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The rise of Nordic defence cooperation: a return to regionalism?

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During the Cold War, Nordic cooperation blossomed and the region's identity was strong, yet defence was left outside the Nordic framework. After the end of the Cold War, Nordic cooperation waned and it was largely replaced by cooperation within the framework of the European Union. During the past couple of years, however, Nordic defence cooperation has been boosted by a number of initiatives and common projects. This article analyses this recent rise of Nordic defence cooperation. In terms of theory, it revolves around the question of how material and identity factors explain security cooperation in today's Europe. During the Cold War, identity was an easy explanation for societal cooperation between the Nordic countries, but geostrategic factors and national interests based on them determined (the lack of) defence cooperation. Even today, Nordic defence cooperation is justified more by cost‐efficiency and geographical proximity than by common identity. This article argues that Nordic identity nevertheless plays an important role in motivating defence cooperation. It is not driven by pure cost‐efficiency or strategic calculation. The role of identity needs to be understood, however, not as a kind of independent force but as part of the political process. Nordic identity explains the rise of the region's defence cooperation in two ways: it facilitates informal cooperation between defence officials at various levels; and it is easy to sell international defence cooperation politically to domestic audiences if it is done in the Nordic context. Yet Nordic cooperation is not seen as contradicting European or NATO cooperation.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Professor of International Politics at the University of Tampere, Finland. He is also deputy director of the Centre of Excellence on Choices of Russian Modernisation at the Aleksanteri Institute of the University of Helsinki.

Publication date: September 1, 2013

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