NATO and Finland: building security together in the 21st century

Speech by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in Helsinki, Finland

  • 15 Nov. 2012
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  • Last updated: 08 Apr. 2013 12:41

Mr. Chairman,
Ladies and gentlemen,

As a Dane, it is always a great pleasure to visit another Nordic country. We share a long history, a common culture, and a firm friendship that has benefited generations of Finns and Danes.

The partnership between Finland and NATO has also produced great results. Finland is among NATO’s most active, committed, and effective partners. Today I am here to thank you for that commitment. And to share my ideas for how we can make our partnership even stronger and more effective in the future.

NATO was created more than sixty years ago. But the Alliance is busier than ever before. And as relevant to our security today as ever before. NATO first helped to keep the Cold War from getting hot. We then helped freedom, democracy, and prosperity to spread across the entire Euro-Atlantic region, by extending our hand of friendship and cooperation, and opening our door to new members. And the Alliance is changing again now in response to an entirely new range of challenges to our security.

Two years ago, at our NATO Summit in Lisbon, we agreed a new Strategic Concept. A new Strategic Concept that identifies three core tasks for NATO: collective defence, crisis management, and cooperative security.

Collective defence – NATO’s traditional vocation -- means that the Allies will always assist each other against attacks, according to the principle “all for one, and one for all.”

Crisis management means that NATO will help manage the full-range of crises when and where doing so contributes to Euro-Atlantic security.

And cooperative security means that the Alliance will boost international security by working with others.

While all three tasks are vital to NATO today, ‘cooperative security’ has become increasingly important. Like many great ideas, it is simply a recognition of the obvious.

We live in a fast-changing and unpredictable world. A world with complex new security challenges, such as terrorism, proliferation and cyber crime. No country is immune from these challenges, and no country can tackle them alone.

Meeting these new, global challenges takes a new level of international cooperation. It requires countries with shared values to join forces to achieve shared goals.

NATO has become a key driver for that cooperation. By reaching out to partners, here on this continent and elsewhere. Partners who are willing, ready and able to ‘plug in’. And partners who understand that, by plugging in to NATO, they multiply the security benefits of their own efforts.

This is where the importance of Finland becomes clear. Your country is a model partner for NATO. Because you fully understand the importance of cooperative security. And you have demonstrated a strong commitment to make it a reality.

Today, in Afghanistan and in Kosovo, Finns stand shoulder to shoulder with troops from NATO Allies and from many other nations. They do an outstanding job – and I thank them. I was in Afghanistan just a few weeks ago. And I saw the steady improvements in security and stability that we are achieving due to the professionalism, dedication, and sacrifice of our service men and women in ISAF.

But Finland’s contribution to NATO-led operations is only one aspect of our partnership. For almost two decades now, your country has progressively developed greater political and military cooperation with the Alliance. You have committed to meeting NATO standards in a wide range of areas. And you participate in NATO exercises with forces that are highly capable, flexible and deployable.

Your operational contribution is matched by your political engagement. And by the innovative and interesting ideas that you often bring to the table. I remember the excellent seminar you hosted here in Helsinki, together with Sweden, when you made a valuable contribution to the development of our new Strategic Concept.

And of course, Finland’s dedication to cooperative security does not end with the Alliance. From Africa to the South Caucasus, and from Asia to the Middle East, Finland is making a crucial contribution to creating a more secure world.

This strong support for cooperative security is underpinned by your strong attachment to United Nations values and principles. NATO shares that attachment. It is in the Alliance’s DNA. Our founding document, the North Atlantic Treaty, begins with a reaffirmation of the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter. And all of our current operations are backed by United Nations Security Council Resolutions.

Like Finland, NATO is also a strong proponent of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, which calls for greater involvement of women in preventing and solving conflicts, as well as for their protection from gender-based violence in situations of armed conflict.

