Nordic, Baltic states firm on Russian sanctions

By Thomas Nilsen, The Independent Barents Observer - November 3, 2016
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Nordic and Baltic prime ministers say their nations will stand firm on sanctions against Russia until peace is reached in Ukraine.

“Russia is now challenging the European security order and we must have a united front against this. Sanctions should continue as long as Russia does not implement the requirements from the Minsk agreement,” said Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Lövfen to the press after meeting his Nordic and Baltic colleagues on Wednesday.

The prime ministers met in Copenhagen where the Nordic Council of Ministers has meetings this week.

Nordic and Baltic Prime Ministers met in Copenhagen on Nov. 2, 2016. (Thomas Nilsen / The Independent Barents Observer)
Nordic and Baltic Prime Ministers met in Copenhagen on Nov. 2, 2016. (Thomas Nilsen / The Independent Barents Observer)

Russia’s military buildup and the increased tensions in the Baltics change the security landscape for the Nordic countries. By inviting the three Baltic states’ prime ministers to Copenhagen, the Nordic cooperation widens its security sphere.

High level political talks with Russia, however, are not on the agenda.

“That is out of question,” Stefan Lövfen said when asked about possibilities to invite President Vladimir Putin to Sweden for talks.

[Russian Foreign Affairs spokeswoman says decision to host US troops will strain Norway-Russia ties]

Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg highlighted that Norway has a good cooperation with Russia in the north.

“In the north it is not as high tensions as we have seen in the Baltics. We have good cooperation with Russia on a lot of common areas and issues of importance,” Solberg said.

She then underlined the need to follow international law.

“I think it is extremely important for all of us believing in democracy, rule of law; small countries like we are. We are dependent on, and our first line of defence, is international law. That’s why it is important to stand firm, to have the sanctions,” Solberg said.

[Russian military wraps up exercise near Norwegian border]

“The hope is that this will affect so Russia wishes to start to cooperate more and that we see deliveries on the Minsk agreement,” the Norwegian prime minister said and pointed to Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and Moscow’s military personnel being in the eastern part of Ukraine.

“We will keep dialog and discussions, but we can’t have a world where big countries do like they want to do to others,” Solberg said.

Denmark’s Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen called on tighter Nordic-Baltic cooperation on security. “We need close Nordic-Baltic cooperation to maintain stability in our region,” he said.

(L-R)Prime ministers Stefan Lofven of Sweden, Juha Sipila of Finland, Lars Lokke Rasmussen of Denmark, Erna Solberg of Norway and Iceland's Minister of Social Affairs Eyglo Hardardottir pose for a family photo in the Danish Prime Minister's office on the occasion of the Nordic Council joint meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark, November 2, 2016. (Scanpix / Nikolai Linares via Reuters)
(L-R)Prime ministers Stefan Lofven of Sweden, Juha Sipila of Finland, Lars Lokke Rasmussen of Denmark, Erna Solberg of Norway and Iceland’s Minister of Social Affairs Eyglo Hardardottir pose for a family photo in the Danish Prime Minister’s office on the occasion of the Nordic Council joint meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark, November 2, 2016. (Scanpix / Nikolai Linares via Reuters)

While the Prime Ministers seem to agree on the wordings, several of the parliamentarians in the Nordic Council asked to calm down the rhetoric.

Former Finnish Foreign Minister, Erkki Tuomioja, accused both Swedish and Finnish media of using war rhetoric.

[Russia puzzled at Norway’s decision to allow stationing of U.S. troops in 2017]

Norwegian Parliament Member Kåre Simensen, representing Finnmark County that borders Russia in the north, told the Barents Observer he hopes the Nordic countries don’t turn their back on Russia, but are open for dialog. Simensen is one of the 87 members of Nordic parliaments that meet at the session of the Nordic Council.

Sweden’s Foreign Minister, Margot Wallström, also calls for dialog with Russia.

“The Baltics should be an ocean of peace, we should have low tension and dialog with Russia,” she said. Wallström names the Arctic Council as another arena for continued political dialog with Russia.

All Nordic foreign ministers were present in Copenhagen.