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Anförande vid IISS Global Strategic Review 2014

Anförande i Oslo, Norge

A year ago we were happy to welcome the GSR to Stockholm, and today we are equally happy to see the GSR move on to another glorious Scandinavian capital.

Our bilateral relationship with Norway is of course a most important and very close one.

There are in the order of 70.000 Swedes - many young people - working and enjoying life here in Oslo.

And in spite of Norway being a staunch member of the Atlantic Alliance, and Sweden in the late 1940's deciding on another course, the security of our two countries is closely bound together.

Indeed, it was to a large extent to get control of the flow of iron ore from the huge mines in northern Sweden through the port of Narvik that Hitler in 1940 attacked Norway and occupied Denmark.

During the decades of the Cold War the main defence efforts of Norway was concentrated on a narrow strip between the northernmost part of Sweden and the Atlantic Ocean.

The solid defence of Sweden was a precondition for a successful defence of Norway. And today we have entered into a new era of also defence cooperation.

Up in the North the air forces of Norway, Sweden and Finland are training together with an intensity that I think has no rival across the borders of Europe.

With Finland and Sweden we are charting new ways of cooperation and connectivity also in defence.

Some of our focus - particularly from the Swedish point of view - is on the Baltic region. And that has increasingly been the case during the past few months.

And we also focus - and here Norway is in the lead - on the challenges of the Arctic and the High North.

Although these are trying times, we do try to engage also Russia in a respectful and mutually beneficial cooperation in this vast new strategic space gradually opened up by the process of global warming.

When I welcomed you in Stockholm a year ago I dwelled upon the new challenges that we Europeans saw rising in the Middle East.

I said that we could face the prospect of a sectarian war raging from Beirut to Basra for years to come and with consequences far beyond what we could see at that time.

And I noted that we Europeans can never just pivot away to Asia, since our fear is that turmoil in the Middle East will pivot right into our societies.

Our strategic priorities are imposed upon us by the strategic realities of our part of the world. The situation today in that wider region is grim.

The horrible war in Syria is on its way to enter its fifth year.

The brave peace efforts between Israel and the Palestinians by US Secretary of State John Kerry has brought nothing so far. In fact, we got a new round of the Gaza war instead.

In Libya what is there of the elected parliament sits on a ship outside the port of Tobruk as the country descend in strife and divisions.

And across Mesopotamia and the Levant we see the rise of a new terrorist threat in the effort to establish a new Islamic caliphate.

Indeed, we see a new belt of terrorist threats emerging in the neighbourhood of the neighbourhood of Europe - Al Qaeda in Maghreb, Boko Haram, Al Shaabab and ISIL.

Today, the UN Security Council meets in special session to discuss primarily the challenge of ISIL and Iraq. Our security reality is being transformed.

When I spoke to you in Stockholm last year I came directly from discussions at the Livadia palace on the Crimea on how to bring together as large parts of our continent as possible within our evolving framework of European integration.

That had been our ambition for a long time.

We were engaged in a partnership for modernisation with Russia.

And we tried to meet the demands of the other countries of the region for a closer relationship with the European Union in order to facilitate Aldo their modernisation.

Little did we see that we were about to enter a new period of confrontation, conflict and even war.

I vividly remember how one of the advisers of the President of Russia in those discussions argued against any agreement between the European Union and Ukraine.

In his opinion, free trade between Russia and the Ukraine was to the immense benefits of both nations, while free trade also between Ukraine and the European Union would be an unimaginable disaster for everyone.

The year since then has seen the security of Europe transformed as Russia twice has invaded Ukraine, asserted itself as an openly revisionist power in the East of our Europe and violated the fundamental principles of peace and security in Europe.

With Crimea, Russia executed a smash-and-grab operation of a sort we haven't seen since Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and annexed it under an equally debatable historical pretext.

The world reacted strongly then, also because to tolerate this being done by one power at one time risks opening up a Pandora's box of also other powers claiming the right to do the same somewhere else at another time.

That's why the invasion, occupation and annexation of Crimea is about far more than the territorial integrity of Ukraine or the security of Europe.

It is fundamentally also about the global order.

About the order also of Asia or Africa. About avoiding a spreading global disorder. But Crimea was never the real aim.

In a way it was collateral damage. The aim was and is Ukraine.

And the aim is to bring that large European country back into some sort of Kremlin-centric arrangement - whatever we then prefer to call it.

But for all the talk about the return of geopolitics, it wasn't only about that, and perhaps not even primarily about that.

It wasn't the Ukraine trade orientation to the European Union that was the number one issue.

It was primarily the Ukraine political orientation towards a European democratic order that was a challenge to the order that the Kremlin wished to see in the areas it claimed some sort of right to dominate.

It wasn't the trade preference of the EU, or the might of Nato, that installed fear in the Kremlin. It was the flags on the Maidan.

Following the intervention of regular units of the Russian army in the easternmost parts of Ukraine, thus de facto defeating the Ukraine forces there, we now have a cease-fire that looks like putting us on the path to another so called frozen conflict in Europe.

It will be the fourth on the direct border of Russia, and it will be the fifth supported and sustained by the armed forces of the Russian federation.

When I spoke to you a year ago I certainly did not foresee all of this happening. In fact no one did.

There were certainly so called hawks in the debate uttering warnings about where Russia was heading. But no one even of them dared to predict this happening.

Where we will be one year, five years or ten years from now I don't know. But I do know that President Putin has embarked on a new course.

And I do know that according to the constitutional arrangements he has put in place he could well be in power in Russia a decade from now as well.

And I do know that much will depend on what will happen in and with Ukraine. Sanctions against Russia is one thing.

But help to Ukraine in different ways is far more important. And in particular help to Ukraine to reform its economy, to get rid of its corruption, to end its insane dependence on heavily subsidised gas and to preserve and strengthen its democratic political system.

If this succeeds Ukraine will survive, the ambitions of today's Kremlin will be blocked and the fears for the future we today see in large parts of Europe will subside.

And then we can also return to a constructive discussion about what I call the integration of the different integrations of Europe and to a partnership for modernisation also with Russia.

Both are needed and would be beneficial for all.

But if it does not we might well be headed for a very complicated European future.

It was slightly more than a decade ago that the European Union in its so far only attempt to formulate a security strategy proudly said that "Europe has never been so prosperous, so secure nor so free" and that we had entered into "a period of peace and stability unprecedented in European history."

That was then. Now no one would find those words appropriate.

A new sense of being exposed and vulnerable has descended on the security debates around Europe.

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