Finnish security and defense policy is marked by a considerable amount of continuity. This should not be a surprise to anyone. After all, defense planning and military capability development necessitate a long-term perspective. In the realm of defense, nothing significant happens in a year or two. There are no quick fixes or possibilities for U-turns in the field of defense. It is noteworthy, however, that continuity does not equal stagnation. Openness, adaptivity to the demands of the security environment and capacity to innovate remain the central tenets of Finnish defense policy.
Finnish defense is embedded within a broader framework of security that we today call the “Comprehensive Security Model.” In the age of the so-called hybrid threats and rapid technological change, the cornerstones of this model — including a close interdepartmental cooperation and a strong willingness to defend the country — remain relevant.
For Finland, the top issue for the year 2020 is also the top issue for the entire 2020s. This is the maintenance and development of credible military capabilities in all domains to deter military action — or threat thereof — against the territory, population or sovereignty of Finland.
This essay is part of the Defense News 2020 Outlook project. Click here for more.
During the 2020s we will procure a new Navy squadron (four Pohjanmaa-class corvettes) and replace the current fleet of F-18 Hornet fighters with new ones. Solely these two projects — which have the estimated total worth of €8.3-11.3 billion (U.S. $9.1-12.4 billion) — will mean an average increase of 30 percent to our annual defense budget throughout the 2020s, starting in 2021. With this additional funding, we will ensure we do not fall behind in our other capability development programs. After all, the defense system is a totality that needs to be developed in a balanced manner — with a long-term perspective.
Defense policy formulation and military capability development are not implemented in a vacuum. All states have to deal with the new topics of the future defense agenda: artificial intelligence, 5G and 6G networks, disruptive technologies, space and cyberspace as defense domains, and the implications of great power rivalries. These themes — and many others — will influence the boundaries within which we will formulate and implement defense policy during the 2020s. It is worth noting, however, that these new topics will not supplant the more traditional aspects of defense. The long-term logic of military capability development hinders revolutionary changes within the fields of deterrence and defense.
The Finnish perspective to defense focuses on real large-scale military capabilities for deterrence and, if deterrence fails, war fighting. From our perspective, the requirements of the security environment and the character of future warfare necessitate the development of high-quality and high-quantity military capabilities and an enduring will of the population to defend the nation.
In today’s world, no nation can be militarily credible “going it alone.” New technologies, the rising costs of modern military systems, advanced training opportunities and a multitude of other factors push likeminded states to cooperate. Finland is benefitting from this. That is why active defense cooperation is one key tenet of our defense policy.
For Finland, bilateral defense cooperation with the United States is important. Similarly, our defense cooperation with Sweden has developed and matured rapidly during the last few years. In all, we have a solid foundation for meeting the future defense requirements.
Finland is holding the rotating European Union presidency for one more month. We are heavily invested in efforts to raise awareness of the importance of defense cooperation and the emerging agenda. The European Union happens to be well-equipped to deal with some aspects of the future defense agenda. One example is military mobility. Artificial intelligence may well be the next example. In fact, a key objective of the Finnish EU presidency has been to push discussion on such topics of tomorrow, and underline the need to work with partners.
In the sphere of defense, the only meaningful way ahead is to maintain a strong trans-Atlantic bond. The challenges we face are serious and complex. Our response requires both the ability to act and seamless trans-Atlantic cooperation. I believe that Europe and the United States continue to need each other in the future.
To prepare ourselves for the future, we need to continue developing the whole-of-government approach — our Comprehensive Security Model — to be able to address future threats to our security. This will be important, as many potential future threats are nonmilitary in nature. At the same time, we will continue the long-term development of our military capabilities. International defense cooperation supports this aim.
Finland is currently preparing the next government defense review report — our defense whitepaper. It will form the basis of our defense policy for the next decade. We aim to keep both dimensions, national and international, in the forefront of this process.
Antti Kaikkonen is the defense minister in Finland.