The Return of Great-Power Competition to the Northern Flank
Challenges, Initiatives, Responsibilities
The Baltic Sea Strategy Forum is an annual symposium convened on a rotating basis by the institutional members of the steering committee – Åbo Akademi University, the Swedish Defence University, the Institute for Security Policy at Kiel University and the Centre for Military Studies at the University of Copenhagen – or by their partners. The symposium has a focus on strategy in the maritime domain ‘on the Baltic Sea and from the Baltic sea’ and brings together scholars and practitioners from nations around – or with an interest in – the Baltic Sea area, and aims to provide a useful platform for free, frank and innovative strategic debate.
The Baltic Sea Strategy Forum 2019 addressed questions pertaining to NATO’s Northern flank and particularly its Baltic Sea operations in an era of Great Power competition and the different initiatives and challenges in the region. It linked up with previous Baltic Sea Strategy Fora held in Finland (2017) and Denmark (2018), as well as with the Kiel International Seapower Symposia on the ends, means, and ways of maritime strategy.
In 2019, three panels discussed current conditions of Great Power Competition and how that situation is seen by NATO and US, German national and NATO Alliance partner nations. They examined the capabilities, doctrines and strategies of relevant stakeholders in the Baltic Sea Region and also adressed the dynamic strategic environment as well as the importance of communications at the strategic and operational level of conflict among NATO and its partner nations. The final Wrap-up session addressed the key findings of the day. What is the path forward? What should allied military, academia, and policy-makers focus on re: the Baltic?
Panel 1: High-Level Panel on Great Power Competition
Panel 1 discussed how emerging great-power competition shapes the military and political outlook on the Baltic Sea and the Northern flank. In particular, heads of naval and strategic thinking focused on how that situation is viewed by the United States, Germany, and Sweden as well as other nations.
The first panel was chaired by Dr. Sebastian Bruns, Center for Maritime Strategy & Security, Institute for Security Policy, Kiel.
Panel 2: Understanding capabilities and doctrines
Panel 2 examined the capabilities, doctrines and strategies of relevant stakeholders in the Baltic Sea. In particular, the experts focused on the Baltic Sea in Russia's strategic doctrine, the role of China and the PLAN in the Baltic, and the Baltic Sea in NATO's defense and deterrence strategy.
The second panel was chaired by Jeremy Stöhs, Center for Maritime Strategy & Security, Institute for Security Policy, Kiel.
Panel 3: Institutionalizing the initiative & C2
Panel 3 addressed the dynamic strategic environment, the importance of communications at the strategic and operational level of conflict among NATO, and partner nations. The panelists took a deeper look at military exercises and their role in building trust, cooperation and deterrence, on the example of the Swedish-Finnish squadron, and the recently established German Maritime Forces Staff DEU MARFOR and the Baltic Maritime Component Command.
The third panel was chaired by Dr. Henrik Ø. Breitenbauch, Centre for Military Studies, University of Copenhagen.