There is almost universal agreement that the European security and defence policy (ESDP) has been driven and determined by the great powers (the UK, France and Germany). I challenge this view by arguing that the Nordic countries have had a significant, and at times even decisive, influence upon the civilian ESDP. They put civilian crisis management on the ESDP agenda and successfully kept it there in the face of strong opposition led by France; they have played central roles with respect to proposing and designing its concepts and institutions; and they have consistently made disproportionate mission contributions in terms of both personnel and treasure. I identify three factors that have blinded researchers to the Nordic role and explain the Nordic influence with four explanatory factors derived from the emerging literature on the European Union (EU) and small states. I thus rely on existing theory to make an empirical contribution to the field.