Teemu Turunen, the acting director of the Finnish Security Intelligence Service (Supo), spoke at a media event in Helsinki on Tuesday, 26 March 2024. Supo on Tuesday published its latest yearbook, viewing that Russia continues to pose the greatest threat to national security in Finland. (Mikko Stig – Str / Lehtikuva)

Domestic
Tools
Typography

RUSSIA remains the most significant threat to national security in Finland, according to the Finnish Security and Intelligence Service (Supo).

Supo on Tuesday reminded that Russia regards Finland as an unfriendly state and is continuing to conduct intelligence and broad-based influence campaigns against the country, with the threat of such campaigns elevated despite deteriorating conditions for human intelligence operations.

The conditions have deteriorated as a result of counter-intelligence efforts, the expulsions of intelligence officers and the strict visa policy adopted by Finland.

The country is protected from more forceful measures by its membership in Nato.

Supo said Russia has expressed its dissatisfaction with the new foreign and security policy stance by changing how its border officials operate on the border with Finland. The country, for example, has leveraged third-country migrants to exert pressure at the border in order to showcase the consequences of adopting a stance it considers unfriendly.

Russia has no reason to re-consider its approach in the near future, according to Supo.

“The threat [of weaponised immigration] is long-standing. For Russia, it’s an easy way to keep Finland on its toes,” commented Teemu Turunen, the acting director general at Supo.

Supo urged Finland to prepare for malign activity both today and in the long term, with the cyberworld and critical infrastructure, especially underwater infrastructure, under an elevated threat. It added that large-scale influence campaigns that seek to paralyse the operation of critical infrastructure are nevertheless unlikely in the short term.

Turunen reminded that various influence measures, espionage charges and asset seizures can be targeted at individual Finns in Russia. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs has long advised people to avoid travelling to Russia.

Russia is ultimately seeking to influence political decision making or restrict the ability of policy makers to make decisions in Finland, according to the assessment by Supo. Although Finland has managed to make the environment for human intelligence operations more challenging, the threat of intelligence should not be underestimated, it stressed.

“There are new opportunities and new measures, and they’re seeking to take advantage of them. One possible approach is to use various criminal organisations to achieve the objectives,” said Turunen.

Supo has contributed its expertise to the effort to sift through the backgrounds of migrants who have crossed the border from Russia to Finland since August. Turunen on Tuesday reminded that the opportunities to employ refugees as spies are very limited.

Russian nationals in Finland, he estimated, have shown no signs of becoming an influential movement, with the majority of them not supportive of the actions of Kremlin.

“The risk that they’d become an influential power in Finnish society is relatively small,” commented Turunen.

In addition to Russia, China is carrying out intelligence operations in Finland. A key question for the country is whether Finland joining Nato has an impact on its stature toward China, estimated Supo.

Supo on Tuesday published its latest yearbook, revealing that the number of persons of interest for counterterrorism officials has stayed at 350. The threat of terrorism has similarly remained at the second level of its four-level scale, stemming especially from individuals or small groups that espouse radical right-wing or Islamist ideologies.

Terror attacks, though, are unlikely in the near future, it said.

The number of martial arts clubs associated with far-right ideologies has increased over the past year in Finland. Supo pointed out that such clubs target their communication at an audience that extends beyond people with far-right views.

While organised far-right activities do not pose an imminent threat of an attack, they do create a breeding ground for the radicalisation of individuals.

“The most concerning persons of interest are those with the ability and opportunity to carry out acts of violence. This is related to all sorts of ideologies,” remarked Jonna Turunen, a deputy director at Supo.

Teemu Turunen on Tuesday viewed that there is a genuine risk of violence spreading in the Middle East. The violence, he added, has also raised the threat of terrorism in the Nordics, including in Finland.

“The fact that there’s been no change in the threat level doesn’t mean that the underlying situation has stayed the same,” emphasised Jonna Turunen.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

Partners