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Cablegate: Finland, Sweden and Norway Explore a "Nordic

VZCZCXYZ0009
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHHE #0753/01 2771300
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 041300Z OCT 07
FM AMEMBASSY HELSINKI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3809
INFO RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE
RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL 0063
RUEHKH/AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM 0007
RUEHNJ/AMEMBASSY NDJAMENA 0015

C O N F I D E N T I A L HELSINKI 000753

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/04/2017
TAGS: PREL MOPS MARR PGOV NATO AF SU CD FI
SUBJECT: FINLAND, SWEDEN AND NORWAY EXPLORE A "NORDIC
APPROACH" TO AFGHANISTAN, CHAD AND THE NRF

REF: HELSINKI 715

Classified By: POLCHIEF GREGORY THOME FOR REASONS 1.4 (B) AND (D)

1. (C) SUMMARY: The GOF has begun a series of
discussions with Norway and Sweden aimed at developing
a "Nordic approach" to security policy that could
result in new NATO Response Force (NRF) commitments
2008; in more Nordic-led OMLTs; and in a long-term
commitment to staffing the Mazar-al-Shariff ISAF PRT
under alternating Finnish-Swedish leadership. In
addition, GOF sources say the "Nordic approach" will
make it easier to sell difficult operations like
Afghanistan to increasingly skeptical public opinion.
Downsides may include slower decision making, however,
and numerous difficult details remain to be addressed
regarding the Mazar PRT. Meanwhile, the Finns are
pessimistic about the proposed ESDP Mission to Chad,
saying that an EU decision not to deploy a Battle Group
will dramatically limit Nordic troop contributions and
could jeopardize the whole mission. End Summary.

2. (SBU) Finland and Sweden have opened discussions
aimed at developing a bilateral approach to the NATO
Response Force (NRF) membership and a "Nordic approach"
(along with Norway) to crisis management (CM)
operations in Afghanistan and Africa. As part of what
will likely develop into a series of diplomatic and
military conversations, MFA State Secretary Pertti
Torstila traveled to Stockholm for discussions with his
counterparts Sept. 23 and the Swedish and Finnish MODs
met as part of an unofficial meeting of EU Defense
Ministers in Portugal Sept. 28-29. This cable is based
on informal read-outs from MFA and MOD contacts on
those meetings. We understand discussion will expand
to include Norway at an Oct. 9 meeting in Oslo.

Nordic Cooperation
------------------
3. (C) In an era when expensive and difficult
operations like Afghanistan are increasingly a
priority, the "Nordic approach" concept is emerging as
the key to maximizing scarce CM resources, Finnish
contacts say. As important, they add, is the fact that
a Nordic approach makes it easier for all three
governments to sell the tough mission in Afghanistan
(and politically sensitive endeavors like joining the
NRF) to an increasingly skeptical public. As one
official put it, the EU Battle groups require the
Nordics to cooperate tactically, but the Afghanistan
operation and the closer relationship with NATO are
issues that call for joint strategies on the political
and public diplomacy levels.

PRTs and OMLTs
--------------
4. (C) The Finns are particularly hopeful that the
Nordic approach will help them do more in Afghanistan -
- a goal which is high on the GOF's agenda but has
proven politically difficult to implement. When PDAS
Kurt Volker visited Finland in mid-September, senior
MFA and MOD officials enthusiastically described plans
to offer OMLTs in Afghanistan and to take leadership of
the ISAF PRT at Mazar-al-Shariff in late 2008 (reftel).
Since then, however, many questions -- both political
and operational -- have arisen. Torstila's meetings
represented the "initial political effort" to negotiate
a rotating Finnish-Swedish PRT leadership structure at
Mazar-al-Sharif, MFA contacts reported. However, they
hastened to add, "much more negotiation needs to
occur," especially regarding troop commitments. Sweden
currently has 365 troops in Mazar and leads the PRT,
while the Finns supply about 90. The Swedes told
Torstila that sizeable impending budget cuts will
likely result in force reductions at Mazar, but they
hoped that the Finnish troop increases that would have
to accompany a PRT leadership role could offset Swedish
decreases. However, the GOF is currently considering
an additional 50 to 60 troops -- a figure Finnish
officials readily admit would fall far short of what is
necessary to lead the PRT effectively, especially if
the Swedes draw down. The 50-60 figure is not set in
stone and could well increase, MFA contacts said, and
the Swedes did not in any way reject the Finnish idea
of rotating PRT leadership. However, there is
currently a disconnect and more discussions still
obviously need to occur.

