Suomen ulkopolitiikan asiakirja-arkisto ja kronologia
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Remarks by Mrs. Elisabeth Rehn, Minister of Defense of .Finland, in Washington, D.C., 16 October 1992



1. It gives me special pleasure to be here today and address this particular audience. I am grateful to the WHS ( "wise" ) organizers, particularly to Professor Gale Mattox who has conspired with my good friend Pauli Järvenpää to make this luncheon meeting possible. It is extremely important to have such a network as "wise" to pool the talents of women in the field of international security, and I am proud to give my remarks to you as the first female defense minister in the history of my country.

2. Finland's foreign policy has over the past few years changed perhaps more than that of any other Western European country, Finland's special relationship with the Soviet Union, embodied in the 1948 Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance, has been replaced by a treaty Finland and Russia signed in Helsinki on January 20 of this year. In March, Finland sent its application for membership in the European Communities. In early May, a decision was made to- purchase the next generation of Finland's fighter aircraft, the F/A-18 Hornet, from the united States. And in June, Finland sought and attained an observer's status in NACC, or the North Atlantic Cooperation Council, an organization established in December 1991 to provide NATO a forum to pursue concrete programs of cooperation with its former adversaries.

3. These developments in Finland have of course not taken place in isolation. The collapse of the Soviet bloc has brought about a seismic wave that has shaken the political and military structures of the Old Continent. Finland, following the realistic tradition characteristic of its foreign policy, has reshaped its
foreign and security policy to reflect its new geopolitical position.

4. At the same time, there are serious uncertainties and instabilities left in Europe. There is a murderous civil war raging in the former Yugoslavia; there are the agonies of postcommunism in Eastern Europe; there are the enormous social, economic and environmental problems of the collapsing Soviet empire. The institutional framework of the old world order is gradually adjusting itself to new realities, the exact and final nature of which are not yet known.

5. In many ways, Finland's geopolitical situation today bears great resemblance to the geopolitical set-up right after the First World War. The Baltic states are free; the Eastern empire is in shambles; and Finland is, once again, a "frontier state" - this time between the affluent West and the economically and socially desperate East.

6. At the moment, military-strategic factors are not decisive in the North. Non-military issues and threats are more central to the development of. the Baltic Sea region than are the deployment and structures of military forces. General instability in the region is, nevertheless, so significant that a military analysis can not be omitted.

7. From the military point of view Finland has two centers of gravity: the Baltic Sea and the High North. These two areas are very different in character:
The High North is an area where old status quo still continues. The Russians have their most important strategic nuclear base, the Murmansk area in the Kola Peninsula. NATO is maintaining a presence in Norway and the North Atlantic.

In the Baltic Sea area everything has changed. The Russian Navy must withdraw from the Baltic states. In the future it will have to patrol the Baltic Sea from Kaliningrad and St.Petersburg. The Russian air defense and early warning systems are being relocated east of the Baltic states. The newly-independent Baltic states are not yet capable of controlling their air space or territorial waters. Talks on withdrawal of Russian troops are stalled or proceeding only at a snail's pace.

8. As a result of these changes the center of gravity of the Baltic Sea has moved from southern Baltic Sea (the Danish Straits) to northern Baltic Sea, towards the Gulf of Finland. As a consequence, the strategic importance of the demilitarized Åland Islands has become a subject of debate.

9. The situation along the Finnish-Russian border is often discussed in the press. Luckily for Finland the bordering Russian areas are among the most stable areas in all of Russia. There are no civil wars going on, and the discipline of the Russian border guards continues to be good,

10.Nevertheless, there has been a steady numerical build-up of Russian troops along the Finnish border as a result of troops being withdrawn from former Warsaw Pact countries and from the Baltic states. In terms of quality of military hardware there have been improvements as well: for example, almost all the Russian tanks in the Leningrad Military District are of the newest model, T-80. In addition, some equipment like ground-attack aircraft and attack helicopters have also been recently tranferred to the area.

11. Russian troops do not, in our thinking, constitute a direct
threat against Finland. Still it is quite clear that in the long
run Finland would not like to see such a tense concentration of
military power along our borders. The Russians have stated that
the new troops and equipment are there only on a temporary basis.
Official exchange of information between the Finnish and Russian
authorities has begun.

