August 23, 2012

The impact of teddy-bears on Baltic military cooperation

The Chairman of the Committee on National Security and Defence of the Lithuanian Parliament, Mr Arvydas Anusauskas, was this week quoted for blaming Estonian officers who serve at NATO’s Control and Reporting Centre in Karmelava, Lithuania, for a mistake that allowed for the teddy-bear drop in Belarus in early July. Regardless of the excuse that quickly was issued by the chairman, it shows how fragile Baltic cooperation, and not only military cooperation, currently is.

The Chairman of the Committee on National Security and Defence of the Lithuanian Parliament, Mr Arvydas Anusauskas, was this week quoted for blaming Estonian officers who serve at NATO’s Control and Reporting Centre in Karmelava, Lithuania, for a mistake that allowed for the teddy-bear drop in Belarus in early July. Regardless of the excuse that quickly was issued by the chairman, it shows how fragile Baltic cooperation, and not only military cooperation, currently is.

Any form of close international cooperation with the aim of achieving collectively created added value depends on the true will of participating nations. Such cooperation cannot exist solely based on the will of a few politicians to be implemented by a great number of civil servants and military personnel. Why cooperate? To save money? To demonstrate political will and ability to achieve results that the participants never would be able to enjoy if pursued individually? This must be articulated very clearly to all parties involved and backed up by an honest belief that cooperation is vitally important, not just another line in the dusty and politically correct talking points that are exchanged when politicians regularly visit Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius.

Close cooperation creates strong interdependence if an expensive or complicated capability is supported by a number of pillars that equals the number of participating nations. If one partner bales out, there is a risk that the entire project goes down. The basis of these pillars is trust – trust in all the other partners.

If something as innocent as soft teddy-bears makes a high-level politician point the finger at his partners, then how firm are Baltic politicians in their intent to act collectively in NATO and the EU? Overall globalisation, smaller possibilities for even large nations to act individually and trends of decreased defence spending mean that there is a greater need for cooperation. Successful cooperation across borders is dependent on our ability to treat our neighbours not as foreigners, but as colleagues and friends, and also on our acceptance of the fact that we cannot do without each other.

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