Minister of Defence Jussi Niinistö at The Alliance of Conservatives and Reformists in Europe ACRE) Seminar in Helsinki, defmin.fi

…It has not been necessary for Finland to revise current policies. The primary task of the Finnish Defence Forces continues to be the defence of own territory. Out territorial defence system has proved to be a well justified solution and we shall develop it further in the future. We are also committed to maintaining general conscription and defending the entire country. Our defence solution has proved enduring.

Although there has been no need to change the basic guideline we, too, have had to respond to the changed situation. Intensified military activity close to our borders and the difficulty to foresee developments in the security environment require us to have better readiness than before. We continue to further that for example by legal measures and increased resources.  Based on the system of general conscription, the Finnish Defence Forces train annually over 21 000 conscripts and about 18 000 reservists in reservist training. In addition, through voluntary national defence about 28 000 reservists receive training on the annual basis. In recent decades, elsewhere in the world the trend has been from general conscription to selective conscription or a professional army.

This was to a large extent the result of the end of the Cold War and, as I noted previously, of an idealistic belief in a world where at least developed countries would no longer fight wars and where armed force would not be a tool to achieve political goals.  What took place in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine showed that, ultimately, the world had not changed as expected. This led especially Northern European countries to reassess the importance of conscription.

Sweden plans to reintroduce conscription for a selected number of both men and women whereas Norway introduced last year a gender neutral system where all citizens can be conscripted. In Estonia, too, the national defence system is based on general conscription. Lithuania decided, in 2015, to reintroduce permanently general conscription. In Germany conscription was a much discussed theme at the end of August when the German government handled a proposal on civilian defence in a catastrophe. Poland and Latvia have so far decided not to introduce conscription but the topic has been discussed there, too.

Ladies and gentlemen,

idealism could not, after all, carry us sufficiently far in situations where national interests were tested. A key theorem in the classical political realism is that states maximize their efforts to further national interests within all available means.

It was naively assumed in Europe that all states want ultimately the same: a democratic system, economic well-being and getting rid of national borders. At the same time nationalism was becoming a suspicious ideology.  An idea of an “Arab Spring” was taken to the Middle East and North Africa, and the results can be seen by all.

It is, after all, a fact that different states look at the furthering of national interests from very different perspectives. Both means and goals can be different.

I am sorry to say that at the moment it looks like the traditional power politics has returned as a means to achieve political goals. Changes in the security environment and the multi-purpose use or threat of power have become “a new normal”.

Each state aims to organise its defence in the best way it deems possible: some invest in an independent national defence while others seek security in military alignment. It is in any case clear that cooperation among countries who share the same set of values is vital.

I would like to conclude by reminding you that, in a situation like this, it is important not to react when provoked, and to maintain a dialogue with other countries so that we can together address common security issues. It is also highly important to be able to read the other party’s body language. What Russia really thinks is not always what comes to mind first. Läs talet