Center for Strategic Decision Research


Capabilities, Rather than Institutional Structures

Admiral Juhani Kaskeala
Chief of Defense of Finland

During the EU Finnish presidency, I was deeply involved with drafting the Presidency Report, including the Helsinki Headline Goal and other papers. Just a week before the Helsinki European Council meeting, I was dispatched to Washington by my government to explain the latest details of how we had harmonized the texts to reflect what had been agreed to at the Washington Summit and then during the Cologne European Council meeting. After discussions with Strobe Talbott and others in the State Department and Pentagon, the process was judged to be well on track to strengthen also the European pillar of NATO.

Finland, like all other nations, has one set of forces, which are meant for national defense and for crisis-management operations. From the Finnish point of view, the transatlantic link is vital to our security, no matter what arrangements prevail between the European Union and NATO. A few days after my trip to Washington, I went to Moscow to bring the same message there: this is the essence of the Presidency's report, and this is the Headline Goal, its program, and its intentions. After lengthy discussions with Colonel-General Leonid Ivashov and Deputy Foreign Minister Gusarov you can probably guess what their answer was. They came to the conclusion that although they still have suspicions, as long as they believe we are not building up the European pillar of NATO, it is all right. They see the project weakening rather than strengthening the transatlantic link.

But I believe the project is about improving capabilities. The heart of the matter is capabilities. The Helsinki presidency report even begins by discussing the capabilities and discusses the institutional structures later, because these are secondary items. Capabilities are necessary if the European Union is going to act autonomously. In the Helsinki Conclusions the member-states are committed to improving their capabilities in the areas of availability, deployability, sustainability, and interoperability. We also briefly identified collective capability goals and national development goals, which mesh with the Planning and Review Process, with NATO and, of course, with the Headline Goal.

To address the shortfalls, most member-states agree that we should first develop forces for the broadest range of Petersberg tasks. These forces can be used in all Petersberg scenarios, and are low-cost, key capabilities enhancers. Once these forces are developed, we can take on short-term projects and then more expensive long-term projects using collective EU assets.

The problem here, however, is to what extent NATO assets and capabilities can be taken into consideration as we prioritize. This key question must be answered before we can go any further with the process. I believe there are four possible choices. For those of you who have taken part in NATO defense planning, none of this is special news, but the possibilities are multinationalism, role specialization, using collective capabilities, and using peer pressure.

Multinationalism is well illustrated by Nordic cooperation. According to our Defense Minister, our Nordic pool of forces can send a maximum of one Nordic brigade to UN operations, EU operations, or NATO-led operations. But there are certain requirements. For example, Denmark will not participate in EU-led operations. But because we need redundancy and backup, we have held discussions with the UK, which is willing to fill in a Nordic brigade when Denmark does not participate. Similarly, Norwegian, Finnish, and Swedish soldiers are ready to reciprocate just as they do today by being part of the UK brigade in KFOR. An interesting part of the cooperative Nordic concept is that it includes Norway, which is a non-EU NATO member. Our intention is to promote multinational units that include non-EU country forces. We train regionally, in the Nordic Peace exercises, and have Nordic planning element in Stockholm that works to harmonize our projects. We also follow the "lead nation" concept: Finns are taking care of command and control aspects, Swedes are developing the multinational logistics, and Norwegians are taking care of the medical units.

Role Specialization. Whenever Finland sends a battalion-currently we have three in international operations-we can promise that it is going to be in place for three, four, or five years. We have sustainability. The Brits have deployability: they can rapidly produce entry forces. With role specialization, we would come in as follow-on forces and provide the sustainability. If we have three battalions in international operations, the UK should have 36 battalions, and Germany 45. I do not see such numbers in current peace operations, but the scale is available.

Collective Capabilities. Cost-sharing formulas are available for holding common assets in the European Union. I see no reason why we should not collectively own some of the assets and use these formulas.

Peer Pressure. It was proposed that peer pressure be implemented through convergence criteria about a year ago. There was much discussion about such criteria, but quite a lot of difficulties arose because of differences in national defense systems. I am the first to say that we should spend better rather than spend more. If we look at Finland's defense budget, which used to be 1.7% of the GDP, it is now 1.4%, even 1.3%. Our percentage has gone down, not because we decreased our defense budget but because the GDP has grown about 5% annually for the last five years. But if we look at the procurement budgets of the EU 15, I wonder whether you would guess their order. The UK is first, France is second, then comes Germany. But per capita, Sweden is first, the UK second, France is third, and Finland is fourth. In absolute terms, Finland spends more on procurement than Canada, twice the amount of Denmark or Poland, and three times more than Belgium.

How do we do this? Because of conscription, the personnel costs are very low: 30%. During the last five years, we paid $3 billion for 64 F-18s. We have projects going on. We can allocate money for procurement. That is a way to produce sustainability. We have 7,000 to 10,000 reservists on 12-month contracts queuing for operations, because, often after their university studies, they are willing to spend a year participating in operations in the Balkans. In Finland, it is considered every man's right to do his military service. More than 80% do it, and we have a strong, broad base to recruit for international operations.

In early August 1999, when the Finnish Battalion transferred to KFOR, the UK Brigade Commander was aghast when I told him that we were going to produce a battalion 90% of which would be reservists. Two months later, when I went to the inspection, the Brigade Commander said, "Admiral, please send me more of these men." The battalion is the best he has because most of these chaps have professional training in addition to their military training. Also, their education level is very high; 60% are high school graduates, and the average age is 25, a bit older than other soldiers.

I am going to stop here because these benchmarks are based on pure GDP percentages, which is not the right way to determine convergence criteria. The criteria should be based more on output, for example, How many battalions? How many ships? What sort of collective assets? However, I do believe that this project is a win-win one for both organizations, because it is about capabilities. I believe we should focus on the output of nations, because money should not be the only yardstick. I very much like what Lord Robertson said, quoting Dick Cheney: "If you cannot ride on two horses, why are you in the circus in the first place?" I think we should learn to ride on two horses.



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