Finnish Arctic Policy: 12 Month Outlook

Finnish recon soldiers practising shooting on skison a winter warfare course in Jaeger Brigade, Lapland via Maavoimat

Summary

Since the previous Finnish Arctic policy in 2013, climate change has progressed rapidly and it is causing instability in the region and the whole globe. Consequently, it is highly likely that Finnish Arctic policy will encourage the protection of the climate, not only in its own country.

The introductory section of the Arctic policy of 2021 focuses on the importance of international cooperation. It is highly likely that Finnish’s Arctic policy will promote, as it has previously, the security of the region and the advantages of an open dialogue between countries. Finland will continue to participate in joint military exercises with the US, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden to strengthen their cooperation.

Key Judgment 1

It is highly likely that Finland will take into consideration, more than before, Sami’s culture and traditions. Due to their strong connection with the land, climate change is deeply affecting their livelihood.

  • In Finland, there are around 10.000 Sami. More than 60% of the Sami population live outside their homeland, in Northern Lapland. Since Finnish Arctic policy promotes diversity in the whole region, it is highly likely that the Finnish government will strengthen Sami’s culture. The country will also focus on cross-border cooperation which would ease the interaction between the various communities

  • While encouraging the protection of the natural environment, Finland will also stress the meaning that the land has for the Sami. Their traditions are based on fishing, hunting and reindeer herding. The current climate change and the melting glaciers are deeply affecting their lifestyle and culture.

Key Judgment 2

It is highly likely that Finland will not join NATO in the next 12 months. Even though Russia is considered a threat by its neighbours, Finland will keep counting on the EU. It will also keep managing its relationship with Russia.

  • The relationship between Finland and Russia has been stable in the past years. Finland managed its relationship with its Russian neighbour by avoiding any kind of confrontation or provocation. A provocation could be a hypothetical NATO membership. Managing Russia is a key aspect of Finnish Arctic policy, which focuses on maintaining stability in the region.

  • It is highly likely that Finland will invest more in its defence capabilities and its army. This is also due to the recent Russian incursions into the Nordic and Baltic airspace.

  • Despite these recent actions, it is highly unlikely that Finland will join NATO, also due to the public opinion in the country. Both in 2017 and 2019, the public opinion manifested its disagreement in the case of Finland joining NATO. In 2019, 56% of the population voted against, 24% was unsure, and 20% were in favour.
Finnish Arctic policy
Finnish multiple-rocket launchers firing during exercise Arctic Shield 18; via Maaviomat

Key Judgment 3

It is highly likely that Finland will keep cooperating with China in the next 12 months. At the same time, there are various concerns on this cooperation, due to the growing Chinese presence and influence in the region.

  • The cooperation between China and Finland has remained solid in the last years. China is planning various projects in the country, such as a marine fibre-optic cable that connects China and Finland.

  • At the same time, there are concerns about the real intentions of China since its presence in the Arctic region is rapidly growing. The impact of Chinese investments on local businesses has to be carefully analysed. China remains the most polluting country in the world, with 9,8 million tons of Co2 released into the air. It is highly likely that Finland will proceed with caution regarding the next Chinese investment.

  • The attempt to buy an airport in Finland, for research purposes, also reflects the Chinese intention of expansion. In January 2018, the Polar Research Institute of China, funded by the state, tried to buy an airport in northern Finland. The Finnish Armed Forces refused to sell the airport due to its strategic location. The Kemijärvi airport is close to the Rovajärvi shooting range, which is the largest range for artillery exercises in Europe. The Chinese had already planned to spend more than 40 million euros to expand the runaway in order to receive heavy aircraft.

Intelligence cut-off date: 13th of December 2021

Rachele Momi
Rachele Momi
Rachele Momi is a graduate in Intelligence & Security Studies at Brunel University and in Middle East Politics at SOAS. Her research is mainly focused on the Middle East region, tradecraft, and defence issues.

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