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Research Questions

  1. What are the current and evolving strategic challenges and threats to security in the Nordic-Baltic region?
  2. What are the strengths and limitations of defence and deterrence postures in the Nordic-Baltic region and priorities for strengthening these?
  3. What are Finland's role and key contributions to defence and deterrence in the Nordic-Baltic region, and how can these be strengthened?
  4. What are the status and extent of US-Finnish and multilateral defence arrangements and priorities for improving cooperation?

Finland has long pursued a comprehensive security strategy that brings together all government levers of power, as well as industry, civil society and the general population. Finnish defence, which forms an essential component of this broader security concept, integrates the military instrument alongside other civil authorities and national capabilities. Given its militarily non-aligned status, Finland seeks to strike a balance between retaining sovereign defence capability and working closely with like-minded nations facing common security challenges.

Despite recent advances in strengthening regional defence cooperation, questions remain as to Finland's evolving role in the Nordic-Baltic region and what further steps can be taken in future. The Finnish Ministry of Defence asked RAND to provide an independent perspective on Finland's defence posture, the transatlantic dimensions of Finnish security policy in the context of any potential crisis and conflict in the Nordic-Baltic region, and the dilemmas that the government and armed forces could face at the strategic and high operational levels. In particular, this study focused on key challenges and opportunities for further developing bilateral cooperation with the United States.

This study's principal conclusion is that defence cooperation can and should proceed at a slow yet steady pace, building on existing foundations and raising the level of ambition as political and resource constraints permit. A combination of initiatives at the strategic and operational levels could yield long-term dividends if pursued systematically and with due consideration for political sensitivities on all sides.

Key Findings

As Finland and its partners look to strengthen stability and defence in the Nordic-Baltic region, Finland's contributions are informed by several key features.

These include Finland's:

  • Self-reliance, strong national defence capabilities and increased combat readiness.
  • Militarily non-aligned status balanced with flexible arrangements for regional defence cooperation.
  • Societal resilience and the inclusion of defence within a broader ‘Comprehensive Security Model'.
  • Regional and subject-matter expertise, including in-depth knowledge of Russia, countering hybrid warfare, and cold weather operations, among other areas.

Finland has recently advanced defence cooperation with a number of partners — including Sweden, the United States, Norway and other NATO allies — forming a layered web of cooperation agreements in a variety of bilateral, trilateral and multilateral formats.

Building on these advances, there are several implications for future cooperation:

  • Should a crisis occur, and should mutual interests align, Finland and its partners will need to rely on what officials and experts describe as 'day-zero interoperability' that enables effective cooperation from the beginning of a crisis. While difficult to achieve outside a formal alliance, additional steps could be taken.
  • Finland and its partners have yet to establish a comprehensive vision for potential joint responses to specific scenarios.
  • Strategic options to advance collaboration include elevating critical relationships (e.g. trilaterally between Finland, Sweden and the United States), utilising table-top exercises on a more consistent basis, and continuing to develop and jointly exercise new concepts and plans across operational domains.
  • Defence cooperation can and should proceed at a slow yet steady pace, building on existing foundations and raising the level of ambition as political and resource constraints permit.

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was prepared for the Finnish Ministry of Defence (MOD) and conducted by RAND Europe.

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