Atlantic Council: Defence Minister Niinistö, 8.5.2018
Ladies and Gentlemen,
First of all, thank you very much for the opportunity to speak here today. I thank the Atlantic Council and the Swedish Embassy for hosting this event.
It is always nice to come to Washington but I have to admit this visit has been very special. We just had a trilateral meeting with Secretary Mattis where the main result was the trilateral Statement of Intent. It is a framework for our coop-eration now and in the future.
But before talking about the cooperation between our three countries, I would like to take a few steps back and say a couple of words about the way in which we approach defence in Finland.
In 2007, Finnish Defence Minister Jyri Häkämies made headlines by calling Russia Finland’s biggest security challenge while visiting Washington. Times have changed. Today, I think no one would be surprised, if I call Russia a security chal-lenge to Finland and to all of us.
When the Cold War ended, changes of large magnitude in European security envi-ronment took place. The difference is, that at the time, the changes created a Eu-rope that was “whole, free and at peace” as President George Bush put it at the time. Today, however, Europe and the Transatlantic Community are facing many challenges. We must meet these challenges united. We all have homework to do but we must also pursue cooperation. This is why I am here today together with my Swedish colleague Peter.
Events in Ukraine have confirmed us, that if you want to strengthen your security, you need above all two things: 1) strong national defence and 2) resilience against hybrid threats. Finland has been strengthening both of these tracks with our na-tional decisions and in cooperation with our partners.
During my term as the Defence Minister, the main focus improving our defence has been in the readiness. Additional money and new legislation has been intro-duced to meet the challenge posed by the “little green men”.
We also have passed more defence related legislation than ever, since the end of Second World War. We – for example – passed a law which allows us to give and receive military assistance in a crisis situation. The final piece of legislation is the new Intelligence Law, that we are still working on.
On the procurement side, we have invested in the army, and the investments for the Navy and the Air force will take us above the 2 per cent mark in defence spending during the next decade.
Thanks to the decisions we have made nationally, Finnish Defence Forces are more capable than they have been for a long time. At the same time, we under-stand that our key capabilities have been developed and are sustained in coopera-tion with our key Partners.
When it comes to building resilience against hybrid threats, we rely on the Finnish model of Comprehensive Security. The Security Committee, which is located in our Ministry of Defence, assists the Government and different Ministries on issues dealing with comprehensive security. Last year, the Security Committee updated our National Security Strategy for the Society.
However, on these issues getting everything right nationally is not enough. We need strong international cooperation. For this purpose, we decided to launch the European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats, which is located in Helsinki. The Centre is still building its capabilities and I would like to take this op-portunity to thank the United States for solid support. We hope that the Centre will also bring EU and NATO closer together on this topic.
In defence cooperation, we have been deepening bilateral relationships with key partners. For us, these are the countries that are located in the Baltic Sea region or who have a role in the security architecture of the region. On bilateral track, two partners are more important than others: Sweden and the Unites States.
The cooperation with Sweden has deepened in the past five years. There are few limits to what we can do together. It says something, that counting today, I have met with Peter 40 times during our time as ministers. We share similar interests and we work well together.
At the same time, it is worth pointing out, that Finland is not Sweden and Sweden is not Finland. We both have our own strengths. Finland has been forced to defend itself several times during the last century, which has left its mark to the people, the culture and to the emphasis which we put on defending the country – alone if need be. Our position outside military alliances and our geographic location has meant, that we have had to develop and sustain the capability and the lethality of our defence forces. We hope that today, this fact makes us a partner who others want to cooperate with. This cooperation will not be based on treaty obligations but on shared common interests: we are ready to defend Finland and it benefits our partners that we do it effectively. For this, we ask cooperation.
Just like Sweden, also the United States plays a special role for us. When we have been building our military capabilities, we have often turned to Washington. Lately, US presence in the Baltic Sea region has created stability and also provided us with new training opportunities. The United States has also supported Finland and Sweden in NATO so that our cooperation matches the requirements of today’s se-curity environment. We must continue to cooperate, exchange information and coordinate our actions. I know Peter feels the same way.
Ladies and gentlemen
That is why it makes so much sense to deepen our trilateral cooperation. Let me say few words on this topic before I let Peter to take the floor.
The three of us, Finland, Sweden and the US, have been deepening our respective bilateral defence relations for years. That cooperation, when put to practice, has proven that in addition to bilateral cooperation, some issues benefit from a trilat-eral approach.
Our countries have a shared interest in cooperating to support a stable and secure environment in the Baltic Sea region, in safeguarding the fundamental principles of international law, and in preserving the European security order. Cooperation simply helps us to do it more effectively.
That is the reason why, based on our respective bilateral Statements of Intent, the U.S. Department of Defence and the Ministries of Defence of Finland and Sweden have today signed a trilateral Statement of Intent. It is a document that comple-ments and reinforces our defence relationships.