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Tal från Peter Hultqvist

Tal av försvarsminister Peter Hultqvist: NATO in Warsaw - Steeling the Alliance?


Tal av försvarsminister Peter Hultqvist under Lennart Meri-konferensen i Tallinn 14 maj 2016

Det talade ordet gäller.

Mr President, Distinguished guests,

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak here in Tallinn on this important topic.

We live in difficult times. More than two years have passed since Russia's annexation of Crimea. The illegal annexation of Crimea cannot become the status quo. The Russian aim is obviously to keep Crimea off the international agenda, let time pass and hope that this will simply become a fact of life. Despite persistent Russian denials, regular Russian troops remain in Donbass, and Moscow continues to provide military equipment and training to the separatists in eastern Ukraine. The intensity of the conflict in eastern Ukraine can be increased or decreased depending on what best serves the interests of the Kremlin at any given moment. The annexation and the Russian involvement in eastern Ukraine is the greatest challenge to the European security order since the Second World War. Russian actions against Ukraine go beyond aggression; they constitute a threat to the right of countries in Russia's neighbourhood to make policy choices of their own.

Therefore, it makes our response and our course of action all the more important. Time passes and other urgent security issues arise on our agenda. But we cannot accept what Russia has done.

Tensions in the Baltic Sea region have increased over the last years. From the Russian side we see large scale military exercises and provocative activities close to our borders. Snap exercises in our vicinity have become a regular feature. From time to time we hear Russian officials making statements regarding the Russian nuclear capabilities.

Just recently, we saw unprofessional and dangerous behaviour by Russian aircrafts in the Baltic Sea, flying dangerously close to the USS Donald Cook. There are other similar examples and from the Swedish side, we know how it feels to be exposed to this provocative behaviour. No matter the nationality of an aircraft or a ship, such actions must be condemned. This behaviour is dangerous, reckless and provocative.

All of this is of course of concern to us and it is important that we respond to the challenges in our region.

In Sweden, we are pursuing a two-tiered defence policy: from the platform of non-military alignment reinforcing our military capability and deepening the cooperation with other countries and organisations. The deepened defence cooperation with Finland is of particular importance since it will include planning for an option to act together beyond peace time. Closer cooperation among the Nordic countries and our solidarity with the Baltic States contribute to enhanced security in our region. We are also strengthening the transatlantic link and our ties to the US. Nationally, we will permanently base a mechanized battle group at the island of Gotland. In addition, we will frequently exercise both air force and navy units as well as our ground-based air defence units.

Overall, a unified European political response is key. By acting together in a predictable and consistent way, we contribute to peace and security in our part of the world.

Sweden is an active partner with NATO. NATO has a key role to ensure stability in the Baltic Sea. As a NATO-partner, we welcome the increased defence measures taken by NATO in the Baltic Sea Region. United States presence in the Baltic Sea Region is crucial and has a clear threshold effect. We are welcoming the US ambition to increase its' presence in Europe through the European Reassurance Initiative.

Our partnership with NATO – with the Enhanced Opportunities Programme as the main platform – is important in facing security challenges in our neighbourhood. We are pleased to see that the format continues to develop with concrete areas of cooperation, such as early involvement in exercise planning, information sharing, as well as political dialogue.

Regarding the upcoming Summit in Warsaw, we believe that the focus should be on the substance, not on formats. From our point of view, security in the Baltic Sea region is of particular importance. Other relevant topics to address are Daesh, Syria and Iraq.

The conflicts in the Middle East, the root causes of the migration flows and the ugly face of terrorism cannot be stopped without solid Transatlantic resolve to stand up for our values and the stability of our societies. The most urgent threat is Daesh and likeminded terror groups.

The future of regional peace and stability depends on keeping European unity. Only together, with a unified European response and through a strong transatlantic link, can we stand up for common values and principles.