The will to defend the country in Finland – Autumn seminar, Katajanokka Casino, 23.10.2014

Ladies and Gentlemen,


The will to defend the country has remained high among Finns from decade to decade. In the most recent interview survey (12/2013) of the Advisory Board of Defence Information, more than four out of five respondents would be willing to take part in national defence tasks according to their capabilities and competences. Similarly, four out of five respondents in the same survey assessed the possibility of a military threat against Finland as low. This was the situation a year ago.


Along with the conflict in Ukraine, we are now in a new situation. Events in Ukraine have significant and far-reaching effects on the whole of Europe, our neighbouring areas as well as directly on Finland. I shall discuss these starting from the scale of all of Europe and ending with our own national point of view.


There are various assessments of events in Ukraine, and of the reasons for and objectives of Russia’s actions. In analysing these, one must also be able to assess the extent to which it has also been a question of Russia’s reaction to the acts of others. For example, the European Union’s so-called Eastern Partnership with Ukraine and five other neighbouring countries was not aimed at establishing any kind of EU sphere of influence that would be directed against third countries, but in Russia it was nonetheless experienced in this way.




Although in terms of the Eastern Partnership the EU could perhaps have acted more skilfully and in a more balanced way, any mistakes that may have been made do not in any way justify Russia’s resorting to power politics.


The events in Ukraine have been a serious blow to European security structures. It seems that along with the conflict, the reality of power politics has returned to our midst also in Europe. The annexation of Crimea and the destabilisation of Ukraine are actions that infringe international law, violate international agreements approved by Russia, and violate Ukraine’s sovereignty and integrity of its territory. The EU has responded by imposing sanctions targeted at Russia, which are intended above all at supporting efforts to find a negotiated solution.


Finland has participated in efforts to resolve the Ukrainian conflict by encouraging Ukraine to implement reforms strengthening the country’s integrity and sovereignty, by maintaining contacts with all the parties involved, and by supporting above all the OSCE’s possibilities to influence resolving the conflict. This we do above all as a member of the European Union, whose Common Foreign and Security Policy we want to strengthen.


In addition to security structures, events in Ukraine have brought to the surface fundamental differences in values between Russia and the EU. For a little over twenty years, we have assumed that the EU and Russia strive to organise society in a manner that, at the least, is parallel. Events in Ukraine, however, seem to be related to a development in which Russia has for some time made a conscious break with our core values such as the rule of law and freedom of expression, which for us are inviolable.


The crisis in Ukraine has also sharply increased tension between NATO and Russia. In the 1990s, it was still believed and hoped that cooperation would develop also in this regard, but development in recent years has gone in the opposite direction. The crisis in Ukraine has brought this negative development to a climax, and has led to the severance of institutional cooperation between NATO and Russia.


Finland’s neighbouring area is also undergoing changes. The effects of the conflict in Ukraine and the wider rise in tension between Russia and NATO reflect markedly in our neighbouring environment. Both NATO and Russia have increased their activity in the Baltic Sea region considerably.


NATO has become appreciably more active during the crisis in Ukraine. NATO’s support measures launched in April have been a short-term reaction to the concern in the eastern member states caused by the situation in Ukraine, and they have focused on providing support for NATO’s eastern members. These so-called reassurance measures have included both rhetorical and concrete support. The rhetoric has emphasized that NATO defends its entire territory in the manner described in Article 5. The concrete measures have been to strengthen policing of the airspace of the Baltic states, supplement aerial and maritime situational awareness by means of AWACS reconnaissance flights in the airspace of Poland and Romania, as well as to intensify exercises in the Baltic states, Poland and Romania.



At its Summit held in Wales in September, NATO took decisions on longer-term reactions to the events in Ukraine. The Summit decisions indicate the return of collective defence to the centre of NATO’s activities and reflected considerably on the Baltic Sea region. The most significant decision was to approve a new NATO Readiness Action Plan, the aim being to strengthen and accelerate the implementation mechanisms of the collective defence, and to support NATO’s measures to strengthen security in the Baltic states and NATO’s other eastern member countries.


In addition, the Readiness Action Plan includes guidelines for longer-term adaptation measures, such as reform of the defence infrastructure, prepositioning of defence material, increasing exercises, increasing the military presence on a rotational basis, intensifying preparedness planning and more efficient distribution and use of intelligence data.


The United States has had a leading role in NATO’s support measures. In addition, the United States has bilateral support measures, and through these its presence in Finland’s neighbouring areas has increased. As of April, United States land forces have rotated in the form of training exercises in Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. This activity is planned to continue at least until the end of the year. In addition, the intention is for Ämari Air Base in Estonia to be activated as a training area.


Russia’s increased activity in the Baltic Sea region once the Ukrainian conflict started is seen, among others, in the transfer of troops, which has increased air traffic between Moscow and Kaliningrad.


Our neighbouring area is also affected by longer-term trends that were ongoing even before the Ukrainian conflict. A major development is the reform of the armed forces underway in Russia, through which Russia’s military capabilities in the region will grow and training exercises will increase. The reform was launched in 2011 and is scheduled to last ten years. The reform is reflected not only in the Baltic Sea region but also in the Kola Peninsula and the rest of the Arctic region. This change, however, should not be compared only to the situation ten years ago, because even the full realization of Russia’s readiness objectives – which appears unlikely in view of Russia’s economic development – would not bring Russia anywhere near the strength it had during the Soviet era.


Another development already underway for a longer time is NATO’s strategic missile defence project, which from the start has been a major bone of contention in relations between the United States and Russia and, at the same time, in relations between NATO and Russia. Satisfactory cooperation in the matter has not been achieved since Russia and NATO disagree as to whether the implementation of NATO’s plan would weaken Russia’s strategic nuclear deterrent in the future and alter the balance of power.


