Finland’s national security is characterised by a war in Europe

The Russian invasion of Ukraine, the threat of hybrid influencing in Finland, invitee status at NATO and other changes in the security environment were key issues in the work of Supo in 2022.

Director of Supo Antti Pelttari.

The exceptional nature of 2022 has been evident in the work of security authorities. Aggressive behaviour by the Russian state remains the single greatest threat to Finland’s national security. That is also why Russia is the central theme of this yearbook.

The tensions in our security situation highlight the need for reliable intelligence. Policymakers must have accurate situation awareness regarding Finland’s security and associated threats. Supo gathers, analyses and reports intelligence that Finland’s state leadership cannot obtain from other sources. Such intelligence is important and unique, and I believe this is now even more profoundly recognised than before.

The mission of Supo as an intelligence service is to anticipate potential developments and describe alternative futures to policymakers. Among the articles in this yearbook, we feature a scenario analysis outlining the possible repercussions of Russia’s war on its internal affairs.

While intelligence is usually classified, the USA issued a rare public release of its intelligence prior to the Russian invasion. Even though the public disclosure of Russia’s plans did not prevent its attack on Ukraine, the publication of intelligence united the West in a swift and decisive response to Russian aggression. I believe that such carefully considered public disclosures of intelligence
will from now on be a permanent feature in the toolbox of governments. It is an instrument that also Finland should keep in mind.

The major assault launched by Russia on a neighbouring country changed the foreign and security policy debate in Finland overnight, leading to Finland claiming its so-called NATO option. Though there was no change in Supo’s evaluations of Russia, we modified our communications. Threats are now being discussed more explicitly. Frank discussion of threats helps businesses,
organisations and individuals prepare for them.

We must also bear in mind that a public discourse revolving around threats, the energy crisis caused by Russia’s actions, as well as high inflation are all likely to raise public concern. It is an unfortunate fact that the fears and concerns of people living in Finland can also be used in a damaging way to unsettle our national unity. Mutual trust is a strength of Finnish society. The more united society is, the better it can withstand difficult times.

The Russian threat to Finland is directed above all at civil society. Various forms of hybrid influencing, such as cyber threats and information influencing, were highly evident last year. Special attention was also paid on protecting the critical infrastructure that is necessary for society to function. An article in this yearbook sheds some light on our related work from the perspective of the energy sector.

The EU countries and the USA imposed strict export controls and sanctions on Russia in response to the war of aggression. The impact of these measures can already be seen in Russia, which is seeking to evade them in many ways. Finnish businesses may also be used to circumvent export controls, so they should be made aware of the risks.

The national debate on joining NATO and Finland’s invitee status were viewed by Supo as periods in which Russia might especially seek to influence policymaking in Finland. Fortunately, these problems have not materialized to date.

The threat of espionage, on the other hand, has continued for a long time and remains tangible. Not only Russia, but also China, and certain other countries, seek to gather information by spying and use it to their own advantage and to the detriment of Finland. Supo’s decades-long experience in counterintelligence has proven invaluable, enabling us to undermine the human
intelligence operations of Russia in Finland significantly during 2022. Supo also has special expertise in combating espionage in the cyber environment.

The past year brought a new collaboration forum for Supo, with invitee status at NATO making us part of the organisation’s civilian intelligence community. Even though our collaboration with the security and intelligence services of many countries in the alliance was already deep, Finland’s invitee status at NATO has brought new elements into our daily work.

China is a major power whose influence on global politics is also reflected on Finland. Our in-house expertise on China helps Supo interpret the actions and developments of China, and to combat its undesirable influence in Finland. The need for this expertise became evident when the war suddenly disrupted economic relations with Russia and raised concerns in Finland about European dependence on China.

Even though Russia has remained the principal focus of attention over the past year, the threat of terrorism has not evaporated. For that reason, this yearbook also includes the familiar terrorism threat assessment. The greatest threat of terrorism in Finland is still posed by lone operators or small groups motivated by extreme right-wing ideology or radical Islamism.

This yearbook seeks to give the reader a peek behind the scenes and a glimpse of the work of our people in the unusual year 2022. I would also like to thank everyone at Supo for their valuable contribution to Finland’s national security. Finland is beginning to reap the benefits of investing in national security through the work of Supo.

Antti Pelttari
Director of Supo