För några dagar sedan besökte Finlands Försvarsminister Jyri Häkämies USA. Han träffade bl.a. President Bush och uttryckte sin oro för Rysslands upprustande.
I samband med besöket höll han ett långt tal. Här är några uttdrag ur det.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
At this particular point of history, most armed forces in the Western world are undergoing a process of profound, long-term transformation. Most countries are abandoning the concept of territorial defence and are emphasizing capabilities to conduct international peace-support operations in places far away from their borders. Not Finland.
Most countries are also discarding the great Napoleonic idea of raising mass armies by conscription and, instead, they are creating small all-professional armed forces. Not Finland.
Furthermore, for most western and central European countries NATO is the answer to their defence prayers. Once again, not for Finland.
How can this be explained? Why is Finland still holding on to the concepts of territorial defence, general conscription, and staying outside of the military alliances, while for practically all other countries in the developed world these concepts are ideas from the past?
To understand Finnish defence thinking, it might be useful to think of Finnish national security interests as three concentric circles. The outer circle comprises common values. Finland is interested in promoting and defending such values, as is demonstrated by our support, and participation in, the United Nations’ peace-keeping and humanitarian operations.
The second circle brings us closer to home, to Europe and to security threats affecting Europe. The more stable the European continent remains, the safer will Finland be. As a consequence, our forces continue to be involved in NATO-and EU-led operations, be it in the Balkans, Africa, or even in a far-away Afghanistan.
Finally, it is within the third circle where our national interest reigns supreme. Such core issues as national independence, security and well-being of the Finnish citizens, and, ultimately, even the very survival of the nation are at stake here. To defend the Finnish territory we need strong national defence. And since we are not a member of any military alliance, we have to build up our defence independently.
It is clear that Russia is, supported by the huge revenues it is reaping from oil and gas, on its way of becoming a world player again. According to the Russian world view, military force is a key element in how it conducts its international relations. As a consequence, there is a determined program to strengthen the Russian military capabilities. If the military procurement program 2006-2015 will be financed as expected, it will mean a much stronger Russia in military terms by the middle of next decade.
In terms of its military capabilities, Russia will have a lot more weight to throw around. Whether it chooses to do it in its immediate neighbourhood is another matter. The bronze statue crisis with Estonia raises some disturbing questions. There is no smoking gun that will clearly indicate that the Russian authorities were behind the cyber attacks. Yet, the attacks were well coordinated and gave a foretaste of what could be done in situations where state-level actors would choose to use cyber attacks as a weapon.
Be that as it may, Russia will continue to be a strong regional actor in the High North. Strategic importance of the Kola Peninsula will wake up Russian military interests from their decade-long hibernation, as is attested by the Russian bombers showing up again in the sea areas around Iceland and northern Scotland. After the well-publicized expedition to the North Pole, the Russian interest in the polar areas is clear, and the Baltic Sea is getting all the more important in the next few years as one of the main routes for Russian energy exports.