During the past six months, we have witnessed profound changes in our security environment. Russia’s unjustified and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and the ongoing war therein have shaken the very foundations of the European rules-based security order.
We have been forced to re-evaluate our approach to European security – both nationally and on the EU level alike.
The European security order established during the Cold War and enshrined in the Treaty on Conventional Armed agreements and principles (OSCE), could not prevent a full-scale war in Europe.
Russia, which had willingly joined the European security order, now wants to annex and control its sovereign and independent neighbor, Ukraine. Russia has proven to be ready to take higher risks, including a high number of casualties, to advance these political objectives, and its actions have caused the security situation in Europe to become difficult to predict.
The burden of the war is of course born by Ukrainians. They pay the price of Russia’s brutal invasion, and we support them full-heartedly.
Even when Russia eventually will cease its military aggression, substantial distrust will remain. Our perception of Russia and European security has changed.
Let me first touch on the Finnish perspective on the current security situation.
Until February this year, the combination of strong national defence capability, close NATO partnership and a network of bi- and multilateral defence cooperation arrangements served Finland well. Russia’s attack on Ukraine, however, changed the equation.
Already in late February, we saw the public opinion in Finland shift in support of NATO membership. A thorough assessment on the rapidly unfolding changes in our security environment was conducted swiftly and led up to Finland’s historical decision to apply for a NATO membership.
For Finland, the change in how we see our own security has not been as sharp as it may at first glance seem. Finns are traditionally very security oriented and, due to our history and geographical location, we have always had a very concrete approach to security issues.
Finland has been a NATO partner since 1994 and has for long retained the option to apply for a full membership of the alliance. The so-called ”NATO-option”. Now we are about to join NATO together with our closest bilateral partner and neighbour Sweden. And we somewhat influenced also Sweden’s decision.
As a NATO member, Finland will continue to be in charge of its own defense. However, we will also be strongly committed to maintaining and enhancing the security of the Baltic Sea region, Northern Europe as well as the entire Euro-Atlantic alliance.
The European Union, to which a large number of NATO members belong, will continue to be Finland’s key reference framework, and channel of influence.
Let me now turn to the EU level, where the member states have swiftlyand firmly taken action in support of Ukraine.
The role of the EU as a foreign, security and defense policy actor has strengthened during the past six months. The EU has shown unity and, first and foremost, exercised its economic power.
Granting Ukraine EU candidate status was an important step in the firm support the member states have shown for Ukraine’s self-elected European path.
Re-evaluating the existing national policies in the member states has enabled common decisions to be made in record time. The member states have committed to bolstering European defense capabilities and for the first time, the EU has sent arms assistance to a partner country through the European Peace Facility.
Approval of the EU’s tremendously well-timed Strategic Compass for Security and Defence in March and the Danish referendum on the abolition of their EU defense opt-out held in June illustrate well the growing importance of the EU’s common security and defense policy.
The Civilian and Military CSDP missions are key tools for the EU to promote stability and peace. For instance in Ukraine, the EU Advisory Mission headed by Antti Hartikainen provides vital support to our Ukrainian partners.
We must develop and mobilize the EU’s security and defence related policies and capabilities not to compete with, but to complement the NATO capacities. Finland is an active proponent of cooperation between the EU and NATO.
The past six months have brought about an intensive discussion on issues of hard security. However, we should bear in mind the comprehensive approach to security both nationally and on the EU level. We are best able to uphold security and respond to threats, when our capabilities are top-notch both in the military and civilian sides.
Russia’s attack on Ukraine has had global consequences and highlighted the crucial importance of issues such as food security. Here I would like to point out also the climate change and its impacts on security policy. For Finland, the Arctic is of key concern in this regard, as the impacts of climate change there are faster than in elsewhere in the world.
Another cross-cutting theme that deserves our attention are the cyber and hybrid issues that have become increasingly intertwined with security policy. A great challenge for the EU and partners is how to counter disinformation spread by Russia.
The rules-based international order is as much at stake in the cyberspace as in the physical world. Upholding increased cooperation on the EU level will strengthen our common resilience also on this sector.
Finally, a few words on the future of European security.
Sadly, it is difficult to foresee a short-term solution to the ongoing war Russia is waging in Ukraine. We need to be prepared for the possibility of a long war, which could last for years. At the same time, the international community, including Finland, continues to have a duty to support Ukraine, which is defending itself against illegal aggression in accordance with the UN Charter.
Russia has remained isolated in its war and the preceding demands for spheres of influence while other European states have stood up for the commonly agreed security order. International organisations have responded strongly to Russia’s aggression, and regional and multilateral cooperation with Russia has been cut back.
Russia’s demands to change the European security order have undermined also, for example, the OSCE’s activities. This has a bearing on Finland’s preparations for the OSCE Chairmanship in 2025.
We need to be sure to preserve these structures for the future as, in the longer term, we must prepare for a discussion on the European security order.
Finding new, sustainable solutions for European security poses a considerable challenge for us in the future.
Thank you for your attention. Looking forward to an interesting discussion on the topic.