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Speech by Minister for European Affairs and Ownership Steering Tytti Tuppurainen at the Meeting of Heads of Mission 2022

Government Communications Department
Publication date 24.8.2022 9.37

Subject to changes.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Distinguished Representatives of Finland in the World,

The principles of security policy and its sphere of action have returned back to the basics. Finland’s foreign and security policy has long been framed by the concept of comprehensive security. It covers climate change, biodiversity loss, international crime, terrorism, human rights and much more.  It remains a necessary and important concept.

However, this year has highlighted the fundamental issues of security or, if you like, a narrow concept of security. Security policy is about safeguarding the integrity of the state and its freedom of action against military threats.

When assessing the operating environment, the restoration of security concepts looks like this: We do not live in a world in which states and their machineries of violence have lost their meaning and where the only real players are cities, regions, organisations, companies and their networks. Instead, we live in a world in which states and their alliances and communities are who really wields the power. We live in a Europe where power is exercised by strong-arm tactics, by military force.

Finland’s security policy must therefore be viewed in relation to state threats. And as we must today call a spade a spade, we have to assess how we prepare ourselves for Russia restricting our freedom of action through military actions. How do we counter the Russian threat?

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

Today and in the future, Finland’s security requires that we have several different alternatives for action. We must have several options to redeem.

On the core issues of safety, we have taken on board two good and well-founded aspects. Firstly, we value a strong and independent national defence. Secondly, we have decided to apply for membership of NATO.

Strong national defence is one of the fundamental elements of Finnish security. This requires an adequate level of equipment, training of the reserve of conscripts and analysis of the war in Ukraine. Strong national defence is necessary, but not a sufficient basis for security.  

In the case of national defence, an often-used logic is using it to make the cost of attacking Finland so high that the country planning the attack ends up leaving us alone in its calculations. The problem with this logic is this: What if the opponent’s calculations are completely different from ours? What if the opponent does not place much value on the soldiers who will die and be wounded in the attack? 

We must remember that the heroism and iron will of the war generation were only enough to delay the destruction that threatened us. Finland’s defence was on the verge of collapse in the winter of 1940 and again in the summer of 1944. In the Winter War, the Soviet Union yielded to the Interim Peace not because we defeated its military force, but because it was taking care not to drag France and the United Kingdom into the war. In the summer of 1944, we were forced to accept German arms assistance in order to survive. 

The conclusion is clear: Finland’s security requires allies.

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

In addition to our own defence, NATO membership is another cornerstone of security. 

The Finnish Parliament approved the application for NATO membership almost unanimously. Ratifications have proceeded very quickly. We may have to wait for Turkey, which has been mentioned as a problem, but we have to be patient about that; we have no problems in our relations with Turkey, so there is no doubt that the issue will be resolved. It is also self-evident that Finland will take its decisions at the same time as Sweden. Sweden is not a foreign country; it is part of our history, identity and soul. Vårt gamla fosterland. 

So, we are joining NATO, and NATO is the most powerful defence alliance in the history of the world. Its military power, calculated by defence expenditure or by any other relevant yardstick, is greater than that of the rest of the world combined.

Moreover, NATO is more than just a list of the number of equipment and troops of its Member States. It has a headquarters, continuous planning and cooperative exercises. If Article 5 is invoked, action will be taken quickly and effectively.

However, the strength of NATO is clearly based on its most powerful member, the United States. At the moment, it seems like a solid foundation. NATO – and cooperation with Europe – is the starting point for President Biden’s foreign and security policy, and this support extends not only to Biden’s Democrats but also to Republicans. Republican delegations have visited Finland to assert their support. Personally, I gained a strong sense of confidence when I met key Republican senators and other heavyweights of the party in Washington in a very closed session. The support was unconditional. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

Regardless of the NATO solution, we should be prepared for anything. Just a few years ago, President Macron of France spoke of a “brain-dead” NATO. In Europe, there was uncertainty about the commitment of the United States to the security of the continent.

We need all the security options we can get.

For Finland, there is never too much security. 

Trusting in our own power and NATO is a great starting point, but we cannot think that they are the be-all and end-all. We must not think that we can give up everything else, or regard increasing security as an unnecessary burden. We cannot be too safe.

Finland must be prepared for the fact that there are alternatives for guaranteeing our security. None of this must, of course, detract from the value of our own defence or NATO membership. They must fit within NATO and around national defence.

It is worth remembering that, from the very beginning, the European Union has been a security solution for Finland. The EU is a security community, and it is in Finland’s interest to strengthen the EU as a provider of security. A strong and united EU is in Finland’s interest, and we want to strengthen the European Union in every way.

The NATO application has not been an unprecedented leap to the West for us. We were neither in the grey zone nor neutral in January 2022. We were, and are, a strongly anchored member of the EU, part of a community of values. We consider it is clear that the EU cannot accept the occupation or military subjugation of a Member State. 

