Finland underlines sovereign freedom of joining NATO

As Laurent Lagneau writes in Zone Militaire (opex360), when Russia says it wants the end of NATO's enlargement at its borders, Russia is aiming first at Ukraine and Georgia, two formerly member countries of the USSR, but also to Finland, a country which, as an autonomous Grand Duchy, was under its control between 1809 and 1917 and with which it shares a 1,300 km long border.
Follow Army Recognition on Google News at this link

Army Recognition Global Defense and Security news
Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Finnish government leader Sanna Marin stated: “Let it be said once again: Finland's room for maneuver and freedom of choice includes also the possibility of a military alignment and of requesting the adhesion to NATO, if we decide it ourselves ” (Picture source: Finnish MoD)

During the Cold War, Finland followed a policy of strict neutrality between NATO and the Soviet Union. In 1995, it ended up joining the European Union and started a rapprochement with NATO, without however taking the step of membership, only participating, like Sweden, in the "Partnership for Peace". "[PPP] proposed by it. "Finland's accession without Sweden would create a strategically delicate situation of an outpost without territorial continuity with NATO" while "if Sweden takes the sole decision to join NATO, then Finland would be more exposed and vulnerable than today, ”explained the authors of this document.

However, as Laurent Lagneau recalls, the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014 was a game-changer. Both in Sweden and in Finland, the question of finally joining NATO began to be debated. At the same time, these two countries have strengthened their military cooperation, while getting closer to the United States, and even the United Kingdom, as part of the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF), created by London. In 2016, a report submitted to the Finnish government estimated that Helsinki's accession to NATO would only be relevant if Stockholm did the same.

The debate was relaunched in 2021 by Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Finnish government leader Sanna Marin: “Let it be said once again: Finland's room for maneuver and freedom of choice includes also the possibility of a military alignment and of requesting the adhesion to NATO, if we decide it ourselves”, declared Mr. Niinisto during his speech for the new year 2022, Sanna Marin said exactly the same thing in her 2022 New Years post: “Finland retains the possibility of applying for NATO membership. […] We must defend this freedom of choice and ensure that it remains a reality because it is part of the right of each country to decide on its own security policies”, she argued, before ensuring that Helsinki will continue "to intensify its European cooperation in the field of security and defense". The remarks came as Russian diplomacy warned Finland and Sweden of "serious consequences" for NATO membership.

NATO and Finland relationship

NATO and Finland share common values, conduct an open and regular political dialogue and engage in a wide range of practical cooperation. NATO and Finland actively cooperate in peace-support operations, exercise together and exchange analysis and information. An important priority is to ensure interoperable capabilities, maintaining the ability of the Finnish armed forces to work with those of NATO and other partner countries in multinational peace-support operations.

Finnish cooperation with NATO is based on its policy of military non-alignment and a firm national political consensus. The cooperation began when Finland joined the Partnership for Peace (PfP) programme in 1994 and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (a multilateral forum for dialogue that brings together all Allies and partner countries in the Euro-Atlantic area) in 1997.

An Individual Partnership and Cooperation Programme (IPCP), which is jointly agreed upon for a two-year period, lays out the programme of cooperation between Finland and NATO. Notice that Finland is one of NATO's most active partners and has been a valued contributor to NATO-led operations and missions in the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq. Finland is one of six countries (known as 'Enhanced Opportunity Partners'1 under the Partnership Interoperability Initiative) that make particularly significant contributions to NATO operations and other Alliance objectives. As such, the country has enhanced opportunities for dialogue and cooperation with the Allies.

In the current security context of heightened concerns about Russian military and non‑military activities, NATO has stepped up cooperation with partner countries Finland and Sweden, with a particular focus on ensuring security in the Baltic Sea region. This includes regular political dialogue and consultations; exchanges of information on hybrid warfare; coordinating training and exercises; and developing better joint situational awareness to address common threats and develop joint actions, if needed. Both partners participate in the enhanced NATO Response Force (NRF) in a supplementary role and subject to national decisions. Additionally, both partners have signed a memorandum of understanding on Host Nation Support which, subject to a national decision, allows for logistical support to Allied forces located on, or in transit through, their territory during exercises or in a crisis.

