Phenomenon of international cooperation in Northern Europe (including north-western part of Russia)

The origins of international cooperation can be traced back to history. Many IR researches as well as historians connect it with the great end of religious wars in Europe and setting up of the Westphalia system of international relations (ir) (I.Wallerstein[1], S.Huntington[2] etc.). Creating of such ir system gave a concrete impetus to inter-national (nation=state) cooperation. Further development of IR science led to the expansion of “cooperation” definition. Traditionally, such cooperation includes bilateral or multilateral diplomacy, reaching of agreements as well as creating of military blocs. Changing of the world today – growth of inter-dependence, exacerbating of the necessity to solve global problems together as well as the globalization phenomenon led to the expansion of the “cooperation” today. International cooperation nowadays embraces not only the issues of trade, customary rules but also includes adequate answers to global challenges, IT development, arms control, space exploration. International cooperation today is a process where 2 or more actors cooperate in order to bring about one’s interests and where armed attack is excluded.

International cooperation particularly in Northern Europe has become extremely topical. Many researches devote their analyses immediately to the region’s development, its uniting and flourishing. Cooperation today is a major political issue and it concerns Northern Europe today as well. I’d like to differentiate the terms here which are “Northern Europe” including north-western parts of Russia and “Nordic Europe” excluding north-western parts of Russia, i.g. Karelia, Murmanskaya oblast, Leningradskaya oblast, St.Petersburg, Kaliningradskaya oblast. The issue is whether citizens of Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Iceland and from Russia’s north-western part really want to build strong economic and political links. (Trying to be very accurate with the terms I am not saying Norwegians or Swedes, since I appeal to all indigenous people that live in Northern Europe). Seems, the answer to the question is yes. During the last 15 years, the idea of Northern cooperation has gained serious incentives, both official (launched and initiated by governments) as well as informal. The issue is really wide and sometimes may seem to be vague. Since here matters not only the process of integration per se, but also its results and ultimate goals. It is possible to argue now that the influence of cooperation is profound since the process highly affects not only political will but also the daily life of ordinary people. So we are witnessing changes today and it’s quite logical to imagine that we will be witnessing the future changes as well. Cooperation nowadays is also a true way to avoid crisis happening not only in particular region but in Europe in general.

As applied to Karelia, north-western Russian republic, I suppose that nowadays there are all the preconditions for the successful achieving of the goals set through regional cooperation. We live in the era of a post-Cold War period, where the process of rationalization of international relations is taking place in Europe and regional factor is of great importance in foreign policy of the countries. In 1991 the Republic of Karelia gained its sovereignty within Russian Federation and since that time the international connections of this region have been developing greatly. For example, by 1990 few Karelian towns have had sister-towns in Finland whereas by 1995 the Republic have signed agreements with 6 provinces (Oulu, Pohyalan Karyala, Kuopio, Mikkeli, Turku-Pori, Keski-Soumi) and two commune unions (Savo, South Karyala,) of Finland, the Swedish province (Vesterbotten), Norwegian province (Troms), the state in the USA (Vermont), the voevodstvo in Poland (Chechanovo) and one of the Georgia (Adjaria)[3].

Northern Europe is of great importance now and will be for the next century. Since 1993 Karelia has taken part in the activities of the Barents Euro-Arctic Region Council[4], the Council of Ministers of Northern countries[5], the Northern Forum[6]. Bilateral agreement with Finland is the most important in foreign relations, it is based on Russian-Finnish agreement on cooperation for the contiguous territories which was signed in 1992[7]. Since 1992 more than 250 projects have been carried out in different spheres of life. International connections in general and with the European Union particularly acquired a new quality after Finland in 1995 joined the Union. It meant that this Russian region (till now) possesses the longest land border with united Europe (almost 1000 kilometers). Such neighboring helped to realize more projects with Danish, Finnish and Swedish partners within the framework of the TACIS program and Euroregion Karelia. They were aimed at reforming the system of state and local government, education, public health service and welfare, forestry in the Republic of Karelia.

It is pretty clear, that cooperation is a multicausal phenomenon, since it is resorted to in different situations.

There are various ways to cooperate, for example, cooperation during the Cold war is also cooperation as well as integration within the EU. There are always some conditions that should present in order to have this cooperation. Indeed, there are factors which are commonly considered as compulsory causes of cooperation, for example, perception, domestic stability.

