Speech by Foreign Minister Haavisto: The importance of cybersecurity in the new security landscape

Finnish Federation for Communications and Teleinformatics (FiCom) event, 28 February 2023

 (This text is an unofficial translation by FiCom. The only valid version is the speech given in Finnish.)

Pekka Haavisto, Minister for Foreign Affairs

One year ago, Russia brought the horrors of full-scale war to the centre of Europe. Until the very last moment, efforts were made to avoid conflict through dialogue, but Russia chose war and, at the same time, a complete severing of relations with the West. The invasion of Ukraine is not only a flagrant violation of international law and the Charter of the United Nations; it is also an expression of Russia’s desire to rupture the European security order.

The anniversary of the invasion was last Friday, the 24th of February. The UN General Assembly and the vast majority of the world’s nations again condemned Russia’s brutal attack on its neighbour. Finland has condemned the war from the outset, and we continue to demand the immediate cessation of military operations by Russia and a full withdrawal of its armed forces from the territory of Ukraine.

We have responded to Russia’s actions as a member of the European Union, which has imposed unprecedented sanctions on Russia together with its partners. The tenth package of sanctions was adopted last week.

It is self-evident that Finland strongly supports Ukraine. The total value of Finland’s support for Ukraine is already close to EUR 1 billion. In 2023, Ukraine will be Finland’s number one destination for development cooperation. Finland offers protection for nearly 50,000 Ukrainians who have fled to Finland. At the moment, there seems to be no end in sight for the war. Finland will continue to stand by Ukraine.

Finland has applied for membership in the NATO defensive alliance, of which it is currently an observer. 28 NATO member states have already ratified Finland’s accession protocol. We are still waiting on ratification from Turkey and Hungary. This is a matter of national decisions within these countries. Finland and Sweden must become members before the NATO summit in July.

On 5 December, the Government proposed to Parliament that Finland should accede to the North Atlantic Treaty and the Ottawa Treaty. The parties in Parliament have decided to advance the national process as far as possible in this parliamentary term. This is to ensure that our national parliamentary process does not slow down our accession to NATO as the general election is held this spring.

Finland has a credible national defence capability compatible with NATO, a strong collective will to defend the nation, and robust societal resilience. We are well prepared to face down various security threats.

Cyber and technology issues are becoming increasingly important in NATO. Great expectations are placed on Finland in these areas.

Cyberspace is the realm of competition between superpowers and geopolitical confrontation. Major cyber security incidents occurred in 2022, ranging from data breaches to ransomware attacks, many in some way related to geopolitical antagonism.

State actors are increasingly behind cyber attacks. Russia’s malicious cyber activity against Ukraine over the last decade – and still as a factor in the invasion – is the most blatant example of this.

The Ukraine War has finally revealed how cyberspace is used in warfare. Russia’s cyber attacks have targeted all parts of Ukrainian society, just as its military ones have. Cyber attacks on civilians violate the principles of international humanitarian law.

Cyber attacks can have dramatic effects, even in peaceful circumstances. We now know how Montenegro and Albania endured attacks several years ago, practically paralysing their economies and public administration. Costa Rica declared a state of emergency following a cyber attack (extortion) against its public health administration and finance ministry.

The dramatic shift in the geopolitical environment is reflected in the cyber threats facing Finland, making cyber security an integral aspect of Finland’s foreign and security policy.

Extensive national and international cooperation is required to strengthen cybersecurity. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is coordinating the international activities. We endeavour to strengthen the rules-based international order, multi-party cooperation, and Finland’s own capacity to respond to the cyber threats it faces.

The European Union is Finland’s main reference point and value and security community in cyber activities. The strengthening of EU cyber diplomacy has proceeded at pace over the last five years. Combating hostile, state-sponsored cyber impacts, responsible state action in the cyber landscape, international law and human rights are the key themes on the global cyber agenda.

Finland and the other EU countries are of the opinion that the agreements and norms of international law also apply to the cyber operating environment. The interpretation of such agreements and norms should be deepened in this regard.

Finland’s goal is an open, free and secure cyber environment. We are promoting these aims in the EU, UN and, in the future, increasingly strongly in NATO. Other important cooperation forums include the OECD and the Council of Europe.

Finland is preparing to chair the OSCE in 2025. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has been active in the cyber realm for many years. The participating states have negotiated and adopted a package of measures to promote confidence and stability in the cyber environment.

Finland’s objective is to maintain the OSCE as a forum for the European security debate, and cyber activity is a key theme for this. Despite the current challenges, the OSCE can play an important role when the Russian war in Ukraine comes to an end.

Closer cooperation on cyber and technology issues with like-minded countries is essential and offers opportunities for commercial cooperation. Finland and the EU as a whole should also look towards third countries in the global south. The EU’s Global Gateway offers one funding instrument to strengthen digital and cyber partnerships.

A multi-party community is required to address cyber threats. The importance of Finnish network security companies and experts cannot be overstated in these times. Finland has a good profile and well-respected cybersecurity capabilities. Finnish operators are trusted to protect critical infrastructure. This is an asset for us, not only in improving common cybersecurity, but also for competitive exports.

The development of democracy and the rule of law is threatened by authoritarian players who challenge the international rules-based order, including in the digital realm. Digitalisation and authoritarian rule present considerable risks to the development of democracy and the rule of law and the realisation of human rights. Finland is determined to combat such risks.

Cybersecurity is also a factor in modern peace mediation. Finnish operators have much to contribute in this area. The Centre for Peace Mediation, established in the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs at the beginning of my term, studies the means for promoting mediation in a spirit of trust, including in the digital environment. The CMI Martti Ahtisaari Peace Foundation has worked with WithSecure to enhance secure peace mediation work.

Enterprises play a crucial role in securing Finland’s cyber operating environment. Private and public actors are needed to ensure cybersecurity. Situation awareness must be timely, comprehensive and shared to anticipate cyber threats.

This event today reflects the multi-party approach that will enable us to continue our efforts to build the best possible cyber resilience.