Solidarity within the EU is now also legally enshrined in Article 42.7. The strategic compass points the way forward. We must defend the other members and we can expect support from the others. This commitment is based on solidarity between the Member States. Finland understands its responsibilities; solidarity is also Finland’s EU policy.

The EU’s solidarity article is strong and binding in its wording. In international agreements, articles and formulations are hardly the most important thing. After all, their implementation does not take place through legal analysis, judgement and supranational enforcement. There is no such thing as an international bailiff. The strength of the EU’s collective defence and solidarity is based on the fact that the interests of the EU countries are so strongly intertwined that assistance would probably be provided.

The EU is an important – indeed the only – actor that can support Europe’s security against the energy crisis that is threatening it. In the EU, we can promote energy saving and a faster exit from the energy blackmail directed at us. Within the framework of the EU, we are making rapid progress in implementing the green transition, in building energy self-sufficiency in renewable energy sources. Perhaps our goal of carbon neutrality will be achieved early – and, at the same time, we will achieve the right kind of strategic autonomy based on our own strengths.

Ladies and Gentlemen!

In addition to multilateral, institutional security structures, we also need direct contacts with the friendly countries that are important to us. The need for active participation in the network of Finnish missions is not limited to supranational organisations.

In the spring of the Winter War, no UK or French military units ever arrived in Finland. It would have been difficult to carry out the operation, even if there had been enough political will. Yet the importance of the United Kingdom and France was not negligible.

Even today, the UK is a major military player. In addition to the army, the navy and the air force, it is also essential to demonstrate readiness to act in practice. There are no countries in Europe that have as much experience of warfare in recent history as the UK. And, in a longer perspective, it is good to note that when the UK has gone to war, it has not usually been defeated. Today, the UK’s strategic ambition extends to the Pacific. That ambition also reaches the Baltic Sea.

In bilateral cooperation, the UK is one of Finland’s most important partners. It has abilities that we lack and will continue to lack. For example, its military intelligence is world-class. The cooperation is also well suited to the framework of NATO. 

What can be said about the cooperation with the UK can also be said about the importance of France. France is a great power. It is the only EU country with a seat on the UN Security Council. It is also the only EU country with its own nuclear deterrent. It has authority and power.

A hundred years ago, the young Finland was looking for a direction in German orientation, Western support and Nordic cooperation – as well as so-called border-state politics. Today, the recognised strength of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia is their excellent knowledge of Russia. We have heard their I told you so’s; there is no need to repeat them. However, their analysis has certainly been apt.

The common security interest of these countries and Finland is very topical and strong. The question of Russia is an existential one. Poland is a particularly important partner for Finland. It is determined to develop its defence. In addition, the steps it has taken in the right direction with regard to the rule of law are noteworthy. Poland is positioning itself as a strong player in both the EU and transatlantic cooperation. 

Respect for the rule of law in the present Member States is a conditio sine qua non – a necessary condition. It also serves the objectives of the enlargement policy: countries aspiring to membership must commit themselves to the rule of law and to the common values. This is the only way the EU can retain its own special character. With enlargement, the EU is not building a sphere of influence.

In the EU – and in NATO – Finland does not seek to form or participate in any kind of clique. Cooperation with Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania will be aligned with the common objectives. The same applies to Nordic cooperation. With all the Nordic countries in NATO and most of them in the EU, cooperation on security policy will no longer be hindered.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Russia is part of the European security system.

In the European debate, a lot of what has been said about Russia has been light in terms of content. It has been said that its war of aggression against Ukraine must be ended by negotiations. Yes, of course it must: no one believes that the war will end with Russia’s unconditional surrender. However, the war cannot end with Russia being allowed to hold the occupied territories and prepare for another attack. 

In any case, the speeches on peace talks are premature: Russia has made it clear that it will not start any negotiations, and it is not even pretending to seek reconciliation. 

Russia has a place in the European security architecture. Of course it does. At the end of the day, however, we must start to believe what the Russian leadership is saying and doing. When V. Putin said that the dissolution of the Soviet Union was the biggest geopolitical disaster of the 20th century, he meant that the dissolution had to be rectified. When he said that Ukraine is not a nation, he meant that Ukraine must be abolished. When he compared the present day to the time of Peter the Great, he was stating what was coming.

Russia has, by itself and on its own initiative, taken a stand against the ‘degenerate West’ and has demonstrated its readiness to use unlimited force. The rest of Europe must be ready for a common defence, for the defence of our democracies and our freedom.  

Russia has a place in the European security system. It is similar to the place occupied by the Soviet Union during the Cold War: not as a promoter of security, but as a challenger for Europe.  A place on the opposing side is still a place.