Founded in 1949, NATO is a defence organisation with the task to safeguard the freedom and security of its members through political and military means.
NATO’s primary task is collective defence, and Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty states that an armed attack against one member state shall be considered an attack against them all.
NATO upholds the capability to fulfil the obligation of mutual assistance. This creates a preventive threshold against the use of military power and the threat of it against the Alliance. Each member is required to assist another member under attack as they see appropriate, including the military use of force. Furthermore, NATO implements military crisis management operations and maintains an extensive partnership network.
Based on the national armed forces and resources of the member countries, NATO’s capabilities are developed through the common defence planning system, bound by the common command and control and force structure. NATO provides the standards, modes of operation and exercises which make military interoperability possible in multinational operations. NATO’s military structure operates under the political steering from the member countries.
NATO consists of 28 member countries, and 21 of these are also members of the European Union. Montenegro will become the 29th member country when its accession process is completed in 2017.
NATO provides a forum for the North American and European countries to discuss common security challenges and decide on joint action to counter these challenges.
All decision-making in NATO is based on consensus.
NATO’s principle decision-making body is the North Atlantic Council (NAC), where each member country has a permanent ambassadorial level representative. The Council also regularly meets at the level of ministers of foreign affairs and defence, and at the summit level with the participation of heads of state and government.
NATO’s collective defence is based on the integrated military command structure, collective defence planning process and exercises. These arrangements ensure that NATO has the capability to defend its member states if such a need arises.
Since its establishment, NATO has been a transatlantic value community that ties the United States of America concretely to the security of Europe. Recent changes in the security environment further emphasise the significance of transatlantic cooperation. Mutual solidarity and fairer burden-sharing between members have become more central in ensuring NATO’s capabilities.
NATO’s tasks were defined in the strategic concept (2010), which is the highest political steering document of the Alliance:
(1) Collective defence
NATO’s core task is to maintain a credible defence capability to defend against any aggression or threat of aggression against a member country. Armed conflicts are prevented by maintaining a credible deterrence.
Changes in the security environment brought on by Russia’s power politics and the conflict in Ukraine have highlighted NATO’s commitment to strengthen the collective defence and deterrence. The Warsaw Summit (2016) continued the adaptation to the new security environment initiated by the Wales Summit (2014). In Warsaw, NATO approved the decisions of increasing its forward presence in the eastern part of the Alliance and enhanced deterrence. In addition to conventional forces, the broader context of deterrence and defence include nuclear and missile defence capabilities.
Apart from defending the territories of allies, collective defence also means preparing for so-called emerging threats. NATO also emphasises a 360-degree approach in relation to emerging crises. Growing attention is paid to, for example, terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, cyber-attacks and disturbances in energy security. NATO has also started to build a ballistic missile shield to defend the territories and populations of its member countries. Attention is also paid to threats emanating from the south. NATO’s objective is to be able to respond rapidly to emerging security challenges from wherever they arise, which requires effective and flexible military capabilities.
(2) Crisis management
NATO has played an active role in crisis management in line with the principles of the UN and the UN security Council Resolutions. The premise is a comprehensive approach which underlines close cooperation with other actors. In addition to demanding military crisis management which is its strength, NATO prevents crises and participates in post-crisis stabilisation and rebuilding. After the end of the Cold War, the focus of NATO’s operational activity was on crisis management operations outside its region, particularly in the Balkans and Afghanistan. After these extensive crisis management operations, NATO has further developed the ability to participate in conflict prevention. Training and exercise activities have become more central, as has the Defence and Related Security Capacity Building (DCB) initiative with focus on certain member countries, which supports stability and conflict prevention.
(3) Cooperative security
NATO promotes stability in neighbouring regions and also in a wider context through a variety of means, such as the Open Door Policy towards new member countries, various partnerships, and efforts to achieve arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation agreements. Partnership development is essential to NATO in being better prepared for complex threats. Cooperation is important with different countries, but also with other actors. The Warsaw Summit in July 2016 made a decision on enhancing cooperation particularly with the EU. Cooperation with the EU is important, with the countering of hybrid threats being one example.
Finland’s objectives for NATO partnership cooperation
Finland has an extensive and developing partnership with NATO. The cooperation benefits Finland greatly in terms of defence policy and the development, maintenance and use of military capabilities. The partnership cooperation allows Finland to maintain and develop national defence and capabilities and participate in a variety of NATO exercises and training operations. The Finnish Government Programme and national foreign, security and defence policies guide Finland’s NATO partnership. In accordance with their provisions, Finland conducts sustained and mutually beneficial cooperation with NATO.
Finland has conducted partnership cooperation with NATO since 1994 within the framework of the Partnership for Peace (PfP) programme. Since 1997, Finland has been a member of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) that consists of NATO and PfP countries. Since 2015, Finland has participated in the Enhanced Opportunities (EOP) partnership cooperation. In addition to the Enhanced Opportunities cooperation, Finland promotes deeper cooperation between NATO, Finland and Sweden (28+2).
The issue of security in the Baltic Sea region has received new focus due to Russia’s power politics. From NATO’s perspective, the position of Finland and Sweden is emphasised due to geographic location, a shared security environment and mutual security interests. NATO has therefore conducted dialogue with Finland and Sweden on issues concerning the security of the Baltic Sea region. From Finland’s point of view, the cooperation with NATO reinforces security in the Baltic Sea region and strengthens Finland’s defence capability. It develops the capabilities and the interoperability of the Defence Forces. It is important for Finland to continue and develop both regular political dialogue and practical cooperation with NATO. Emphasis is on the development of a shared situational awareness with NATO.
Important partnership tools for Finland include the Planning and Review Process (PARP) that supports the development of capabilities and the evaluation programme Operational Capabilities Concept (OCC). Multinational interoperability cooperation is conducted in many areas. Furthermore, Finland participates in NATO’s so-called Smart Defence projects. New cooperation opportunities arise in addressing hybrid threats, where Finland aims to promote cooperation between the EU and NATO. New cooperation fields also include research, development and training activities in cyber security.
Military interoperability developed within the NATO framework supports Finland’s participation in military crisis management. The development of military interoperability also enhances Finland’s technical capacity to receive international assistance in a situation where Finland faces a crisis and assistance would be offered. Finland has participated in nearly all crisis management operations conducted by NATO. (IFOR, later SFOR, KFOR, ISAF, Resolute Support). Finland develops its preparedness and capabilities by participating in NATO exercises and hosts multinational exercises. Finland also participates in the rapid-response activities of the NATO Response Force (NRF), which allows the Defence Forces to participate in challenging international exercises. Finland is also represented in NATO structures and cooperates with NATO agencies and centres of excellence. Cooperation in training is also close.