June 2001

Finland and NATO move closer

Signs of ever closer ties between Finland and NATO have been reported in the Finnish press. The regional daily Aamulehti (13 June 2001) reports that during the next decade, Finland will be integrated into a NATO intelligence system in order to be able to receive a great amount of military information.

With the help of this new information channel, Finland will get up-to-date intelligence which would add to information collected by local electronic intelligence which is said to be of very high quality.

According to Aamulehti, the facts about this new opening towards NATO are buried in the complicated text of a new defence document. The key sentence goes like this:

"In developing the [military] command systems, it is noted that in case of need, it is possible to receive from international sources information relevant to national defence."

The availability of up-to-date intelligence is said to be important not only because of Finland's participation in crisis management tasks but also for reasons of maintaining its own defence capacity. The text discreetly mentions that the intention is to create a capacity which is concomitant with European crisis management purposes.

Co-operation with NATO is not mentioned but, according to Aamulehti, in practice this is what it means. In the widest sense, "international sources" means the whole NATO machinery, beginning with its planning system in Belgium to intelligence collected by spy satellites.

"There is no public information available about the quantity and quality of western military information already received by Finland. Building an information channel would, however, mean that for the first time, Finland would have the technical prerequisites for receiving this information.

"Technical contacts would not yet mean that NATO automatically would give even a part of its intelligence information for Finnish use. However, the EU's future crisis management system — of which Finland is a part — will receive NATO intelligence."

The newspaper also says that General Gustav Hägglund, who was recently appointed to head the EU Military Committee, hints in his new book that Finland will receive western intelligence in a crisis situation. An information channel between NATO and Finland would mean that this information might be available also in normal conditions.

The Swedish-language daily newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet (9 June 2001) writes about diplomatic exchanges concerning the possible NATO membership of the Baltic states. The newspaper quotes an American source which has said that Finland — which earlier had sent "contradictory signals" about the question — has changed its hesitant attitude. Some Finnish sources have now been saying privately that the Baltic countries' NATO membership is not against Finnish interests. According to this view, stability in the region is in Finnish interests, and this can only be guaranteed by the Baltic countries joining NATO.

Hufvudstadsbladet also has information according to which the United States and NATO hope that Finland would try to soften Russia's attitude towards Baltic countries' membership. The newspaper says that there are signs that Finland has agreed to take up this task. It seems that Sweden is willing to do the same. Hufvudstadsbladet is concerned about this sort of behind-the-scene rapprochment with NATO without any open debate.

The newspaper continues that if its information is correct, not everybody has been informed about the new attitude towards Baltic countries' NATO membership. The Finnish Minister of Defence, Jan-Erik Enestam, said only recently that unlike the new Finnish Chief of Defence, Admiral Juhani Kaskeala, he does not believe that the Baltic countries' membership would stabilise the Baltic region — or destabilise it either, for that matter.

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