President Niinistö at the JEF Leaders’ Summit: JEF complements NATO and provides answers to hybrid issues

The JEF Leaders’ Summit was hosted by Prime Minister of Sweden Ulf Kristersson. Photo: Riikka Hietajärvi/Office of the President of the Republic of Finland

President of the Republic of Finland Sauli Niinistö attended the JEF Leaders’ Summit on 12–13 October 2023 on the island of Gotland in Sweden. The topics of the summit were Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine, the JEF cooperation in relation to NATO and preparedness to address hybrid threats.

President Niinistö told the Finnish media that the leaders were unanimous in their support for Ukraine: the continuation of long-term support in accordance with Ukraine’s needs was considered important. On the day before the summit, Finland decided to deliver the 19th aid package to Ukraine.

There was also consensus on the JEF cooperation framework and on strengthening cooperation with NATO. “We concluded that JEF complements NATO and is well suited to provide answers to questions that may not be directly related to NATO.”

The President said the JEF cooperation is now also developing in the field of hybrid threats. “Artificial intelligence and quantum technology, among others, will change the way we see the world in a fundamental way. And it is important, as we in Finland know very well, that we are at the forefront of these developments,” the President said.

Regarding the damage to the underwater infrastructure between Finland and Estonia, the President said that the Defence Ministers of the JEF countries will hold discussions on the issue. “Surely, in this situation too, it is appropriate for the JEF Defence Ministers to have a general discussion, as they did after the Nord Stream incident.” The President said that discussions will focus in particular on the protection of critical infrastructure, rather than on the ongoing investigation.

In addition to hybrid issues, the ability to increase more traditional capabilities was also on the agenda. “The traditional arms industry is an area that requires a completely new approach, also in Europe. In other words, we must be able to restore previous production capacities and do even a little better,” the President said.

This time, the summit was hosted by Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson and attended by representatives from all ten countries involved in the JEF defence cooperation. President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, attended the beginning of the discussions remotely. The JEF leaders last met in December 2022 in Latvia.

The Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) is a multilateral framework for defence cooperation led by the United Kingdom including Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The aim is to develop the military capabilities of the participating countries through joint exercises, to prevent various crises and, if necessary, to act together in crisis situations. JEF’s main operating environment is Northern Europe and the Baltic Sea region.