Russia’s long-standing foreign policy based on military power and its declared goal of a security structure based on a division into spheres of interest in Europe took on a new dimension when it launched a war of aggression against Ukraine in February 2022. The war has demonstrated a lowering of the threshold for the use of military force and an unbridled willingness of the authoritarian system to use such force. Russia has also repeatedly threatened to use nuclear weapons in order to secure its freedom of action in conventional warfare without the direct involvement of third parties in the conflict. It appears to explicitly intend to use long-range weapons such as missiles and artillery to destroy civilian targets in Ukraine. Such an action shows complete indifference to the norms of international law, which fundamentally aim to protect civilians in times of war. There is already compelling evidence of serious and large-scale war crimes committed by Russian troops in Ukraine.
Russia’s unpredictability poses a serious threat to regional stability as well as to international peace and security. Putin’s regime appears to be making strategic decisions based on faulty information and is prepared to make almost incomprehensible human and financial sacrifices. It does not seem to be in Russia’s interest to seek common solutions with the West to stabilize the security policy situation in Europe. The war in Ukraine has resulted in a more acute and long-term confrontation between Russia and the West, and a tension that is unlikely to subside in the immediate future, as Russia continues to think in terms of spheres of interest. If the warmongering representatives of the strongman departments (siloviki) tighten their grip on Russia, the country could even regress to a police state or a military dictatorship. These and other reasons suggest that geopolitical tension could escalate into open war between Russia and the West with the potential use of nuclear weapons.
The emerging situation required government measures at the highest level to strengthen Finland’s security. On 13 April 2022, the government presented a report to Parliament on current developments regarding Finland’s revised security and operational environment following Russia’s attack on Ukraine, and on ways to strengthen the Finnish military security. This report also assessed the prospects for closer cooperation with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the impact of possible NATO membership. The Government presented a new report to Parliament on May 15, supplementing the previous report. This supplementary report includes a proposal that the President of the Republic decide, after consulting Parliament, that Finland will apply to become a member of NATO.
Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee considered these government reports jointly and issued a single response to them on May 17. The Committee concluded that Finland should apply to become a member of NATO with all its rights and obligations. In a plenary session on the same day, Parliament approved the Foreign Affairs Committee’s proposal by 188 votes in favor and 8 against. Three deputies were absent and there were no abstentions. The vote rejected a counter-proposal to the commission’s report that Finland would have remained militarily non-aligned.
The President of the Republic has approved a motion to follow up on the position adopted by Parliament. The President decided that Finland would notify NATO of its interest in starting talks on joining the North Atlantic Treaty and appoint a delegation for these talks with NATO and its member states. The President authorized the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to appoint the necessary specialists for this delegation since the accession negotiations concern political, legal, resources, information security, defense and military issues.
The Finnish Ambassador to NATO sent a written notification to the NATO Secretary General on 18 May. Although Finland was due to start accession negotiations with NATO and its member states on May 19, this did not happen, as NATO decisions are based on unanimity and Turkey was obstructing the question of Finnish and Swedish membership of the North Atlantic Council. However, on June 28, a day before the start of the NATO summit in Madrid, the foreign ministers of Turkey, Finland and Sweden signed a trilateral memorandum of understanding which confirmed that Turkey would support the invitation of Finland and Sweden to become members of NATO. The Heads of State and Government attending the Madrid summit issued a declaration shortly afterwards in which they decided to invite Finland and Sweden to the accession talks. The decision was expected given that NATO pursues a policy of openness under Article 10 of the North Atlantic Treaty, which provides that NATO membership is open to any European state in a position to promote the principles of the Treaty and contribute to the security of the North Atlantic area. Finland clearly meets these requirements, as well as the defense policy, economic and military criteria for NATO membership.
NATO member states signed the Accession Protocols on July 5 regarding Finland and Sweden joining the Alliance, making Finland and Sweden guests of NATO. Guest status means that Finland can attend and speak at NATO meetings but does not have the right to vote. Thereafter, each NATO member state must address and approve Finland’s Protocol of Accession in accordance with its own national ratification procedures. The ratification stage is expected to take months. Upon its next accession, Finland will be part of NATO’s Article 5 collective defence, which is based on an integrated military command structure, a defense planning process and joint exercises. These arrangements will ensure that NATO will be able to defend its allies when needed.
The purpose of the NATO Defense Planning Process (NDPP) is to provide a basis and framework within which Allies can harmonize their national defense plans with those of NATO. NDPP is a process that includes both sequential steps and continuous activity. The NDPP is structured in five stages: 1) Establishment of political orientations, commonly referred to as the NATO level of ambition, 2) Identification of needs, 3) Setting of objectives and allocation on the basis of an equitable sharing of reasonable challenge, 4) implementation support – the only step or function of an ongoing nature –, and 5) review of results and feedback for the next cycle of the defense planning process. The final step is performed twice during each four-year cycle. The Defense Policy and Planning Committee (DPPC) is the central body that oversees the work of NATO bodies and committees responsible for defense planning areas on behalf of the North Atlantic Council.
The Finnish defense planning process begins with the preparation of a strategic concept at the Ministry of Defence. The result of this phase is a target state of the defense system – a basic idea of how to defend Finland. The next step after determining the target state is to create the Finnish Defense Forces (FDF) development plan. This product constitutes a basis for the development of the capacities of TDF and for its operational planning. Reviewing the results and feedback is the final step in the process. From the start, the complete cycle lasts four years. Indeed, strategic planning is guided by government reports on foreign and security policy and defense policy. These reports are generally published every four years. The Defense Policy Department of the Ministry of Defense and the Planning and Policy Division of the Defense Command are the pivotal bodies responsible for Finnish defense planning.
As a member of NATO, Finland will participate in collective defense planning in accordance with Article 5 of the Alliance’s founding treaty. To do this, Finland must integrate the content and timetables of its defense planning into the NATO planning system (see Figure 1). Many questions arise from the near future harmonization of defense planning activities, such as what Finland’s role in NATO security policy should be. Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee believes that Nordic cooperation should be an important part of Finland’s role in NATO. Another key element could be Finland’s contribution to the NATO air policing mission over the Baltic Sea region with the aim of providing additional deterrence and defense capabilities to the northeastern flank. allied airspace.
Figure 1. NATO and Finnish defense planning process
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