National Parade on the Flag Day of the Finnish Defence Forces Speech by Commander of the Finnish Air Force
Major General Juha-Pekka Keränen held a speech in Jyväskylä 4th of June, 2023
Honoured veterans of the wars, distinguished guests, soldiers, ladies and gentlemen,
Never alone again. This wish, shared by our war veterans in the battles and on the home front - also publicly emphasized by General Adolf Ehrnrooth, is now true.
For the first time we celebrate the Flag Day as a NATO member in Jyväskylä - the home town of the Air Force. This is a good place to start celebrating as a NATO member. The Air Force is younger than its sibling services, the Army and Navy. However, we have connected with international partners since the founding of the Air Force. Air operations are conducted together in real time within the same area, which is the reason why we have built standardised systems, communications and procedures from the outset of our activities – as you can clearly see it today.
The membership of a military alliance ensures security for Finland, and Finland, in turn, ensures security for the alliance. During the accession ceremonies, the President of the Republic of Finland said that Finland will be a reliable ally increasing territorial stability with its own capabilities. Finland is committed to promote the security of all NATO member states. The Supreme Commander provided clear guidance on how to develop the Defence Forces as a NATO member.
NATO membership does not reduce requirements for our military performance. Our geographic location next to Russia, sharing a long border with it, creates specific requirements for our nation. As a member of NATO, we are committed to develop and sustain national and joint ability to defend against armed attack. “One for all and all for one” principle remarkably enhances the capability of our national defence and improves the deterrence to prevent a war.
Moreover, the NATO agreement broadens the scope of Finland’s activities and attitude towards the defence of the entire alliance. NATO emphasizes 360-degree operating readiness for the security of every member nation. For us, Finns, it means requirements for duties in collective defence. In other words, Finland must have rapidly deployable forces to be assigned for NATO duties in the future which will have an impact on the Defence Forces force structure and personnel needs.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has made the cruelty of war a reality for the general public. It was a common misconception that the war would be quickly over with minimum collateral damage. Quantity still matters. It has been self-evident to the Finnish people. In the history of independent Finland, we have fought the wars in our own territory.
It has taught us to function effectively as a society. The Finnish comprehensive security model works well, and after the Russian invasion to Ukraine, our allies have shown interest in it. A frequently asked question has been whether every Finn is really obliged to participate in national defence. Another highly regarded factor is the strong will of the Finnish people to defend their country. Ukrainians have shown the world what can be achieved with such a strong will when supported by foreign assistance. In Finland, we adhere to the best practices - and also being prepared for the worst.
It is unquestionable that the fundamental principle of our defence system will be general conscription. Personnel will certainly have new kinds of opportunities in the scope of duties entrusted to us by NATO. Such new opportunities for active duty, reservists and conscripts will include tasks in the NATO command structure, involvement in tasks relating to NATO-required shielding and training in collective defence tasks based on article 5. We are not going to rush with this job but take the time needed to plan the best possible course of action with the different command echelons of NATO. Legislative amendments will be also required.
Dear listeners, the international nature of activities has increased significantly. Finnish soldiers participated in the exercise in Sweden, the biggest of its kind for decades there. In Finland, we have had several exercises conducted in different domains and by each military service. A Finnish soldier is doing fine especially here at home. Hired personnel, of course, and conscripts and reservists have managed very well in their tasks. In Finland, the high level of education, a fluent command of English and presentation skills of young people and soldiers’ basic training provide a good basis for cooperation with partners.
Yet we still have learning ahead. We need to understand the security environment of other member states with their specific defence solutions, know the operating procedures in the NATO commands and as a part of the forces and particularly create operating models for deploying our forces to support allies.
In the Air Force, I am committed with my Nordic colleagues to employ our capabilities – air power - as one entirety. We will build together an operating concept that enables an efficient use of the whole fleet of 250 modern fighters in peacetime and times of crisis and under exceptional war environments.
The theme of this year’s Flag Day is We are strong together – in the air, on land and at sea. Cross-service cooperation and joint operations have been relatively strong for a longer time with the branches. The Pohjanmaa-class and F-35 fleets to be introduced into service in the Navy and Air Force will further enhance our ability to operate together. In addition, air defence will be reinforced by the novel David’s Sling system that will increase ground-based air defence volume remarkably. Additional contributions will be seen, too.
Defence Forces capabilities should be in balance, and therefore, it is now the turn of Army. In the Defence Forces, we will review which capabilities and forces will be necessary for the future land operations. We trust our knowledge and expertise.
Strong together means also that comprehensive security will function in the years to come. The Defence Forces are committed to joint operation with other authorities, business sector and varied non-governmental organisations.
Soldiers, let us raise three cheers for our homeland, allies and the Ukrainian people: ”Eläköön, eläköön, eläköön (hurray, hurray, hurray)”!