Much is happening in Europe and the Baltic region. Finland’s neighbouring area is in a situation of change. What does this means for Finland? Does the visible return of power politics also lead to a return of the world of the Cold War? Is Finland also faced with new kinds of threats?


Finland does not face a military threat. Nevertheless, the change in the operating environment, and Finland’s geo-strategical position on the border of the military alliance and with a superpower as a neighbour are facts that we must recognize and within the framework of which we must be able to act.


The threats emphasized in the new situation, however, do not alter the fundaments upon which the security of Finland is built. These are a sufficient capability for our own national defence, Finland’s EU membership, partnership with NATO, close Nordic cooperation especially with militarily non-aligned Sweden, and good relations with all neighbouring countries, none of which needs to think that Finland would allow the use of her territory for hostile purposes directed against its neighbours.


The most important tasks of Finland’s foreign, security and defence policy also in the future are to safeguard our independence, territorial integrity and basic values, to promote the population’s security and well-being, and to maintain the functioning of society. The point of departure is a broad-based concept of security and the multilateral international cooperation this requires.


Thus Finland’s security policy is not only the anticipation and aversion of security threats but also the active building of security. Also in this new situation, it is important for Finland not only to ensure the security of people living in Finland but also to continue to produce external security. One question is: How can we produce external security in the future, in the changed situation?


Finland will continue to see to its own defence. The goal is to prevent security threats and to prepare for them in accordance with the principle of comprehensive security. The crisis in Ukraine is an example of how the selection of means for use in conflicts has broadened, which requires a new kind of preparedness. The effects of the hybrid threat now seen target all of society, not just the armed forces. Identification of the onset of a conflict, and anticipation in particular, becomes more difficult. The means available for exerting pressure are political, economic and military means. Information warfare and cyber attacks are an essential part of the selection of available means.


The maintenance of a sufficiently credible deterrence in the new situation requires performance capabilities, the ability to react quickly, and well-functioning security cooperation at the level of society as a whole. This is a challenge in a difficult economic situation in which the cost of defence material rises constantly. The parliamentary group investigating the long-term challenges facing defence recently released its report, where it stated that maintaining a credible defence capability requires additional funding. There is broad political support for this, but decisions will remain for the next parliament and Government to consider.


A strong commitment to European and international cooperation has an important role in Finland’s security and defence policy. This is seen as active participation in the development of the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy, partnership with NATO, Nordic cooperation and international crisis management. The possibilities provided by this multinational cooperation are fully utilised in maintaining and developing the defence capability.


Membership of the EU is a fundamental security policy choice for Finland. The aim is to develop the European Union so as to improve its external role, security and competitiveness. The goal is to strengthen the structures and activities which advance the EU’s global role as a value-based actor that coherently taps into a wide range of instruments. In accordance with the options provided by the Lisbon Treaty, Finland promotes both a more effective Common Foreign and Security Policy and Common Security and Defence Policy.


NATO is changing, and this is also reflected in Finland’s cooperation with NATO. Along with the end of large crisis management operations and the crisis in Ukraine, NATO is shifting the focus of its activities, more so than in the past, to development of the Alliance’s collective defence. In this situation, the challenge for Finland has been to keep cooperation at its current level, as NATO crisis management operations have been central developers of performance and joint action capabilities for partners such as Finland.


Finland was active in the matter, in cooperation with Sweden, and a result was achieved at the Summit in Wales that makes it possible to maintain our cooperation with NATO at its current level. The central objective of the revised NATO Partnership Initiative approved in Wales is to support NATO and partner countries’ readiness to participate in crisis management operations and to develop compatibility also in the future. Important for Finland was the partnership of expanded possibilities included in the revised Partnership Initiative. At the moment, Finland, Sweden, Australia, Jordan and Georgia have been invited to participate in this. It also corresponds well with the objectives for developing NATO partnerships presented by Finland and Sweden.


Nordic security and defence policy cooperation has developed strongly in recent years. This cooperation respects the different choices concerning military alliances and EU cooperation made by the Nordic countries. The decisions made by countries are not an obstacle to the development of pragmatic Nordic defence cooperation in the framework of NORDEFCO. The cooperation involves education, training, surveillance and crisis management activities as well as the procurement of defence material.


Nordic cooperation is by nature a flexible activity. It also gives space for more far-reaching bilateral arrangements. This applies in particular to the deepening cooperation between Finland and Sweden, which has much untapped potential. Some examples for consideration are: the development of naval cooperation and joint exertion of influence in the Baltic Sea region; the constant exchange of information associated with defence planning; development of joint readiness practices; deeper cooperation in the development and procurement of defence material; and joint use of bases.


Our operating environment is thus undergoing an intense change and we face significant challenges. In Finland, the current situation has increased the debate on NATO membership, but the opinions of citizens concerning military non-alignment have not changed. In Sweden, support for NATO membership has risen to between 35 and 40%; at the same time, Sweden’s new Government Programme explicitly states that Sweden will not seek NATO membership. NATO is one aspect associated with our security, but security consists of many issues. Aside from a credible national defence and international cooperation, security is associated with many other issues, such as employment, education and the prevention of inequality. Thus, the issue of security should not be reduced merely to NATO.


Also on the global level, it must be remembered that the recent muscle-flexing of the world of power politics has not displaced the world of interdependence, nor has it removed the necessity of responding to the mega-challenge that the transition to ecologically, socially and economically sustainable development means.


Thus there is reason to express concern that the return of power politics threatens to become a brake with regard to solving issues on the global agenda – halting climate change, preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, eradicating poverty and other ecological and broad security challenges. That is something the world cannot afford.


Nor does the strengthening of division lines in any way promote improving the state of Europe’s southern neighbourhood, which is and will remain a common security interest for all of Europe.