Ladies and Gentlemen,
My main message today is that national defence and international defence cooperation are two sides of the same coin. Developing defence today is not about choosing between the two. We need both.
Everything starts from the requirements set by the security environment. Needless to say, we face a more complex, unpredictable and challenging security environment than Europe has seen in decades, much to do with Russian action, especially in Ukraine. The early-warning period for military crises has become shorter and the threshold for using force lower.
We have concretely seen these changes in our vicinity. The military-strategic importance of the Baltic Sea region has increased and the military activity intensified. Also, the military footprint in the Arctic region has grown.
Should threats to security emerge in our vicinity or elsewhere in Europe, we would be affected. Finland would not be an outsider.
What does this all mean? We need to be prepared for various scenarios, we need to be ready for hybrid warfare. In addition to military tools, we need to boost our national resilience in a comprehensive way. At the same time, military force remains an inseparable part of hybrid warfare since our adversaries can easily move from low level of conflict to conventional war.
To sum up, the demands for defence have grown. The Government’s Defence Report, approved last year, concludes that we need to strengthen our defence capability and intensify our international defence cooperation.
How do we develop deterrence and create ability to repel attack in today’s operating environment?
The defence of Finland calls for the ability to carry out land, maritime, air and cyberspace operations. The focus areas when developing our defence include intelligence capability, defence against long-range weapon systems and a cyber-defence capability. This means that we maintain readiness and rapidly deployable forces and systems as well as a large, trained reserve. Our wartime forces consist of some 280 000 soldiers.
The defence budget has been increased in order to improve readiness and to maintain the level of materiel investment. The two key capability programmes – the Navy Squadron 2020 and the replacement of the F/A-18 aircraft – are of crucial importance to Finland’s defence.
We have also updated our legislation to better respond to the changed security environment.
As a small nation, Finland relies on wide-ranging cooperation with other national authorities, on the resources of the whole society, and on the robust will to defend the country.
It is no news that active defence cooperation is an important part of everything we do today. We are an active member of the EU and a close partner to NATO. Our cooperation with our Nordic and Baltic friends is tight. We deepen our bilateral cooperation in particular with Sweden and with the USA – also on a trilateral level.
Let me say a few words about our bilateral defence relationship with the US here. Today our relationship is closer than ever. Previously Finnish ministers of Defence usually met with their US counterpart once during their term. Nowadays we meet at least once a year. Moreover, Secretary Mattis was the first Secretary who visited Finland since 9/11, 2001. I hope this example tells you how close we have become.
Defence cooperation with our partners includes both political dialogue and practical cooperation related to capability development, interoperability and connectivity of the Finnish forces. The major capability programmes that I already mentioned are an example of an important undertaking, which will take our our defence cooperation to a new level.
We have a strong shared interest to work closely with the countries that are located in the Baltic Sea region or who have a role in the security architecture of the region. There is a lot we can – and are already doing – to share information, improve situational awareness and exercise together.
Peacetime cooperation lays the foundation for cooperation during crises. If we want the cooperation to succeed in times of crisis, we need to learn to cooperate during normal times.
Defence cooperation enhances not only defence capability but also deterrence. It does not bring security guarantees, but the adversaries need to take into account the potential support by our partners.
As a result, international defence cooperation is an inseparable part of our defence capability today. It is worth noting that it is not about creating new commitments, but about widening the options available. The extent of cooperation always depends on political decisions and case-by-case assessment.
As a small country located in a strategically important region, we have always taken defence in a very serious manner. Thanks to the decisions we have made nationally, Finnish Defence Forces are more capable than ever. We will continue to take utmost care of our defence capability also in the future.