NEWS ANALYSIS: Finland assessing security guarantees again
So far Finland has left military threats outside promises of Nordic assistance
By Kari Huhta
Would Finland help all of the other Nordic Countries if they were to be targets of a military attack? This is to be reassessed when the drafting of the government’s next security and defence policy report begins.
This would not involve a military alliance, but rather a unilateral announcement of helping all Nordic Countries against a military attack. So far Finland has not wanted to give the same kind of promise that Sweden gave already five years ago.
Now there is a “certain momentum” for reassessing the Finnish stand, says Minister of Defence Stefan Wallin (Swed. People’s Party). He says that the matter has not been discussed in detail within the government.
Finland has previously avoided extending promises of Nordic solidarity to the realm of military threats. At the same time Nordic defence cooperation has been emphasised more strongly than before in statements by both the government and the opposition parties.
A defence policy report of the Swedish Parliament back in 2007 already gave approval to a unilateral guarantee according to which “Sweden will not remain passive if a disaster or attack befalls another [EU] member state or a Nordic Country”.
The wording of Sweden’s declaration does not distinguish between those Nordic Countries which are only members of the EU (Finland and Sweden), those which are only members of NATO (Norway and Iceland), or Denmark, which is a member of both.
In the previous security policy report Finland gives reassurances that it will adhere to the obligation to give assistance under the EU’s Lisbon Treaty, but does not mention the Nordic region.
“Finland will give the other member countries assistance according to the obligation to provide assistance, and expects other member states to do the same”, reads the report from 2009.
Finland has a new possibility to extend its commitments over a year ago when the foreign ministers of the Nordic Countries agreed to a common declaration of solidarity in Helsinki. Actual military threats were nevertheless explicitly excluded from the declaration.
Joint Nordic security guarantees, in other words a military alliance, have also been opposed grounds other than the fact that some of the countries are in NATO.
Some in Finland have opposed Sweden’s type of unilateral declaration of solidarity because it is felt that it would bring Finland a step closer to NATO membership – while other opponents of such a move feel that it would make it more difficult to join NATO.
The assessment in Sweden is that the declaration has strengthened the country’s international position.
As the drafting of the new security policy report begins, support for a unilateral Finnish declaration of Nordic solidarity is more lukewarm in the Foreign Ministry than in the Defence Ministry.
“We would have to see what the formulation could be like and what the advantage would be”, said one Foreign Ministry civil servant.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Defence Minister: Nordic cooperation might save defence costs (11.2.2009)
Finland could join Nordic air surveillance effort in Iceland (4.2.2009)
Experts: Neither EU nor NATO can guarantee security 100 per cent (12.10.2007)
Parliament calls for report on EU security guarantees (30.11.2006)
KARI HUHTA / Helsingin Sanomat