Few people know the High North security environment like Estonian MP Tarmo Kouts. As a junior officer in the Soviet merchant navy in the 1970s, Mr Kouts shipped timber through the Kara Sea and the Barents Sea to Europe. After Estonia gained independence he helped to build its armed forces, rising to the rank of vice admiral, before going into politics. In 2007 he watched reports as a Russian submarine planted a titanium flag on the seabed under the North Pole.

"This operation was a sign from the Russians. It said: 'We are here. We are the first and it belongs to us.' If we are talking about the Arctic Ocean, they have quite a significant naval capability in Murmansk and in many other points in Arctic waters," he said.

Not from one of the Nordic countries – Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden – Mr Kouts nevertheless backs an initiative by the five states to band together in response to the melting ice caps and the coming race to tap new mineral resources and trade routes.

The Nordic pact was mooted by foreign ministers at a meeting in Reykjavik in November and is to be discussed again in Helsinki in April.

Its blueprint is the Stoltenberg Report, a list of proposals set out in 2009 by Thorvald Stoltenberg, Norway's former foreign minister and defence minister and the father of its current prime minister. The report suggests, among other measures: creating a military and civilian taskforce for unstable regions; a joint amphibious unit; a disaster-response unit; a coastguard-level maritime response force; joint cyber-defence systems; joint air, maritime and satellite surveillance; co-operation on Arctic governance; and a war crimes investigation unit. Read full article in the EUobserver.com...

The article also appeared in the Nordic Council/Nordic Council of Ministers' online news magazine, Analys Norden.