Geography and the shared values of democracy and human rights shapes the agenda for Friday’s U.S.-Nordic summit at the White House.
During his welcoming remarks, President Barack Obama referred to Nordic nations’ welcoming of refugees and humanitarian aid contributions. He praised their dedication to slowing climate change. And he referred to the Nordic countries’ as reliable allies when it comes to security.
It took the president of Finland to mention the biggest security issue for the Nordic countries: Russia. They see what happened in Ukraine and are concerned that the same thing might happen to their neighbors across the Baltic Sea: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
Ties between the United States and the Nordic countries go back 1,000 years, when the Vikings were Europe’s first to find the North America. And now there are about 11-million Scandinavian-Americans in the U.S. President Obama said he invited the leaders to the White House because “sometimes we have a tendency to take our best friends for granted.” They have a lot of work ahead of them.
The Bear in the Room: The U.S.-Nordic Summit and Dealing with Russia
Mark Seip – War on the Rocks
Based on recent Russian actions, the timing of this summit could not be better. For the United States, it was the low flyover of the destroyer USS Donald Cook twice in the Baltic Sea and mid-air barrel roll over a RC-135 surveillance aircraft by Russian jets three weeks ago. For the Nordic states, it was Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warning Sweden if it joined NATO Russia would be forced to increase its forces in its western district. Finland’s government made news last week when it openly published a report on alliance membership based on their concerns with their eastern neighbor. These latest actions add to a growing list of Russian activities throughout the region, includingsimulated invasions of Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland in 2015 as well as, according to NATO naval leadership, a current level of Russian submarine activity matching that of the Cold War. Therefore, a frank dialogue about Russia and what these six nations can and should do to deter further aggression should be front and center of this summit.
Obama Got it Right About the Nordic Countries
András Simonyi – The World Post
The Nordic countries are also among those who take the transatlantic relationship not just seriously, but act on it and consider it at the core of their foreign and security policy….They have all developed special defense and security relationships with the United States, and have been among the most supportive of coalition efforts in Afghanistan and the Balkans and long-time leaders in UN Peacekeeping operations.
The closeness among these countries comes naturally, but now there is a new significance in the face of those threats and challenges faced by all Western democracies. And with a resurgent Russia on their borders, they are a very special target. In this day and age, it is not just the military capabilities of these countries that Russia might view as a challenge. It is the very way of Nordic life, a firm commitment to liberal democracies that celebrate human rights, a vigorous free press and free and fair political systems that cannot be swayed by Russian money.
Obama Should Join Meeting of Nordic Leaders and Help to Make Arctic Safer
Austin Ahmasuk – Alaska Dispatch News
Here in Alaska…[s]ummer sea ice has been reduced by 40 percent since 1979 with the prospect that the Arctic Ocean will be completely ice free in summers sometime this century.
Commercial shipping companies are plotting new shipping lanes across the “opening” Arctic. This increased ship traffic will dramatically increase the risk of catastrophic oil spills and the disturbance of marine mammals….
We wish the Nordic leaders well in addressing the issues that make northern life unique. Steps to reduce the risks associated with increased shipping by prohibiting the use of heavy fuel oil in Arctic waters should be a ready action item on that list.