Courtesy Reuters

Norway's Search for a Nordpolitik

Nordic Europe has been a zone of stability in postwar Europe. Broad social consensus, economic growth and the development of welfare systems providing the basis for security as well as dignity for the individual, have contributed to a stable equilibrium between state and society. There is no irredentism at work, Finnish territorial concessions to the Soviet Union after the Second World War notwithstanding.

The term "Nordic Europe" denotes a cultural community and a pattern of social organization based on the concept of the welfare state. Norway, Sweden and Denmark constitute the core area, with Finland and Iceland as the peripheral zones. Nevertheless, important differences prevail among the states themselves, for in terms of foreign policy Nordic Europe displays a complex pattern of alignment and nonalignment, reflecting the fact that the Nordic states have chosen different roads to security. However, in decision-making with respect to foreign policy, considerations of regional stability weigh heavily in all the Nordic capitals.

Iceland has no national military establishment. Protection is provided by the American Icelandic Defense Force. Norway and Denmark are founding members of NATO, but they have adhered to certain self-denying ordinances prohibiting the stationing of allied troops and nuclear weapons on their territories in peacetime. Sweden is a traditional nonaligned country aiming for armed neutrality in the event of war. Finland is also nonaligned, but has a treaty of friendship and mutual assistance with the Soviet Union.

This pattern has stabilized over time and become a constituent element in the postwar security order in Europe. It is recognized in all Nordic capitals that decisions amounting to major deviations from the established pattern could alter the calculus in other Nordic countries and the external pressures which influence that calculus. Maintaining the basic features of the established equilibrium has become a central guideline in the foreign policies of all the Nordic states. The situation, of course, is not static. Changes in the external environment will require adjustment and response from the Nordic states. Assessments of the

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