May 2001

Problems with independent defence

Finland is ready to participate in the crisis management operations of NATO and the EU but has no security guarantees for herself in case the country's own defence proves to be insufficient. This is the thesis put forward by foreign policy expert Markku Salomaa in an article in Helsingin Sanomat (5 May 2001).

Salomaa reminds readers that General Gustav Hägglund, who was recently appointed as the head of the EU Military Committee, made a surprising statement when he said that in a crisis situation comparable to the 1939 Winter War, Finland would not be left alone. Salomaa writes that probably Hägglund's intention was to increase the Finns' feeling of security. Simultaneously, however, the general reminded people of one source of insecurity. There is no way to be sure of any outside help because Finland has no security guarantees, Salomaa writes.

"Whilst Finland is on its way to participate in NATO and EU crisis management operations, an old dogma remains that the country will not seek or need any security guarantees. They are actually seen as dangerous because they could make Finland a target of sanctions connected with a big power conflict

"Why does this equation not work? Because there exists a lamentably distorted view of security guarantees. Going along with big NATO countries to the world's crisis areas even 6,000 kilometers away without appropriate security guarantees can be a great risk and draw us into conflicts of interests of the big powers, with unpredictable consequences.

"Finland wants to participate in a visible way in the NATO-inspired European collective security system. Why is there no will — as a counter-balance — to guarantee one's own national security by joining NATO's collective defence system when one's own defence system is experiencing problems?"

Salomaa speculates about a crisis where the EU has failed in a crisis management operation. As NATO comes in, the forces will be put under the command of NATO generals.

"How long could Finland sustain its non-aligned position which is part of the defence dogma? How could Finland withdraw its forces from the middle of the conflict if its own doctrine is theatened with collapse and NATO has to take responsibility?"

According to Salomaa, "it is moonshine to believe that the European Union could somehow secure the missing security guarantees".

"For NATO, indirect security guarantees might mean involvement in unpredictable crises where it would have no interests of its own to look after. Even expressing support in principle would be interpreted as indirect security guarantees which the alliance might have to honour."

Salomaa writes that "receiving help in the moment of need is not a question of lobbying but is based on commitments agreed in a legislative process". When crises become imminent, the membership agreements of member countries will be examined in minute detail. Salomaa sees a big difference between the EU Military Committee and NATO Council where only the latter is capable of conducting a war. The Union has not even been able to fight epidemics of animal diseases, he says.

"What would happen to decision-making in the Union's Council of Ministers and Military Committee if national security interests differ? It may not be realistic to assume that a consensus would be achieved in time and even if it was achieved, help might be limited to food aid.

"If one assumes that Finland can be drawn into a conflict only in a context of a wider European crisis, no one has the capacity or even the will to help us. One only needs to look at Sweden to understand what it is all about. Sweden is non-aligned in time of peace and neutral in a case of war breaking out in neighbouring areas.

"Only NATO can offer help. But even NATO's active military forces and reserves are ear-marked for their own tasks and own targets. Neither can the planning of NATO's resources take into account the kind of requests for help which are found in the appendix of the membership application. Nor does NATO accept countries whose foreign relations are problematic.

"The general's comparison to the year 1939 is also flawed for the reason that Finland did not then in the end ask for help from Western powers and consequently did not receive it. The world has not changed since then. There is no help and support without commitments written in agreements."

See also:

[home] [archive] [focus]