Finland's cooperation with NATO is mutually beneficial and includes various aspects

Building capabilities and interoperability

Finland participates in the PfP Planning and Review Process (PARP) and the Operational Capabilities Concept, two frameworks that assist the country with planning and evaluating the readiness of its contributions to NATO-led peace-support operations.

Finland participates in NATO and PfP exercises and has declared a variety of infantry, engineering, naval, and air units as potentially available for exercises and operations.

Finland regularly contributes to European Union (EU) Battlegroups, and is cooperating with other countries to develop a multinational rapid-reaction force for EU-led peace-support operations.
Finland participates in two strategic airlift initiatives: the Strategic Airlift Capability (SAC) programme and the Strategic Airlift International Solution (SALIS).

In 2017, Finland created the Helsinki European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats. The centre is open to participating states and supported by NATO and the EU.

Since 2014, under the Partnership Interoperability Initiative, Finland has participated in the Interoperability Platform, which brings Allies together with 24 selected partners that are active contributors to NATO's operations.

Finland and NATO signed a Political Framework Arrangement in 2017 for cooperation on cyber defence. The country also participates in the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence, NATO cyber defence exercises, and cyber-related 'Smart Defence' projects.

In July 2001, NATO formally recognised the Finnish Defence Forces International Centre (FINCENT) as a PfP Training Centre. FINCENT provides training on military crisis management for staff employed by international organisations such as NATO, the United Nations (UN) and the EU.

Finland has close ties with other Nordic countries and participates in Nordic Defence Cooperation (NORDEFCO), a regional defence initiative that promotes collaboration between Nordic armed forces.

Support for NATO-led operations and missions

Finland first participated in a NATO-led operation in 1996 when it contributed a battalion to the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Bosnia and Herzegovina. From 2002, Finnish soldiers worked alongside Allied forces in Afghanistan – first as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which completed its mission at the end of 2014, and later as part of the follow-on Resolute Support Mission (RSM) to further train, assist and advise the Afghan security forces and institutions. Finland also contributed over USD 14 million to the Afghan National Army Trust Fund.

Finland provides personnel to the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Kosovo (KFOR). Finland also participates in NATO Mission Iraq (NMI), NATO's advisory, training and capacity-building mission in Iraq.

Wider cooperation between NATO and Finland

Finland engages with NATO's Civil Emergency Planning Committee and cooperates with Allies on regional assessments, security of supply, critical infrastructure protection, and in providing mutual support in dealing with the consequences of a major accident or disaster in the Euro-Atlantic area.

Finnish civil resources have been listed with NATO's Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre (EADRCC) and Finland has contributed to NATO's pool of preparedness experts. Finland has also provided civil preparedness training to Allies and other partners.

Current practical cooperation under the Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Programme focuses on activities pertaining to counter-terrorism, cyber defence, chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) defence, environmental security, and advanced technology. Among them, noteworthy is the participation of Finland in the DEXTER Programme, which is developing an integrated system to detect explosives and firearms in public spaces. Moreover, cyber experts from Finland are training artificial intelligence systems to recognise potential cyber-attacks. Finnish scientists are also involved in the development of low-cost optical sensors for the detection of airborne chemical and biological agents.

Finland actively supports the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security (WPS), and since 2008 has developed successive National Action Plans in support of the WPS agenda.

Finland is an active supporter of NATO Trust Fund projects in other partner countries and has contributed to nearly a dozen so far, including many that fall under NATO's Defence and Related Security Capacity Building (DCB) Initiative. Currently, it is supporting the DCB Trust Fund, and projects in Georgia, Jordan, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine.