Bästa åhörare. Jag är nöjd att ännu under min ministertid få denna möjlighet att delta i Sälens säkerhetspolitiska seminarium. Detta på grund av att Sverige är för Finland en mycket viktig partner i vårt försvarssamarbete, och tillsammans med Peter Hultqvist har vi arbetat tätt tillsammans för att fördjupa det samarbetet. På sommaren undertecknade vi ett bilateralt MoU. Jag tycker det blev ett mycket bra och betydande papper.
Jag är också glad över att i dag sitta här tillsammans med mina nordiska kolleger. Det nordiska försvarssamarbetet är i dag aktivt och en central del av Finlands internationella samarbete.
Nu, bästa seminariegäster, fortsätter jag på engelska.
In our vicinity, the Baltic Sea Region has witnessed a change, following the worsening security situation in Europe. And this change in our security environment has been incredibly fast. Looking ahead, the tensions are not likely to go away soon, not until the overall security situation in Europe improves. The visibility ahead of us is very limited, fog of conflict has increased. That leaves us with uncertainty and unpredictability.
Today, hybrid threats come through the digital world, cyber space, internet and social media. They are used to influence election processes and to generate polarization inside our countries. Governments in the liberal democracies are struggling to keep up with the pace. This is reality today. But we can - and must do better.
In Finland, we are looking for ways to strengthen our tools to address hybrid threats. The key is to promote a ”whole of government”- approach. But we are also engaging the private sector and the civil society in countering hybrid threats.
It is difficult to predict the future development in our region and many question marks exist concerning Russia’s intentions. But Russia has always been, and will continue to be, the most significant factor in our security environment.
I believe that Finland, as a member of the EU, could not remain an outsider if a military crisis emerged in our vicinity, or elsewhere in Europe for that matter. At the moment, we do not see any direct or imminent military threat against Finland, but we cannot exclude the possibility of the use of military force against us. It is also worth mentioning that strategic surprises are always possible.
Ladies and gentlemen,
In Finland, we take defence very seriously. After the end of the Cold War, we never let our guard down. While many other countries in Europe shifted to smaller, lighter professional forces more suited to expeditionary crises management operations, our Defence Forces has maintained a large reserve force based on conscription, and focused on territorial defence. Some were wondering why Finland maintained such a sizable military force. I haven´t heard such comments lately.
Finnish citizens’ will to defend their country is one of the highest in Europe. I feel proud that a nation of only 5,5 million people is able to field the largest ground force in Northern Europe. Since 2014, improving the readiness of the Defence Forces has been a major priority. Accordingly, the main task of the armed forces has shifted from training to readiness. We have learned the lessons of what happened in Crimea.
Over the years, our national defence has been built on our circumstances and needs. Its corner stones are conscription, a credible defence that covers the entire country, active international defence cooperation, but not belonging to any military alliance. In the background is the strong will of our citizens to defend our country. Maintaining a strong national defence sends a powerful message. It forms a threshold against potential aggressors.
It is obvious that the changing security environment requires an effective and rapidly deployable military capability which, for its part, strengthens stability in the Baltic Sea region and further afield. But we also understand the importance and emphasize the need for dialogue with Russia. There are always practical issues between neighboring countries which should be discussed.
But we should also be able to have a dialogue on issues that divide us. It has now become a mantra to stress that both deterrence and dialogue are needed to promote stability in the current security environment. Both are indeed needed, and they do not exclude one another.
I have spoken about our national defence, but have not yet mentioned one important element of it, that is international defence cooperation. Today, defence cooperation is a necessity for us as well. We play an active role in enhancing EU’s defence dimension and are a close Partner to NATO. We have in recent years concluded many bilateral arrangements on defence cooperation with our partners. And then, we of course have the Nordic Defence Cooperation.
Nordic Defence Cooperation
Ladies and Gentleman, relations between the Nordic countries have always been close in the course of the history. We share the same values and the security environment and have a similar way of thinking. This is also the way our Nordic citizens see it: Nordic security and defence cooperation scored the highest when people were asked what is the most important area Nordic countries should cooperate on.
The security situation in the Baltic Sea has further underlined the need to enhance our Nordic co-operation in the field of defence policy. No one talks about economic savings as an only target anymore. It is of vital importance that we have defence policy dialogue with the partners with whom we share similar concerns. Situational awareness, recognizing early warning signals and predictability are all in our interests.
In addition, the Nordic countries also actively participate in various other (regional) formats such as the Northern Group, Joint Expeditionary Force and Nordic-Baltic cooperation. Those of us who participate in the European defence cooperation also keep in mind our Nordic partners not being part of the EU. We do our best to facilitate their possibilities for third country participation.
The Nordic Defence Cooperation, NORDEFCO, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, has brought us valuable outcomes. We are able to test our defence capabilities in training and exercise on a weekly basis. We are forerunners in the field of military mobility which emerged in the Nordic context before popping up at other fora. The examples are many.
As stated in our common NORDEFCO vision, we will improve our defence capability and cooperation in peace, crisis and conflict. Our ongoing peacetime cooperation lays the foundation for what we can do if a crisis occurs. In times of crisis, it is also crucial that we have good situational awareness and real-time communication at all levels. To this end, we will develop NORDEFCO also as a platform for crisis consultation. Our cooperation in NORDEFCO very well complements what we do in other international fora.
There is a lot of potential in enhancing exercise cooperation between Finland, Sweden and Norway. Especially in the North it could be developed further. We have very good experience from the Air Force side through the annual Arctic Challenge Exercise (ACE), which is the Nordic flagship exercise and taking steps towards a flag-level air exercise. When it comes to the Army, Northern Wind held in March is a significant exercise here in Norden with participation from Sweden, Finland, Norway as well as the United States and United Kingdom. I suggest, that regular Army exercises between Nordic countries should become also a rule like the cross boarder training between Nordic Air Forces.
Tack så mycket.