Minister for Foreign Affairs Timo Soini's speech at the Aspen Institute Romania – Conference on 13th June 2018, Romania.
Current Security Challenges and Hybrid Threats – How to Improve Our Security?
A great pleasure to be here. Thank you for this opportunity.
During the Crimean War the Sea fortress of Suomenlinna/Sveaborg - just off the coast of Finland's capital Helsinki – endured heavy damages. This was caused by 20 000 cannon shots fired from 77 warships during 47 hours of continuous bombardment.
During the Crimean war the prime minister and the Government of the United Kingdom were forced to resign due to new information and communication technologies and due to aggressive media.
I am speaking about the Crimean War of 1853-1856. Finland was part of the Russian Empire; United Kingdom and France - allied with Turkey - fought against Russia. Allied forces wanted to open a second front on Russia. Helsinki and Fortress of Suomenlinna are located only 300 kilometers from St. Petersburg – the capital of Russia at the time.
Telegraph was the new technology that made the Crimean war the first "media war" of the history. Suspected catastrophes and misconduct of the war were reported loudly and in a colorful way. These news reached England very fast. All this caused opposition to government's policies on the Crimean war and as a result Prime Minister Aberdeen and his government were forced to resign.
These events – 160 years ago - offer us some familiar elements. They also reveal the close connection between the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea regions.
Also today the security situation in Europe has worsened. The illegal annexation of Crimea as well the Russia's role in the conflict in Eastern Ukraine has influenced the security situation also in the Baltic Sea region. I will focus on the Baltic Sea region. It is essential to realize that also today the tense security situation in our region is directly linked to the wider European security. Similarly, hybrid threats are also part of the wider security picture.
We have to be prepared that the tense situation in Europe continues. There are some underlying reasons for this. One of them being the fact that Russia has a different view on the principles for the building blocks of European security. Another reason is the continuation of the war in Eastern Ukraine.
Hence, we need to use a range of various means to mitigate the security situation, to improve stability and predictability. EU's unity has been preserved. It is of utmost importance that we also stay united also in the future even if pressure is increasing from many corners.
NATO has increased its presence and efforts in the Baltic Sea region; the Enhanced Forward Presence is good as it provides security and stability. It is important that NATO's measures have been calibrated and are not aimed to provoke or to escalate.
Finland on her part produces security. We have increased our international security cooperation with NATO. Bilaterally we have enhanced cooperation with nations from Sweden to the United Kingdom and the United States. Finland is a strong supporter and has high ambitions for EU's defence cooperation. We need to recognize that this cooperation will benefit also NATO as well as transatlantic burden-sharing.
Finland has increased its defence spending in order to continue to have a credible national defence. Calculated in NATO-standards, our military expenditure is 1.6 % of the GDP. In the coming years we will carry out major investments in the air forces and navy. This will place the GDP-ratio well beyond 2 % for the most part of the next decade.
We have increased also our "legal resilience" through amendments to the to the Territorial Surveillance Act to cover the use of force in situations in which Finland's territorial integrity is violated; a new legal framework on giving and receiving foreign military aid; amendments to military and civilian intelligence legislation. It is important to have one's toolbox in condition for all possible situations.
Dialogue with Russia is part of our security tools. This is not in contrast to the EU’s common positions on Russia that forms the basis for Finland’s action. Dialogue on practical topics is needed – be it bilateral issues (border, environment, cross border traffic) or issues related to the Baltic Sea Security or Ukraine.
We need to focus more on the hybrid threats and hybrid influencing. We need to be able to articulate better what are hybrid threats and what is hybrid influencing. We need to be able to explain why hostile hybrid activities are a danger to our security and why they are aimed to divide us.
We have all seen election influencing where cyberattacks and information operations are used as tools in efforts to have an impact and to change election results. This is serious. So it needs to be taken seriously.
I think it is very telling that our adversaries use the very fundaments of our societies as hybrid tools: elections, democracy, pluralism and rule-of-law. They are the very fundamental pillars of our societies. These are the structures they wish to destroy. They have not chosen the targets by accident; this is a well-planned strategy. If our own people start to question the basic democratic systems, then our adversaries have won. The liberal democracies will wither – and will be no more. Hence, these are the structures we need to defend jointly and with determination.
The Salisbury attack has increased our awareness and our focus on hybrid threats. The Salisbury incident could be a game-changer for our common resolve.
Presently both the EU and NATO are preoccupied to bolster capabilities to counter hybrid threats. Therefore, it is important that hybrid threats, cyber, countering disinformation, building resilience and improving our own strategic communications are discussed in the June European Council as well as in the NATO Summit in July.
I would like to raise one argument that has caused some confusion and is used to water-down the hybrid activities. Hybrid means and hybrid influencing are separate from the traditional use of soft power. Hybrid influencing uses tools that are often either illegal or against international rules and norms. Hybrid threats are harmful to the targeted nation; they are often aimed to worsen security or to weaken the trust in government. These attributes have nothing to do with soft power.
It is also important to be clear that in countering hybrid threats we do not – a priori – work with any particular state or non-state actor in our mind. Regardless of the source, we want to counter the phenomenon. We wish to counter hostile or malign hybrid activity. Yet, in the Baltic Sea region the Russian Federation is the state-actor that is most often associated with hybrid influencing. Finland has had its share as well.
Increased international awareness, increased exchange of best practices in countering malign hybrid influencing will create better tools to counter hybrid threats. In our experience national unity, national interagency cooperation is essential. But likewise the international cooperation and unity are important in countering hybrid threats.
Since April this year Finland has had an ambassador responsible for countering hybrid threats. International cooperation on hybrid issues will need to be increased in different fora. Finland wishes contribute to this work through our experiences and – for example – through our national model of comprehensive security.
In the current strategic environment, EU-NATO engagement remains of utmost importance. One of the leading themes of the EU-NATO cooperation is hybrid. And I am proud to say that one of the flagship projects of the cooperation is The European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats located in Helsinki. And happy that Romania will join us.
Thank you for your attention.