12. In the middle of these changes, Finland is following a
conservative path in its defense policy. We are modernizing the
territorial defense system, but not changing it radically. We are
discussing the possibility of including women in our defense
forces, but we have not made final decisions. We are improving
the mobility and fire-power of our Navy, but not changing its
defensive duties. And we are, of course, renewing our whole fleet
of aging fighter aircraft.

13. The procurement of the new fighter aircraft (F/A-18 Hornet)
is significant from two points of view. First, it is the first
time since the Winter War that Finland is purchasing American
fighter aircraft. Secondly, Finland is going through the
procurement despite the deepest economic recession for half a

14. Finland is now preparing for EC-membership negotiations,
after applying for membership in March 1992. The avis from the
EC Commission is supposed to arrive any day now, and the
negotiations are expected to get under way early next year.

15. It is important to emphasize that Finland did not apply for
membership in the EC for security reasons. The decision was taken
on the level of national strategy: it was decided that Finnish
interests will be overall best served by Finland being inside the
Community rather than outside. Yet it is quite clear that
security analysis did play a part. It is obvious that if EC
membership was deemed to worsen Finland's security, Finland would
not have applied.

16. What sort of an EC member would Finland be?:

By applying for membership, Finland aims at full participation in
the European economic and political integration. Finland accepts
the acquis communautaire, the finalite politique and the goal of
a closer union among the peoples of Europe, as defined in the
Treaties of Rome and Maastricht. In other words, Finland is ready
to accept all the obligations of a Community member, as they are.

We recognize that the Maastricht Treaty provides for the eventual
framing of a common defense policy for the Union, which might in
time lead to a common defense. Finland accepts the Treaty's
provisions and is prepared to participate constructively in their

17. In a world sharply divided, Finland pursued a policy of neutrality. Its aim was to protect the country's national security interests by making it possible for Finland to stay outside great<pawer conflicts. Neutrality became a broadly applied method of Finland's foreign policy, not a status based on legal instruments. In the new circumstances, Finnish neutrality has been reduced to its core essence: military non-alignment and a credible, independent defense. An independent defense continues to serve Finland's security interests in the current transformation of Europe.

18. What about Finland's long-term relations with its giant eastern neighbor, Russia?

Finland's probable accession to the EC will create a long common border between the European Union and Russia. It is clearly our common interest to support reform ana promote stability in Russia. We have concentrated our efforts on the areas adjacent to us - the St.Petersburg and Murmansk regions and Karelia - as well as on the Baltic countries. But we as a small country can do only so much. It is important that adequate international resources be involved in the reconstruction of these areas.

19. Let me give just one example: In March of this year we received a reminder of the strongest sort of a potential security risk located just east of our border in the form of a reactor accident in a nuclear power plant in Sosnovyi Bor in the vicinity of St.Petersburg. Many parts of the former Soviet union are becoming an ecological danger-zone, with potentially disastrous consequences for the population in those as well as adjacent and even distant regions. One of our top priorities should be to help the ex-Soviet republics clean up their environment and enhance the safety of their nuclear reactors.

20. Is geopolitics still a valid way of analyzing security issues in Europe, as I have done in my brief remarks? It is quite clear that geopolitics do not play an important role in the relationship between, say, Britain and Germany, or the United States and Japan. Other issues, such as monetary stability and the future role of European institutions play a much bigger role.

21. Finland, being situated where it is and being able to do very little about it, seems to be more "geopolitical" than its west European cousin democracies:

As a result, we tend to take the Bismarckian view of our immediate security environment; that Russia is never as strong - or as weak - as it seems.

By the same token, we consider it important that the Baltic
states will receive not only -the western sympathies but also all
the possible western material and immaterial help to strengthen
them in their efforts to rejoin the club of western democratic
market economies.

At the same time, we recognise the fact that Finnish and Swedish
interests, arising their very similar geopolitical situation, are
today very close to each other.

Furthermore, we recognize and support the idea of "mutually
reinforcing institutions" and consider the euro-atlantic security
community as vital for North European security.

Arid, as I have tried to emphasize in my remarks today, we believe
we can best secure our national interests and further our
international aspirations by joining the European Community.

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