Geopolitics, NATO and global technology competition as closing day topics of the Kultaranta Talks

Photos: Matti Porre/The Office of the President of the Republic of Finland

Photos: Matti Porre/The Office of the President of the Republic of Finland

On 19 June, the second day of the Kultaranta Talks, the guests at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki focused on global geopolitics, Finland’s NATO membership, and technology and security. President of the Republic Sauli Niinistö closed the event he was hosting for the last time by thanking all the participants for a topical debate with references to future.

The new era of geopolitics

The opening discussion of the day examined the new era of geopolitics with Linda Jakobson, Senior Advisor, China Office of Finnish Industries; Professor Liisa Laakso, Senior Researcher, Nordic Institute for Africa; and Minister Jaakko Iloniemi as participants.

The panellists shared the view that there are now more division lines in the world than during the Cold War era. According to the panellists, in the current geopolitical situation, there are a lot of those “sitting on the fence” who avoid taking sides. For example, many countries have not condemned the Russian war of aggression.

Both the panellists and Professor Alexander Stubb, Director of the European University Institute, who gave the commentary speech, considered that the role of the global south will grow considerably in the future. In addition, the interdependence between countries is significant.

Finland as a militarily allied country

The second discussion of the day focused on Finland’s foreign policy as a member of the defence alliance NATO. The panellists discussing the subject were Piritta Asunmaa, Director General, Political Department, Ministry for Foreign Affairs; Tapio Juntunen, Instructor, University of Tampere; Lieutenant General Kim Jäämeri, serving as Military Representative of Finland to the EU and NATO; and Matti Pesu, Leading Researcher, Finnish Institute of International Affairs.

The topics included, among other things, Finland’s role as a member of the alliance, the forthcoming Vilnius Summit, nuclear weapons policy and Western support for Ukraine. The panellists shared the view that Finland is well equipped to fully participate in NATO activities and meet the obligations imposed by the alliance, which will strengthen NATO and, in particular, the security of Northern Europe.

Director General Asunmaa said that Finland’s NATO membership does not significantly change Finland’s foreign policy, as Finland has been cooperating closely with NATO for several decades.

Global technology competition and security

The last discussion focused on the ongoing global technology competition and cyber security with Mikko Hyppönen, Chief Research Officer, WithSecure; Tuuli Koivu, Chief Economist, Nordea; Saana Nilsson, Head of Cabinet at Finnish Security and Intelligence Service; and Valtteri Vuorisalo, Professor of Practice, University of Tampere acting as panellists.

The participants highlighted especially the rapid development of artificial intelligence as a phenomenon that shapes societies and international politics. China’s unpredictability in technology competition was also strongly emphasised. The panellists praised Finland’s expertise in the field of quantum computers, for example, but appealed for increased investments in research and development to keep Finland on top of the wave of technological competition.

Closing remarks by the President of the Republic

The 2023 Kultaranta Talks ended with the closing remarks by President Niinistö, with which he thanked all those who have participated in the Kultaranta Talks and said that he has enjoyed all open discussions held over the years.

He pointed out how often the participants of the event had referred to how important it is to understand each other. “It is a completely different thing to just talk about whether you show understanding or not. If we understand something, we mean that we comprehend what the other person is thinking. And that is an extremely important characteristic.”

In his closing remarks, the President also pondered how few people actually rule the world. “Today, we heard the names Xi, Putin and Trump mentioned quite many times. There are, of course, some other hands involved as well, but it somehow always makes me wonder how enormously much this world entrusts in the hands of such an incredibly small group of people.”

With regard to Finland’s recent NATO membership, the President stated that joining NATO did not make Finland any bigger than it is, but it did make Finland safer.

Kultaranta Talks have been held since 2013 and this was the last time President Niinistö hosted the event.