high-quality review of the literature on the topic of the work. Among the advantages of the reviewed article, special mention should be made of the author's use of illustrative material – a table summarizing possible scenarios for the development of the regional security complex of the Northern European countries. GENERAL CONCLUSION: the article proposed for review can be qualified as a scientific work that meets the requirements for works of this kind. The results obtained by the author have signs of scientific novelty, correspond to the subject of the journal "World Politics" and will be of interest to political scientists, specialists in the field of public administration, state security, world politics and international relations, as well as to students of the listed specialties. According to the results of the review, the article is recommended for publication.
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