"Increased military co-operation between the Nordic countries has to be a great idea"

"Events in the Caucasus show that Finland's defence policy is the right one". So says Yrsa Grüne, international security correspondent for Helsinki's Swedish language newspaper, Hufvudstadsbladet. She wishes to see both an increase in Nordic co-operation in defence and security issues and a more open debate in Finland on the merits of NATO membership.

Yrsa Grüne.

On a wall of the Hufvudstadsbladet editorial offices hangs a memorial plaque in remembrance of those members of the newspaper's staff who lost their lives in the defence of Finland.
I see the Winter War and the Continuation War as the great watershed dividing Sweden from Finland. We were at war and Sweden sent over a lot of volunteers, but wasn't involved as a country", Grüne explains.

Sweden surprises

How do you think that the Finnish public has perceived the change in focus of the Swedish Armed Forces?
"The Swedish notion of cutting down on territorial defence in favour of international operations has probably been viewed with a certain degree of surprise."

Not alarming

"But since we have always followed a security policy of general conscription and territorial defence, I don't think that the general view is that it so very alarming."
In one of her leaders for Hufvudstadsbladet ,Grüne wrote, that "Even if Finland does not face a military threat, a policy of a credible defence, not only of the entire territory but also of important societal functions, is worth holding onto".
"The strength of our defence capability is, naturally, a topic for discussion. The parliamentary committee, which delivered its report to the Government in June, did not conclude that there was any reason to increase defence expenditure."
She has difficulty imagining that Finland is, today, threatened militarily.
"Other countries would be affected should we become involved in a military conflict. And that raises the question of how much membership of the European Union really means."
"Ireland said no to the new EU treaty and so we don't have any security guarantees on paper."
"It's partly a matter of overlapping functions. Most EU countries are already members of NATO and have the security guarantees that membership affords."

Nordic cooperation

Yrsa Grüne is of the opinion that increased military co-operation between the Nordic countries is an excellent idea.
"Military equipment and exercises are both areas in which co-operation is possible. I believe that events in the Caucasus could facilitate the process."
"What worries me, however, is the the breach that has opened up between us and the Baltic countries, who have strongly favoured Georgia in the conflict with Russia. We are mentally and culturally very close to the Baltic peoples, and now they think that we haven't shown enough support."

Emotionally charged

Public debate on NATO membership has been far too emotional, in Yrsa Grüne's opinion.
Even if individual politicians (for example Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb) have spoken out in favour of joining NATO, no political party has championed the issue. They talk instead of a 'NATO option'.
"That phrase, 'NATO option' is, I believe, an indication of very poor self-esteem. Any country may retain the right to seek membership of NATO."

By Sören Viktorsson
Photography by Kjell Fredriksson