20.03.2019 12:45

Puolustusministeri Niinistön puhe Baltic Military Conference 2019 -seminaarissa

Puolustusministeri Jussi Niinistö puhui tänään 20.3.2019 Baltic Military Conference 2019 -seminaarissa Vilnassa.

Niinisto_JussiMr Minister, ladies and gentlemen,

As we all know, Europe faces a more complex, unpredictable and challenging security environment than in decades, including increasingly assertive Russia. We have concretely seen the changes in our vicinity. The military importance of the Baltic Sea region has increased and the military activity intensified. At the same time, our adversaries can easily move from low level of conflict and hybrid warfare to conventional battle.

Being militarily non-aligned does not insulate Finland from these changes. We share the same security and operational environment.

Finnish Defence Policy’s fundaments derive from our location between West and East. Experiences of the Second World War are not forgotten in Finland. Geopolitics has still a strong influence on our foreign and security policy. Russia has been, and will be, the most significant actor and factor in our security environment.

Finland implements an active defence and security policy to prevent military threats. We do not have the option, or even desire, to isolate ourselves from our operating environment. I believe that Finland, as a member of the EU, could not remain an outsider if a military crisis emerged in our vicinity. Yet, we do not see any direct or imminent military threat against Finland at the moment. However, we cannot exclude the possibility of the use of military force against us.

Therefore, Finland takes its own defence very seriously. Finland´s national defence provides deterrence and contributes to the security and stability of the Baltic Sea region. While many other countries in Europe after the Cold War shifted to smaller, lighter professional forces suited to expeditionary crises management operations, our Defence Forces have maintained a large reserve force based on conscription, and focused on territorial defence. Some were wondering why Finland stubbornly maintained such a sizable military force.  I haven´t heard such comments lately.

The cornestones of our national defence’s are general conscription, a credible defence that covers the entire country and active international defence cooperation. The foundation of our national defence is the strong will of our citizens to defend our country. 
As my 4-year term as a Minister of Defence is almost over it is time to assess how well we have succeeded in maintaining our defence.
The change in the security environment was acknowledged in the current government program and Defence Report. The latter emphasized the need to develop the military capabilities correspondingly with the increasing demands of the security environment.
Improving the readiness of all services, especially that of the Army’s , has been our priority since 2014. Training of conscripts for the new readiness units was started in the beginning of 2018. Legislative measures were made to allow rapid mobilization of reserves. The defence budget was increased annually by 50 million euros allocated especially to improve readiness.

The materiel readiness of all services has been improved through several programs. New capabilities like K9 Thunder self-propelled howitzers and counter-battery radars are being introduced. We have signed contracts for new rockets and missiles for the Army and Navy improving our Joint Fires capabilities. Cyber defence capabilities are being developed as well as intelligence capabilities The brand new Act on Military Intelligence has been approved extending our intelligence also to include cyber space.

Our key capability programs, which aim to replace the out-phasing capabilities of the Navy and the Air Force, are on track. The funding for Navy’s four multipurpose corvettes is already included in the defence budget and we will soon sign the contracts for ship building and combat systems. The quotations for our new multi-purpose fighter program were received from all five candidates by the end of January this year and they are currently being analysed. The next government will decide in 2021, which will be our next fighter. There is already a cross-parliament consensus about replacing fully the capabilities of our out-phasing Hornet fleet. In practice, this means at least 64 new fighter planes.

Over the years, especially after the Cold War, Finland reduced the amount of wartime forces. But now we have changed the course. For the first time since the Cold War we have increased the wartime strength of our Defence Forces by some 50 000 soldiers. The total wartime establishment is now some 280 000 soldiers of which some 97 % are reservists. In order to strengthen our general conscription system we have launched a new program to develop the training system of conscripts and reservists. We have also recently approved an Act that will better integrate some elements of our volunteer national defence training to the Defence Forces.

Legislative measures to respond to changes in the security environment are numerous. I have already mentioned some of them. In order to be better prepared for hybrid threats we have introduced legislative changes to tackle “little green men”, problematic foreign ownerships of estates, challenges of dual-citizenship in security organizations and drones in the vicinity of military installations just to mention few of them.

I have spoken about our national defence, but have not yet mentioned one element of it, that is international defence cooperation. We play an active role in enhancing EU’s defence dimension and are a close Partner to NATO. And then, we of course have the Nordic Defence Cooperation, the UK-led JEF and French EI2.

This government has concluded many bilateral and multilateral defence cooperation arrangements with our partners. Actually, 10 all together.

Participation in international defence cooperation serves Finland’s interests and we believe it serves our partners’ interest, too.

The capability to receive military assistance is also an important part of defence. Peacetime cooperation lays the foundation for cooperation during crises. This kind of defence cooperation is 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.

Ladies and gentlemen,

To sum up, the old threats remain and new threats emerge, the demands for defence have grown.

Finland has always taken defence in a very serious manner. Thanks to the decisions we have made nationally, Finnish Defence Forces are more capable than ever in the peacetime. We will continue to take utmost care of our defence capability also in the future.

The fundaments of the Finnish Defence Policy remain. The main focus has been and still is on our national defence. We need to strengthen our defence capability and intensify our international defence cooperation. Together we can provide stability in the Baltic Sea region. I am convinced this is the right way ahead.

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