Russia is increasingly dependent on China, but what does this mean for Finland’s national security?

As an intelligence service, Supo seeks to analyse superpower relations from the perspective of Finnish national security. Particularly since the Russian invasion, it has carefully monitored the trend in relations between China and Russia.

Red surface.

The job of intelligence includes seeking to understand key players in international politics in order to assess them with optimal precision. There are many actors in international politics, and their mutual relations affect global security in a wide variety of ways.

Superpower relations are now so strained that the need for information is continually growing. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has also had important repercussions in international politics. One crucial question has been the effect of the war on relations between China and Russia.

The relationship between these two major powers is an obvious example of an area in which developments can have national security implications for Finland. The role of Supo as an intelligence service is to provide predictive assessments on such issues. The purpose of intelligence information is to help Finland’s foreign and security policy leaders to navigate in a complex world.

China is cautiously backing Russia

Supo assesses that China and Russia have common goals that they jointly promote when this serves their interests. Both are seeking to undermine the position of Western countries, and especially the USA in international arenas.

China is cautiously backing Russia in practice. Trade between these two countries has increased significantly during the war. Russia has been forced to direct its exports to China, and its dependence on China has grown considerably. Chinese exports to Russia have also increased. The continuing stability of Russia is important to China, but Russia clearly needs China more than the other way round.

Since the Russian invasion, China has sought to present itself as a neutral party. It talks about respecting the sovereignty of independent states, meaning Ukraine. By appealing to neutrality, China also seeks to strengthen its hand as a leading figure in developing countries.

On the other hand, China recognises Russian security concerns and stresses their legitimacy. It shares the Russian view that the USA and NATO have come too close to Russia in Europe.

The main issue for China ultimately concerns the impact of the war on Sino-American competition.  Many other issues are subordinate to this question. It is important for China to at least ensure that the war does not reinforce the international status of the USA.

The heightened importance of NATO as a result of Russia’s war of aggression is accordingly a negative development from the perspective of China, which views NATO as an instrument of US foreign policy. It does not wish to see NATO becoming stronger or operating in its own locality.

What is the special contribution of Supo?

Newsrooms, think tanks and many other actors have closely monitored Sino-Russian relations since the invasion. A great deal of public, high-quality information is available on this subject, which is not exceptional nowadays.

Technological progress has enabled mass media and individuals to produce new kinds of information, challenging intelligence services to clarify their role. These intelligence services – including Supo – must consider the special contribution that they can make.

The key difference between intelligence services and other actors lies naturally in the field of secrets, with covert information gathering and international information exchanges giving the intelligence services access to information that is not otherwise available.

The role of Supo is to supply clear and reliable analysis that serves as a basis for decisions taken by policymakers. While information from Supo may sometimes confirm interpretations that circulate already in the public domain, intelligence information may also contradict these popular views.

The job of Supo is to analyse the world from the perspective of Finnish national security

While the scale of resources available to major intelligence services for gathering information on Sino-Russian relations obviously outweighs that of smaller services like Supo, no other entity is dedicated to gathering information and analysing threats specifically from the perspective of Finnish national security.

The impact of NATO membership provides one example of this. The expansion of NATO in Northern Europe is undesirable from China’s point of view, and Finland’s membership is arousing a new kind of interest. The key issue for China concerns whether NATO membership will bring about any change in the attitude of Finland towards China.