5. (SBU) As for OMLTs, the Nordic approach offers good

possibilities. Finnish Political Director Pilvi-Sisko
Vierros Villeneuve had suggested to PDAS Volker that
the Finns would offer their own stand-alone OMLT
(reftel). However, it appears that the Finnish MOD and
MFA now believe that an increase in the number of
"Nordic OMLTs" can be even greater if the GOF pools
resources with regional partners. Norway and Sweden
already operate two OMLTs jointly and, with added
Finnish contributions, that number could be increased.
MFA sources say Norway has formally "invited" Finland
to join OMLT operations as they expand. Our Finnish
briefers were unclear at this point as to how many
Nordic OMLTs are ultimately planned. However, they
were enthusiastic about the possibility of an increase
beyond three under shared Nordic leadership.

NRF: A Tougher Sell than Expected
---------------------------------
6. (C) The Finns are also hopeful that the Nordic
security approach will help them sell the concept of
NRF participation. Before the previous center-right
government left office, Finland's joining the NRF
seemed almost a done deal. The then-Foreign Minister
(a notorious NATO skeptic) had publicly accepted the
idea, and President Halonen also seemed to be on board.
Now, however, the new center-right has encountered
surprisingly staunch opposition to NRF participation as
much from within the coalition as from the opposition.
Some Finnish politicians have begun hiding behind the
allegation that the NATO Allies are so unclear about
the future structure of the NRF that they do not want
Partner countries expressing interest at this point.
(COMMENT: The Embassy has worked hard to dispel this
canard, emphasizing that although the Allies are
carefully considering changes to the NRF's structure
and deployment guidelines, expressions of interest from
Partners are indeed welcome. END COMMENT.)

7. (C) MFA and MOD contacts -- who fully support NRF
participation -- are very hopeful that as the "Nordic
approach" develops, it will serve as a useful tool to
undermine rumors and increase political and public
support for the NRF. The key for us is to move forward
with our Nordic partners to make this happen, one MFA
office director said. Neither country can be held
hostage to the other's progress toward full NRF
participation, but both Stockholm and Helsinki are
hopeful of making a firm commitment either at the April
Bucharest NATO Summit or, at the very latest, in time
for the November 2008 NATO Force Generation Conference.

The Chad Mission May Stumble
----------------------------
8. (C) Separately, the Finns have expressed
disappointment that the Nordic EU Battle Group (EUBG)
that will stand up Jan. 1 will not be deployed as part
of a proposed ESDP mission to Chad. The GOF favored
deployment, but consensus in the EU was that the tasks
and timetable in Chad did not fit EUBG parameters, MFA
contacts reported. Deployment of the BG would have
permitted 1000 Swedish forces and some 240 Finns to
participate. The EU will now seek to staff the Chad
mission via "the usual force generation" mechanisms;
however, our disappointed contacts said, budget
constraints will likely limit the Swedish contribution
to no more than 200, and the Finnish to about 12
police/civilian crisis managers.

COMMENT
-------
9. (C) The GOF is encountering domestic uneasiness
regarding its ambitious plans to do more in Afghanistan
and to join the NRF. As this slow, consensus-building
process plays out, we will continue to encourage
creative ideas like the "Nordic approach" which do
appear to hold promise, both as a way of maximizing
Nordic resources and winning over the naysayers. End
Comment.
WARE

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