To build mutually beneficial cooperation is a mastery and there is a great amount of research that try to implicate the nature, the origins of what cooperation is. Of course, time defines much! Living in a present-day society, in a post-cold War period, cooperation takes on special significance. Cooperation is an inalienable phenomenon of today’s life. As Fukuyama claims it is pretty much conditioned on by the events happened on the globe[8]. Definitely, cooperation in the conflict differs from cooperation in the situation of absence of war. It is interesting to notice that a word cooperation, for example, was absent in Soviet Encyclopedia Dictionary of 1980[9]. Nowadays, the world has changed. And it seems to be strange if a country today isolates or is not eager indeed to cooperate, though there are few. Yes, the way of trying to solve problems luckily is changing, though we can’t close our eyes and observe clear interventions to the home affairs of certain states. But still the world is trying to live in accordance with the generally accepted principles of international law, that are non-interference to home affairs, respect of state sovereignty, peaceful settlement of conflicts etc. These are the major milestones that construe the basis for cooperation in the present-day world. But relations between ideas and reality have always been very difficult. They go side by side. Since many researches of IR write much about this dilemma, I can’t but mention it and link to the subject (В.Tunkin[10] etc.). Cooperation is a very complicated thing, quite dynamic, it is like a serious business run by the people who work for it, who share its benefits and profits.

Hereby, I would like to mention also several features of cooperation.

1. Inter-regional integration. The process of regional integration matters not only for this region or Europe where the process is taking place, for example, it matters for the whole world since regional integration is globalization per se. Many researches devote their analyses immediately to the region’s development, its uniting and flourishing (M.Keating[11]). Cooperation today is a major political issue but also is a true way to avoid crisis happening not only in particular region but in Europe in general (for example, integration in Northern Europe or in the Mediterranean, French-German alliance etc.).

2. Cooperation could be inter-national. Here, it may be bilateral and multilateral. Rationalization of ir, growth of inter-dependence in the world, globalization in a post Cold war period, ultimately, multipolarity of the world contributed to the qualitative growth of multilateral cooperation. International conferences, summits, IGOs, NGOs are becoming influential actors both on the international arena and regional level. Globalization also influences highly regional multilateral cooperation by making it much more complicated phenomenon. It turned out that multilateral cooperation suits much more than bilateral.

3. Cooperation is necessary since it involves increasingly more actors that are states, IGOs, TNCs, NGOs, individuals etc.

4. The world tends today to multilateral cooperation since it is much more public and transparent than bilateral one.


[1] Wallerstein I.  World-Systems Analysis: an Introduction. Durham, North Carolina, 2001.

[2] Huntington S. Clash of civilizations [Electronic resource]// S.Huntington.  – Electr.art. –  http://www.nbuv.gov.ua/polit/93hssc.htm, free – Screen title. – Rus.lang.

[3] International Regional Cooperation of the Republic of Karelia [Electronic resource] // Karelian Government. – Electron. art. – http://gov.karelia.ru/Power/Ministry/Relations/inter_e.html ,free – Screen title. – Rus.lang.

[4] Bear Euro-Arctic Region Council [Electronic resource] //BEAR. – Electron. art. – http://www.beac.st/in_English/Barents_Euro-Arctic_Council.iw3,  free. – Screen title. – Eng.lang.

[5] Nordic Council of Ministers [Electronic resource] // NCM. – Electron. art. – www.norden.org,  free. – Screen title. – Eng.lang.

[6] Northern Forum [Electronic resource]//Northern Forum . – Electron. Art. – www.northernforum.org,  free. – Screen title. – Eng.lang.

[7] Finland and Russian Federation agreement on cooperation in the Murmansk region, the Republic of Karelia, St.Petersburg, and the Leningrad region (with annexes) signed at Helsinki on the 20th January 1992. [Electronic resource]//Finnish-Russian agreement . – Electron. art. – untreaty.un.org/unts/60001_120000/29/10/00056465.pdf ,  free. – Screen title. – Eng.lang.

[8] Fukuyama F. The end of history and back again [Electronic resource] // F.Fukuyama – Electr.data. – http://www.kitabxana.org/site/?name=view&page=1&id=391,free – Screen title. – Rus.lang.

[9] Soviet Encyclopedia Dictionary. – Moscow, 1980.

[10] Tunkin B. Law and power in international system.  – Мoscow, 1982.

[11] Keating M.  State and regionalism nationalism: territorial politics and the European state. – Brighton, 1988.

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