In NATO, we have been integrating Resolution 1325 into our missions and operations for the past decade. We have already achieved a lot. But there is more work to do. And that is why I have recently appointed a Norwegian diplomat, Mari Skåre, to be my Special Representative for Women, Peace and Security, and to drive that work forward.

So NATO and Finland have a lot in common. We share the same principles and values. The same commitment to individual liberty, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. The same desire for a strong bond between Europe and North America. The same aspirations for a Europe that is free, whole, and at peace. And the same dedication to building a safer and more secure world.

All this gives us an excellent foundation for making our partnership even stronger, and even more effective, in the future.

Looking ahead, I see three areas where our partnership holds particular promise: first, helping Afghanistan to stand on its own feet; second, improving the ability of our forces to operate alongside each other; and third, working together to develop military capabilities. Let me take those three issues in turn.

First, Afghanistan, where NATO is leading the largest and most ambitious multinational coalition for peace since World War Two. Fifty nations from all over the world have come together in the International Security Assistance Force to ensure that Afghanistan will never again be a safe haven for terrorists. Finland has been a major contributor to that common effort, and our effort is yielding results.

The transfer of security responsibility has acquired real momentum. Afghan army and police are already in the lead for the security of three quarters of the population, and every province is part of the transition process. We still have work to do. But by the end of 2014, Afghans will have full responsibility for their own security across the country and our ISAF mission will then be complete.

But our commitment to Afghanistan will continue. We are already preparing a new mission to train, advise and assist the Afghan forces from 2015 onwards. Several of our partners have already indicated that they want to participate. And I am very pleased that Finland is one of those partners. Your country is already part of shaping that new mission, which is vital to the long-term security of Afghanistan and our own countries.

Preserving the international solidarity that has underpinned our engagement in Afghanistan will remain the key to our success in the future. We want to build on our shared operational experience and strengthen the ability of our military forces to work together.

This brings me to the second area where our partnership holds promise: improving the ability of our forces to operate alongside each other. That is the goal of the Connected Forces Initiative that we agreed at our NATO Summit in Chicago earlier this year.

In the coming years, we will be placing even greater emphasis on military education and training. Finland has enormous expertise in these areas. For example, the Finnish Defence Forces International Centre is a global authority on peacekeeping and peace-support operations.

We will also be looking to enhance the role of the NATO Response Force as part of our future exercise programme. Here again, I believe there are considerable opportunities for greater cooperation. You already make valuable contributions to NATO’s Response Force pool of forces. And you have offered to make more. Taken together, these steps will enable our forces to communicate and work together even more effectively in the future.

The third area where I see considerable scope for greater NATO-Finland cooperation is in the development of military capabilities. The Alliance has agreed a new guiding principle for delivering capabilities at a time of economic austerity – Smart Defence. This is about nations working together to deliver capabilities that would be too expensive for any of them to deliver alone.

NATO is already moving ahead with over twenty multinational Smart Defence projects. They cover a wide range of capabilities, from purchasing drones for a NATO intelligence and surveillance system to developing a missile defence system, and from robots countering roadside bombs to sharing precision-guided munitions.

But Smart Defence is not just for Allies – it can also bring real benefits for partners. A perfect example is our Strategic Airlift Capability. Finland, together with Sweden and ten NATO Allies, operate three C-17 strategic transport aircraft based in Hungary. You are also working with Nordic NATO Allies and partners to establish a deployable joint multinational headquarters in Germany. And to develop a system that will help to protect our harbours. These are all concrete examples of Smart Defence in action.

You are also doing valuable conceptual work to support Smart Defence. By tackling the difficult but vital question of how, at a time of crisis, we would use those capabilities that Allies and partners have developed together. This is another demonstration of how Finland is at the cutting edge of cooperative security.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Finland and NATO are not just friends. We are real partners in security. Over the past 20 years, we have already achieved a great deal by working together. By working even more closely together in the future, we can achieve even more.

We can continue to protect our shared values and shared interests. And we can help build security in the 21st century that will benefit Finland, NATO, and the entire Euro-Atlantic region.

Thank you.