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Cablegate: Nato Ambassador Nicholas Burns' Visit to Finland,

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 HELSINKI 001499

SIPDIS

USNATO FOR AMB BURNS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/23/2014
TAGS: MARR MOPS PREL FI EUN NATO
SUBJECT: NATO AMBASSADOR NICHOLAS BURNS' VISIT TO FINLAND,
NOV. 29-30

REF: HELSINKI 1472

Classified By: PolOff David Allen Schlaefer, reasons 1.4(B) and (D)

Summary
-------

1. (C) Of all the open questions in Finnish foreign policy,
the issue of whether to join NATO is the biggest. It is
debated endlessly in the editorial and op-ed pages, but that
debate has yet to affect public opinion. Polls continue to
show strong opposition to membership, in part because of
Finland's tradition of nonalignment, in part because of Iraq,
and in part because a mistrustful public still thinks of NATO
in Cold War terms and does not have a clear sense of where
NATO transformation is taking the Alliance. At the same
time, Finland's leaders make no bones about the importance of
the NATO to trans-Atlantic security. Finland retains a close
relationship with the Alliance: it is an active member of
PfP, and is committed to NATO interoperability. This close
relationship reflects practical calculations about Finland's
neighbor to the east -- the latest White Paper on national
security policy, released in September, retains territorial
defense as the primary mission of the Finnish Defense Forces.
The Finns also understand the importance of crisis
management, however: the Finns work closely with NATO
partners in Afghanistan and the Balkans, and the GoF has
committed to joining two EU battle groups -- one with the
Swedes and Norwegians, and one with the Germans and Dutch --
with the stipulation that this effort must be consistent with
Berlin Plus. In your conversations in Helsinki, the Finns
are likely to ask for your assessment of the direction in
which the Alliance is moving, and the role that they can play
in it, short of actual membership, and the future of NATO's
relations with the EU. End Summary.

The White Paper
---------------

2. (C) Your visit to Finland takes place shortly after the
GoF's much anticipated White Paper on national security
policy was completed and sent to Parliament for its review in
September. Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja told EUR
Assistant Secretary Beth Jones on Nov. 8 (see reftel) that he
expected the Parliament to approve the report's main outline
with only minor revisions. The White Paper reaffirms
Finland's nonalignment, although "applying for membership in
the (NATO) Alliance will remain a possibility...in the
future." The White Paper has since been criticized by some
of the country's most committed trans-Atlanticists for being
too timid in its treatment of Finland's need for allies. One
commentator said that the White Paper was "born old" in
failing to note the modern realities in Russia. MP Liisa
Jaakonsaari, the Social Democratic Party's chair of the
Foreign Relations Committee, has said that Finland's foreign
policy lacks direction.

3. (C) This criticism seems to have gained some traction:
at a Nov. 8 dinner in honor of A/S Jones, LGEN Ahola,
second-ranking MoD official, told the Ambassador that some
consideration is being given to changing "a possibility" to
"a real option," more in line with the last White Paper,
issued in 2001.

4. (C) Public opinion, however, remains strongly against
NATO membership. By early 2003, support for joining the
Alliance had struggled up to 20%, or even higher in some
polls, but it plummeted to near zero after the onset of
Operation Iraqi Freedom. A recent poll found over 80% of
respondents still opposed the idea, although most wanted the
door to NATO left open. If Finland's political leadership
were to recommend that Finns walk through that door, the
nation probably would do so, but there is no indication this
will happen in the foreseeable future. In fact, Foreign
Minister Tuomioja told us last year that he did not expect
the NATO question to arise during this Parliamentary term
(2003-2007). Despite this, Finland clearly sees NATO as the
foundation for trans-Atlantic security, and Finland has made
NATO interoperability one of the guiding principles of its
military. The Finns are among the most active participants
in the PfP, and welcomed the Baltic States' entry into the
Alliance. The White Paper states that "Finland considers a
strong trans-Atlantic relationship to be important for the
security of Europe." Finland can be expected to foster that
relationship on a bilateral basis with the U.S., as well as
through the EU and the PfP.

Russia
------

5. (C) Russia obviously figures prominently in Finnish
foreign policy. The stability of political and commercial
relations with Russia -- and therefore the stability of
Russia itself -- will always be of vital importance to the
Finns. In recent conversations, they have said that while
day-to-day interactions with the Russians continue on track,
Finns are concerned about long-term trends. Foreign Minister
Tuomioja told the Ambassador in September, in the wake of the
changes made by Putin after the Beslan tragedy, that he was
worried that Putin seemed to be relying more and more on
people who are not by inclination natural democrats.
Tuomioja also told A/S Jones on November 8 that Russia was
trying to drive wedges between EU members on certain issues,
and clearly did not understand how the EU worked or that
Finland was now an integral EU member and not a "bridge"
between Russia and the Union.

Territorial Defense
-------------------

6. (C) The White Paper also reaffirmed Finland's
long-standing policy that territorial defense is the primary
mission of Finland's armed forces. Finnish defense strategy
is based on maintaining the capability to muster a credible
deterrent force of approximately 350,000 troops to counter
any Russian threat. To that end, a system of universal male
conscription is in place. Concerns about the compatibility
of Finland's territorial defense strategy with the demands of
NATO membership and/or participation in collective EU defense
structures are frequently raised by detractors of both
concepts. NATO and the envisaged EU force are looking more
at an enhanced ability to rapidly project military force
abroad, requiring members to reconfigure their armed forces
accordingly. Some Finns fear that overhauling the Finnish
military along these lines could jeopardize Finland's ability
to credibly field a conventional territorial defense of the
country vis-a-vis Russia. In addition, PolDir Lyra worries
that NATO planners are pressing the three Baltic nations too
hard to shift capabilities away from territorial defense,
leaving the possibility of "a security vacuum in the Baltic."

