Finland’s accession to NATO also boosts civilian intelligence

Finland’s participation at NATO meetings as an invitee has also opened doors for Finland to work with NATO civilian intelligence, which plays an important role in alliance policymaking.

A road and a railroad crossing.

The first thing that many people think of in relation to NATO is military collaboration. Indeed, maintaining the credible defence capability of member countries is the key function of the alliance.

NATO security cooperation, however, reaches beyond purely military issues. Nowadays, countries face a wide variety of challenges. As a result, NATO member states cooperate to, for example, combat both terrorism and hybrid threats. Furthermore, the daily work of the alliance includes discussing challenges posed by issues such as emerging technologies and climate change.

Supo participates in the work of the NATO Civilian Intelligence Committee 

Civilian intelligence plays an important role at NATO. Alliance collaboration in the field of civilian intelligence takes mainly place in the Joint Intelligence and Security Division (JISD), which in turn serves the needs of the civilian and military intelligence committees. NATO members are represented on these committees by their civilian and military intelligence services.

Supo has been comprehensively involved in the work of the civilian intelligence committee since Finland secured invitee status at NATO in summer 2022. One function of the civilian intelligence committee is to provide information that supports NATO policymaking. The security and intelligence services of the allied countries are involved in the work of this committee, collaborating to combat security threats to NATO, such as counter-terrorism and counter-espionage.

Sharing intelligence is an essential aspect of this work. International intelligence cooperation relies very strongly on mutual trust.

While European Union policymaking and cooperation are already second nature to Finnish public administration, European intelligence cooperation lies beyond the competence of the EU. Even though international cooperation is very tight-knit in the world of intelligence services, the NATO Civilian Intelligence Committee is a new form of cooperation for Finland.

For Supo, the accession process has meant discovering and internalising new practices. The accession process also involves a great deal of crucial but often invisible work related to information security and ICT. 

On the other hand, Supo also continues to perform its previous roles. Since 2010, Supo has had the statutory role to advise and assess other authorities and Finnish business life in fulfilling NATO security requirements.

NATO analysis benefits Finland

This collaboration did not begin from zero. Many NATO countries are long-term and close partners of Finland in the intelligence world, and Supo has been well received by the NATO intelligence community.

All aspects of Finland’s future NATO membership are by no means apparent so far, and it will be intriguing to see whether Finland’s membership will bring even deeper bilateral intelligence cooperation with already familiar partner countries.

Finland has already gained a great deal by joining the alliance intelligence community. The analysis provided by NATO has proved useful and is used in Supo’s reporting to policymakers in Finland.

NATO also has expectations of Finland. For example, Finnish counter-intelligence expertise is highly prized. While many countries relaxed their counter-intelligence efforts at the end of the Cold War, Finland did not follow suit.

Finland is joining NATO at a time when the Russian invasion of Ukraine has highlighted the importance of the defence alliance. The future membership of Finland and Sweden is also a major development for NATO, coming at a highly sensitive time in terms of security policy.