Keynote speech “The new security realities in Europe and how to cope with the challenges”
Dear hosts Reinhard, Alviina and Ernest,
Dear friends and esteemed guests,
It is my great honor to be here in the European Parliament with you today to talk about the new security realities and challenges in Europe.
I think I spoke to many of you last December in the EGP’s General Assembly. I emphasized then that we must make our messages of peace, democracy, humanity and our solutions to fight climate change and the loss of biodiversity be heard across Europe and globally.
Above all, preserving peace and the environment have sustainable value. It is our responsibility to cherish – and if necessary – be ready to defend them. Unfortunately, the latter seems more and more urgent every day.
Let us start today with the security situation in Europe and neighbouring regions.
First: Ukraine and EU.
According to Article 51 of the UN Charter, Ukraine has the right to defend itself and the right to ask other countries for help until the UN Security Council resolves the issue. And, as we know, the Security Council is paralyzed in this matter when one of its permanent members is the attacking entity.
Meanwhile the UN General Assembly has become the forum and advocate of the entire international community. Last October, the UN General Assembly condemned Russia’s illegal territorial annexations in Ukraine by 143 votes. Only four countries supported Russia’s position.
Accountability is not only important because of impunity, but because of the upholding of an international rule-based system. Fundamentally it is about serious war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The EU responded to the Russian attack with unprecedented speed, determination and unity. The sanctions imposed by the EU on Russia are effective and extensive, and the material support given to the defense through the European Peace Facility has been significant.
Supporting Ukraine and increasing the production of the defense industry is now a priority, and at the same time EU countries must take care of their own defense.
Still, mere words and speeches are not enough – we must do more to provide Ukraine with the ability to defend its sovereignty as guaranteed by the UN Charter. If Russia is able to move borders with force in the 21st century, we have badly failed in maintainig the rules-based world order and the European security order. While supporting a sustainable peace, opting for a quick but shaky peace over a sustainable one is deceiving in the long run.
In looking ahead to the future, we must keep in mind how the EU still has soft power, which it must use to its advantage. Enlargement is a geopolitical tool. Ukraine submitted its EU application five days after the Russian invasion. Being able to highlight the path for a Ukrainian membership is our obligation to the Ukrainian people. After all, they are fighting not only for their nation but also for their right to be a free European nation.
Peace must be promoted based on Ukraine’s own plan, the so called Zelensky’s Peace Formula. Positively, the discussion on the arrangements related to the future of Ukraine and to the security commitments has progressed in recent months, and the EU is ready to participate in them together with its partners.
More often, instead of discussing whether Ukraine should be involved in our economic and security institutions, we discuss the timeline. Ukraine in NATO and the EU, while a longer project, is an issue of when instead of whether. This is how we demonstrate readiness for long-term support of Ukraine’s security and anchoring Ukraine as part of Euro-Atlantic security.
Foreign and security policy has become the core of the EU and will remain an essential part of it for years to come. The EU has demonstrated its geopolitical nature, perhaps when its most needed.
European security calls for a transition to qualified majority decisions also in the field of Common Foreign and Security Policy.
The effects of the war are felt more concretely on the edges of the EU than in its core. Europe’s great upheavals shape its edges more than the so-called “old Europe”.
Let me take a few examples: Finland’s and Sweden’s NATO membership, explosion of the North Stream pipeline in the Baltic Sea, the risks involved in shipping in the Black Sea, effects of imported grain on local producers in Ukraine, how we receive and take care of refugees, provocations on the borders of Russia and Belarus – to name a few.
Europe’s long-term and ideal goal is to build cooperative security, as we have done since the Second World War. I see no reason to give up on peace and being able to seek for pathways for diplomacy. However, peace does not preserve itself as we’ve witnessed in Ukraine. For now, we are forced to invest in deterrence to maintain even a minor level of predictability on our continent’s security.
While amid gloomy times, I still believe that a rules-based order has far more defenders than the world of power politics. This was also visible at the peace summit in Jeddah in August. All of the about 40 countries emphasized the importance of the UN Charter, including independence and territorial integrity.
For us Europeans, we also have our own forum for security discussions – the OSCE. While once a significant organization for shaping European history, its role has been limited in this century. Perhaps this would be a time to revive its potential and make common efforts to restore its ability to shape our future – instead of becoming a relic of missed potential.
Finland will be the chairing member state of the organization during the 50th anniversary of the Helsinki Final Act in 2025. For Finland, this represents a serious moment of diplomatic efforts if the overall circumstances prove to be right.
Some thoughts about the future scenarios in the security situation in Europe. We obviously cannot predict all the possible courses and developments for the future, and we do not always give the necessary weight to the changes we observe, especially the silent or even slightly louder signals.
I will try to outline the most central phenomena of international politics affecting our situation:
First of all, Russia’s actions.
The effects of Russia’s war will have a long-term effect on our continent. There is no going back to where we were before February 24th of 2022. This has been a fundamental change in the European security architecture. Our goal is, without a doubt, that Ukraine stops the Russian attack and maintains its full sovereignty as well as territorial integrity and forces Russia to leave the country.
The fundamental change is not only for the whole continent but for Russia itself as well. By starting this war, President Putin has gambled with Russia’s great power status and the country’s prosperity. At some point either the Russian people or the high-ranking people in Moscow will realize the damage inflicted on the country.
In Finland we have become accustomed to big and drastic changes in Russia. We have seen Russia developing from tsarist times to Lenin, from Lenin to Stalin, from Stalin to Hruštšov and Brezhnev, and from them to Gorbatšov and Jeltsin and finally Putin. We may now be on the threshold of the next revolution but once again uncertainty clouds our ability to correctly assess Russia’s direction.