Battle-Groups
-------------

7. (C) Finnish defense officials are formulating a plan for
Finnish participation in EU battle-groups. The White Paper
commits the nation for the first time to providing combat
troops to EU rapid reaction forces. Tentative plans call for
between 300-400 Finnish troops to be divided between a
"Nordic" battle-group led by Sweden and including Norway, and
a German-Dutch group. The Finns tell us they were able to
win Greek agreement to including Norway in the battle-group
only after Finnish and Swedish officials went to Athens last
week to appeal directly to the Greek Government.

8. (C) The Finnish troops in the "Nordic" group would be
primarily ancillary and support types, while those in the
German-Dutch group would be special forces. However, Finland
maintains only a small standing military of about 8,000
professionals, plus about 15,000 conscripts in training for
six months. The bulk of Finland's military strength lies in
reserves. Finnish politicians want to have a force of
several hundred troops ready to deploy with an EU
battle-group on five-days notice, without increasing the size
of the "standing army." One possible solution might be to
maintain a core of soldiers who would remain de facto
reserves for one year after conscript service.

NATO Interoperability
---------------------

9. (C) Finland is committed to being interoperable with
NATO, and already is to a remarkable extent. For example, in
the last 18 months, Finland has held the role, for two
six-month periods, as the Framework Nation for the
Multi-National Brigade Center in Kosovo. However, there are
other areas where Finland has a ways to go as regards
interoperability. One in particular is with its Air Force.
The FiAF's 63 F-18 Hornets are superb air defense fighters;
however, their datalink systems not compatible with NATO.
The Finns have decided to cease further development of their
unique datalink and spend scarce defense dollars on a
"dumbed-down," less capable system that is NATO compatible.
It is not yet clear whether this system will be operational
by 2008, when the White Paper states Finland will be prepared
to offer its F-18s for international crisis
management/peacekeeping operations.

Landmines
---------

10. (C) The White Paper commits Finland to signing the
Ottawa Convention by 2012, and destroying its anti-personnel
landmines (APLs) by 2016. This has been one of the most
controversial decisions in the White Paper, and in the
subsequent Parliamentary review has been criticized from the
left and the right. Finland's Left Alliance (which includes
the Communists, as well as a range of more moderate political
figures) argued that the nation should stay with the original
compromise of the 2001 White Paper, in which the government
committed to joining Ottawa in 2006 -- if doing so would not
harm national security -- while Conservative MPs argued that
Finland should not give up APLs at all. Ministry officials
tell us that the White Paper decision was a hard-fought
compromise among MFA, MoD, and the Ministry of Finance (which
must find the necessary millions of Euros to purchase
replacement systems), and is unlikely to change.

Your Meeting at the MFA
-----------------------

11. (C) Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs
Jaakko Laajava will leave Helsinki next month to become
Finland's Ambassador to the United Kingdom. The current
Director General for Political Affairs, Markus Lyra, will
move up to replace him at the MFA. You may wish to
congratulate both on their new appointments. Laajava has
been Finland's ambassador to the U.S., and is regarded as the
MFA's premier Americanist. He is known to be close to former
PM Paavo Lipponen, whose support for NATO membership is a
poorly-kept secret in Finnish politics. Laajava himself
supports NATO accession, although, given the Foreign
Minister's position and prevailing public opinion, he is
usually measured in his comments. He will probably provide
an overview of Finland's White Paper (stressing NATO
interoperability), and discuss plans for Finnish
participation in the EU battle-groups. The Under Secretary
may be interested in hearing about ongoing NATO operations in
Afghanistan, and about the recent decision concerning NATO
and troop training in Iraq. (NOTE: Finland has pledged 1
million Euros to help fund a UN Protection Force in Iraq, but
bureaucratic problems in New York over the creation of a UN
trust fund to manage the money has held up the project, and
no funds have been disbursed.)

Your Meeting at the Ministry for Defense
----------------------------------------

12. (C) Your one hour meeting at the MoD will be split
between a roundtable discussion with MoD policy makers, and a
meeting with the Defense Minister, Seppo Kaariainen. The
roundtable discussion will be led by MoD Policy Director Dr.
Pauli Jarvenpaa. Jarvenpaa knows you from previous
encounters, and he is a strong advocate of the trans-Atlantic
link. Kaariainen has been Defense Minister for a little over
a year, and during that time he has significantly softened
the overtly isolationist agenda he brought to the office.
However, he is a politician who focuses on domestic issues.
Our best hope with him is for incremental gains. You might
take the opportunity to thank Finland for its work in
Afghanistan (18 members in a PRT; 6 military firefighters at
Kabul airport; approximately 46 CIMIC specialists in Kabul);
and its work in Kosovo and in helping to coordinate the EU
takeover from NATO in Bosnia. He would probably also
appreciate hearing about NATO cooperation with the EU, and
with Russia.
MACK

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