Russia’s relentless war of aggression began in Ukraine a year ago. At the same time, Finland immediately began to reassess its security environment. The police have now been preparing for various imaginable new scenarios and the measures required by them for a year. Finland and the Finnish authorities will continue to support Ukraine as part of the European Community.
When following the war and national debate, the emphasis sometimes seems to be overshadowed by how today’s conflicts materialise outside military action. Today, conflicts make more and more deliberate use of unclear and asymmetric actions rather than open military action. The aim is to destabilise social peace by means of hybrid measures, which may include various forms of systematic pressure, harassment, influencing, information gathering and acts that take the form of illogical crime, for example. These may continue for years before an actual regional conflict breaks out.
Actions may also include attacks in the cyber environment in the form of crime, acts of terrorism in the real world and sabotage, intelligence and harassment concerning critical infrastructure or other targets in society. In addition, there may be deliberate efforts to influence public opinion with the aim of creating unrest and confrontation between citizens and the authorities. What is common to all of these is the creation of a basis for subsequent visible actions.
In Finland, hybrid action is responded to in the field and is primarily investigated by the police – be it little green men, sabotage disguised as accidents or attempts to undermine public order and security. As a preparedness organisation, we in the police are prepared to act in all situations and scenarios to ensure Finland’s internal security.
The police constantly monitor, analyse and form an overview of even weak signals of hybrid influencing through its entire sensor network for use as a basis for its information-led operations and for creating an overview extending all the way to the government.
Finland could have a high threshold to declare ambiguous influence as military, and it may be that the origin of such malicious influence could not be immediately proved in the first place.
Therefore, the premise is that in unclear situations, action in the area of internal security would primarily be taken with the authorisation of the police. Although the police have powers and responsibilities, they cannot manage alone – overall security is built together.
Recent legislative reforms will help in this work. The police can now receive more extensive assistance from the Finnish Defence Forces and the Finnish Border Guard to enable the use of military force, if the police need it to support their tasks. This is how Finnish cooperation should work.
The police are also preparing for Finland’s NATO membership. The police play an important role in maintaining the resilience of society, which is a key priority in the development of NATO’s civilian preparedness.
It is likely that host nation support related to the presence, transit and training of NATO troops could also cause significant additional tasks for the police. The National Police Board has also started preparations for other identified NATO entities that have an impact on police operations.
So far, the scenarios have largely been kept in a drawer. However, we should remain vigilant when assessing the state of internal security in the current security environment. The will to defend the country as well as the public support for NATO membership and helping Ukraine will continue to be very strong. It is good to build on this.
The best way to prevent external influence attempts and to ensure the functioning of society is that all people living in Finland regardless of their background have confidence in Finnish society and the ability of its authorities to protect the rights of citizens. Even in times of instability, people must be able to rely on society’s ability to intervene, prevent or respond effectively to security threats in the event of an emergency. The police are ready – at all times.
Seppo Kolehmainen National Police Commissioner National Police Board Twitter @SJKolehmainen