Many of us might have held our breath in uncertainty when seeing Prigozhin’s march towards Moscow in the summer. Wagner may be in decline, but certainly still presents a security threat and declaring it as terrorist organization under the EU’s terrorist sanctions seems like the right thing to do. This would give more tools and help investigate the backgrounds and money trail of the organization, even if its leadership is gone for now.
From the history we know, that changes in Russia can bring surprises. We might witness something completely different we expected – for better or worse. On the other hand, change is not always fast in Russia. Russia’s political and economic elite are personally dependent on President Putin and his regime. In the current Russian power vertical, to be someone in the society you must have a relationship with the leadership. Your position – and if needed, life – can always be taken away if deemed so. Therefore, it could just as well be that the current nationalist and imperialist trends will continue for years or decades to come.
We should also prepare for worse scenarios. Although Ukraine seems to be now holding its own in the front and even succeeding in counter-offensives, it is possible that Russia will still gather its strength, and with years of struggle will try to break Ukraine’s resistance, assuming that the support of the West will weaken as time goes by.
Without a fundamental change in its resolve and actions, Russia could then continue on its current path of power policy and the consolidation of its interests. Such an outcome would be the most dangerous for Europe.
We should therefore be prepared for different outcomes. We can influence the desired future with our activities, above all through the European Union, Nato and other multilateral cooperation. We will support Ukraine as long as it takes to guarantee the country’s independence, democracy, freedom and sovereignty.
Europe’s future and success is also influenced by other factors. Many of them have started before Russia’s brutal attack, and the war strengthens or weakens them.
The competition between the great powers for influence and resources is intensifying, which can be seen, for example, in the Pacific Ocean, Africa and the Arctic regions. In particular, the technology sector is getting more and more interest from the major powers.
China is trying to secure the resources required for its rise and reach a position where other states must respect its interests. China has enormous resources in the long run: a billion population, the largest armed forces, huge energy and raw material reserves, and technological leadership in many fields. On the other hand, the challenges, such as aging, are huge. China’s central problem is whether it can form powerful alliances globally and whether it can become prosperous before its population turns gray. China is also developing its nuclear military capacities.
At the same time, China and Russia are seeking their mutual roles. It is clear that Beijing does not need Moscow as much as Moscow needs Beijing. On the other hand, Russia is a convenient ally for China in challenging the United States. Whether a common foe is enough to fade away the imbalance between the two remains to be seen.
The EU is strengthening its foreign and security policy in order to respond to the growing superpower competition. It means dismantling harmful strategic dependencies, moving away from Russian fossil energy and supporting Europe’s own industry in terms of semiconductor production, for example. Enlargement is the next significant and historical decision we are facing, especially considering the Western Balkans.
We have also seen the slight shift of the political, economic and cultural center of Eastern Europe towards Kyiv. The states of the former Soviet Union are seeking new room for maneuver and are aiming their careful but perhaps patient gaze towards the West. The key question is whether we can credibly support these states. Afghanistan’s instability can also fuel new security challenges.
It saddens me somewhat that wars and conflicts take up so much time, energy and resources in a world where real problems are climate change, loss of biodiversity and growing global inequality.
Climate change, combined with the deterioration of the environment and loss of biodiversity is the most significant threat to all of us. Global warming is reaching four degrees – the change causes natural disasters and diseases, makes food production more difficult and causes massive waves of refugees.
The world’s population exceeded 8 billion last year. Growth is concentrated in Asia and Africa, and the birth rate in high-income countries is falling.
Inequality in the world continues. The number of people living in extreme poverty has started to increase after a quarter of a century of positive development, and even now, 50 million people in 45 countries are severely malnourished. Residents of the poorest countries suffer the most from the effects of many overlapping crises. Unequal distribution of income within countries fuels instability, polarization, and different – even violent – extremism and accelerates global migration.
We must do better. Europe must open up to a real dialogue with other continents and recognize the truly global nature of international politics. By strengthening the international rules-based system together, we are at the same time damming Russia’s power policy.
The expansion and possible activation of the BRICS alliance stems from the need to change the structures of multilateral cooperation to be more inclusive. In 2024, Russia will chair the BRICS alliance and will try to use it for its own purposes. In this new reality, we should not remain passive. Real dialogue also requires readiness for changes in, for example, the UN and the decision-making of international financial institutions.
Lastly, I shall conclude my keynote by returning to Ukraine.
Europe must not – cannot – get tired of the war. It is important that the EU maintains its unity and the desire to help Ukraine. Ukraine’s cause is our cause. Their fight is our fight. We must stand with Ukraine as long as it is needed.
The eighth (8th) EPF support package has been delayed. A longer interval between support decisions is a bad signal. Supporting Ukraine costs money, yes, but escalating is even more expensive and dangerous. If Russia gets the upper hand, it will feel that it will achieve all its goals with violence.
That is why this autumn is important for the EU’s credibility. Decisions on the new 50 billion euro support instrument for Ukraine and 20 billion euro additional funding for military material must be made as soon as possible.
Supporting Ukraine is our global responsibility: We are defending the rules-based international system. By supporting Ukraine, Europe also defends its own social mode and values.
The EU was born around coal, steel and the idea of peace. It is a demonstration of how peace, no matter how dim or surrounded by fire and fury, will find a way to grow when given room and demanded.
I hope our continental trauma has taught us something about how important it is to make a stand when it still is possible.
To not act to defend peace and freedom now would simply be selfish towards future generations.