Review on Finland’s security cooperation

Government Communications Department

The President of the Republic and the Cabinet Committee on Foreign and Security Policy received a review on Finland’s security cooperation for its information. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs wrote up the review and comments and expert assistance were provided by the Office of the President of the Republic of Finland, the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of Defence.

Upon receiving the review for its information the Committee it noted that, in accordance with its remit, it is limited in nature and that it only addresses Finland’s security and defence policy cooperation with different institutions and states on the basis of the present guidelines. The review does not address issues associated with NATO membership or questions related to ‘comprehensive security’.

The aim is for the review to further the ongoing debate on Finland’s security. The review is particularly topical because of the prevailing international situation, characterised by mounting uncertainty and increasingly tense relations between states. Russia, through its actions in Ukraine, has breached international law and the fundamental principles of European security. Hence, the EU and the United States have imposed sanctions on Russia, which are hoped will result in changes in Russia’s policy. The relationship between Russia and the West is now characterised by mistrust and the prospects for cooperation have deteriorated. While Finland hopes for an improvement in relations, the current problematic situation may continue for a long time.

Russia’s action poses significant challenges to Europe’s security system as a whole. The uncertainty is also seen in Finland’s neighbourhood, the strained situation is manifested in the intensifying military readiness activities in the entire area of the Baltic Rim and Northern Europe.

Also the situation in the Middle East and North Africa has become more unstable. The threat of terrorism is on the rise, and the complexity of threats and risks is growing.

The fundamental purpose of Finland’s foreign and security policy is to secure the conditions for the preservation of Finland’s independence and freedom as well as peace and for the growth of the citizens’ well-being. That is why Finland’s international position and security must continuously be strengthened by means of foreign and security policy, and through national defence. All appropriate instruments, both bilateral and multilateral cooperative frameworks as well as Finland’s membership of the European Union, must be utilised for this purpose.

Finland, in every situation, is responsible for its own security. Finland is recognised as a democratic state, abiding by the rule of law, which pursues good relations and cooperation with its neighbours, and all other countries, through an active stability policy. The goal of Finland’s defence policy is to maintain and develop Finland’s military defence. This calls for intense international cooperation and networking.

The primary purpose of the resources allocated to military defence is to establish a credible defence capability which will act as a deterrent against military pressure or attack. The same capabilities are also used for the international military crisis management missions in which Finland participates. Participation in crisis management tasks and other international cooperation directly and significantly benefits the development of Finland’s national defence. It also strengthens Finland’s international status and creates mutual benefits. In addition, participation in civilian crisis management consolidates the practical experience base and competence of Finnish actors.

International cooperation is founded on international law, a shared value base and mutual benefit. Its key standards rely on the UN Charter and the principles of the OSCE. By bearing international responsibility Finland can provide input to the promotion of peace and security, from which Finland also benefits. Cooperation on different fora is important from the standpoint of Finland’s security policy position.

In order to advance its interests Finland aims to utilise the cooperation prospects of different fora as far as possible.

From the perspective of Finland’s international position and, broadly speaking, its security, the membership of the European Union has been its most important decision. In recent years the Union has also developed as a foreign and security policy actor, especially with regard to its active involvement in international crisis management. The capacity for comprehensive action is the Union’s particular forte. In principle, the obligations of the Lisbon Treaty also mean that the Union is a security community. However, it is not a defence community. Neither the Union nor its Member States could idly stand by should one of the Member States be threatened. When needed, the Union has a variety of instruments available, such as sanctions, for the purpose of exerting political influence and pressure in defending the interests of its Member States. Finland supports developing the Common Security and Defence Policy and the Union as a security community. In December 2013 the EU Council adopted the guidelines of development regarding the Common Security and Defence Policy, military capabilities and the defence industry. Finland supports an update of the European Security Strategy.

When it comes to security and defence policy, the EU can also be developed in many ways. New solutions have to be found to the changing character of conflict and warfare, hybrid threats included. Nevertheless, for the foreseeable future there are no plans to transform the Union into a defence alliance, which would require appropriate structures such as common defence planning, command and control arrangements and any other resources required by a common defence. Moreover, the majority of the Member States of the Union are also members of NATO, through which they primarily carry out their defence cooperation.

Since 1994 Finland has actively engaged in Partnership for Peace (PfP) cooperation with NATO. The Alliance has since reformed its partnership policy several times – most recently at the Wales Summit in 2014. From NATO’s standpoint its partners play a significant role in generating stability and security, and their input is valued. Partner participation has been of particular importance in crisis management operations. However, prospects of cooperation have been opened to active partners in other operational sectors of the Alliance as well.

Finnish military personnel and civilians have been able to utilise and improve their skills in NATO operations, which is very important from the standpoint of Finland’s national defence and to the credibility of its defence. In addition, the significance of international exercises to Finland has grown. The Finnish Defence Forces are highly interoperable with NATO standards, and NATO respects the professional skills of Finnish military personnel.

Considering the future, NATO’s evolving partnership programme continues to provide excellent opportunities for Finland to deepen its participation in the activities of the Alliance, as appropriate, and to utilise all available capabilities and NATO’s structures in the development of Finland’s national defence. Finland also pursues a political dialogue with NATO. Finland, if it so wishes, can participate in exercises or other projects that serve the development of Finland’s national defence, and to which the Alliance wishes to invite its partners.

The development of NATO partnership does not result in NATO membership; there is an altogether separate process in place for that. The collective defence obligation, i.e. ‘security guarantees’, as described in Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty only applies to NATO Member States.

NATO will remain the most important military actor in Europe for the foreseeable future and the venue of transatlantic policy and security relationship. Finland can envisage that the benefits accrued from NATO PfP cooperation will only continue to grow. Finland is also expected to actively participate in said cooperation. Finland, should it so desire, also has the option of applying for NATO membership.

Bilateral cooperation with the United States is important to Finland. Much of Finland’s most modern defence materiel originates in the United States. When it comes to military technology the primacy of the United States is uncontested, and technology cooperation with it may make it possible for Finland to gain access to projects which would otherwise be completely out of reach for smaller countries due to, among other things, their sheer scale. It is in Finland’s interests to strengthen the dialogue with the United States. Furthermore, Finland hopes to advance regional dialogue with the United States.

Progress in Nordic defence cooperation in recent years has continued in quite a satisfactory manner. NORDEFCO cooperation, established in 2009, has resulted in a common structure which merged already existing forms of cooperation. The shared Nordic values and the strong support of the citizens create an excellent point of departure for cooperation. The cooperation will be further developed on the basis of NORDEFCO’s ‘Vision 2020’, adopted during Finland’s Chairmanship.

Traditionally, the roots of bilateral Finnish-Swedish defence cooperation are deep and strong. The cooperation has materialised through, among other things, acquisition programmes, joint crisis management participation, and training and exercises. The close and confidential foreign, security and defence policy dialogue has become an important part of the wider bilateral relationship. Defence cooperation between Finland and Sweden will be separately addressed in the near future.

When it comes to Finland’s national defence, the Committee focused particular attention on the report of a parliamentary assessment group, published in October 2014, which recommended that the Defence Forces’ shortages in materiel be rectified with appropriate additional financing. In addition, the financing of the sizeable capability related acquisition programmes, especially for the Air Force and the Navy, scheduled for the 2020s must be taken into consideration.