November 2, 2022

Foreign Minister of Norway Visited the ICDS

Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt. November 2022.
Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt. November 2022.

On November 1, the ICDS was honoured to welcome a high-level delegation from Norway, led by Minister of Foreign Affairs Anniken Huitfeldt. Director Indrek Kannik opened the meeting by giving the honourable guests a brief introduction of the Centre’s activities.

With many risks and challenges still ahead of Ukraine in mind, everyone was positive and optimistic that Russia was destined to lose its opportunistic war of aggression. With the future European security architecture in perspective, Dr. Kristi Raik, Director of the Estonian Foreign Policy Institute at the ICDS, provided the relevant historical background and underlined the ills of the past that were dictating Russia’s hostile behaviour of today. Russia did not abandon an imperialistic attitude towards its neighbours in the 1990s and was experiencing deep unsatisfaction with the democratic processes shaping the world and its immediate neighbourhood in the 2000s, thus failing to democratise itself.

As long as the current regime stays in power, Dr. Raik emphasised, the West cannot normalize relations with Russia. She cautioned, however, against rushing to negotiate with Russia on a new European security order even after Putin’s political demise, wary of the premise that his eventual successor may rise from within the same old security system. Instead, Dr. Raik urged to strengthen NATO and the broader Transatlantic security system and highlighted Ukraine’s recently acquired candidacy status as the step in the right direction on EU’s behalf. Director Kannik added that the West should only negotiate from the position of strength while also reducing its own dependencies on Russia. Everyone agreed that deterrence remained the cornerstone of security. Therefore, Allied—specifically US’, UK’s, France’s, and Germany’s—military presence in the region should increase, and so should defence spending of European allies.

Circling back to the full-scale war raging in Ukraine, the roundtable examined the dangers of the Russian mobilization, as well as of underestimating Russia’s ability to learn from its mistakes and adapt. In this context, the participants acknowledged that Moscow was playing the long game and exercising strategic patience. Director Kannik and Dr. Raik reiterated that Russia would not achieve its original goals, with Putin himself unlikely to survive a defeat in Ukraine. It, however, incurred the risk of prolonging the war, as Russia would continue escalating to deescalate—issuing threats of using nuclear weapons—in a desperate attempt to manipulate the West and Ukraine into compromise.

The discussion also touched upon other issues affecting European security that include:

  • Challenges to liberal democracy evident in some European countries;
  • Strong civil society and general public’s democratic aspirations in the respective countries that have so far saved them from sliding into autocratic regimes and that stand in stark contrast with Russia, where both the war and President Putin, unfortunately, remain widely popular;
  • The case of Belarus—why Lukashenka has not sent his troops to Ukraine, and why the country still has a chance to democratize once Russia loses its grip;
  • China’s interests and activities in Estonia over the last decade;
  • US’ policy in Europe, its continued security engagement and economic support to Ukraine with the next elections in sight, as well as the American focus gradually shifting from Russia to China;
  • Foreign policy similarities and differences among and within the Baltic and Nordic countries with a particular focus on Sweden’s and Finland’s accession to NATO.
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