- Major security concerns in terms of subversive actions have to do with strategic and tactical defence risks rather than risks posed to the country by disinformation by foreign actors
- Finns have shown initiative in coming together with other EU member states, as well as with NATO, in order to counter subversive threats posed by Russia
- Finnish civil society is active in highlighting the Russian state’s activities online and in combatting disinformation and fake news
Relations with the Russian Federation
The awakened: Significantly shifted its policies and concerns after Russia´s aggression against Ukraine.
Finland is a country that is connected with Russia economically, politically, historically and geographically (Finland shares a 1340 km long border with Russia). Due to Finland's dependence on Russian supplies of fossil fuels and very strong economic relations (despite sanctions, Russia is the fifth most important destination for Finnish exports), the Finns are trying to maintain friendly relations with Russia. On the other hand, the Finns are well aware of the military threat that Russia poses, which is reflected by their growing ties to NATO.
Political acknowledgement of the threat
Since Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, Finland has seen a notable increase in fake news stories and targeted propaganda stemming from Russia . In October 2015, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto acknowledged that information warfare is real for Finland. Finnish officials claim they have documented twenty disinformation campaigns against their country that have originated from the Kremlin. Markku Mantila, the head of the Finnish government's communication department says that “there is a systematic lying campaign going on which is controlled from the centre.” He says Finland is facing intensifying media attacks led by the Kremlin. “We believe this aggressive influencing from Russia aims at creating distrust between leaders and citizens, and to have us make decisions harmful to ourselves. It also aims to make citizens suspicious about the European Union, and to warn Finland over not joining NATO.” Foreign Minister Timo Soini has also acknowledged propaganda, saying the government was countering false information with facts. In acknowledgement of the threat coming from Russia, the Finnish government decided to substantially raise the number of troops and increase its military spending by 55 million euro.
Government activities against Russian influence & disinformation
The European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats is a Helsinki-based institution tasked with combatting subversive threats and working in close partnership with other EU member states (particularly the Baltics, Sweden, Poland, as well as non-EU partners, such as the United States). In addition, Finland is also a partner country of the NATO STRATCOM COE in Riga.
In 2017, NATO and Finland stepped up their engagement with the signing of a Political Framework Arrangement on cyber defence cooperation. Finland is actively engaged with NATO on a number of cyber defence activities, including participation in NATO’s annual flagship cyber defence exercise – Cyber Coalition – as well as NATO’s Crisis Management Exercise. Finland has also adopted a document titled The Implementation Programme for Finland’s Cyber Security Strategy for 2017–2020, which addresses the development of cyber security within the service complex comprising the state, counties, municipalities and business sector. The business community provides most digital services and their cyber security through international service complexes and networks.
Media literacy remains an important part of Finnish state policy, manifesting primarily in the country’s education sphere, with numerous media literacy initiatives targeting schools all around the country.
The approach of intelligence agencies to Russian interference
The Finnish Security Intelligence Service (Suojelupoliisi or SuPo) is tasked with combatting threats posed by foreign intelligence and terrorist groups, and cyber-threats in particular. However, its primary focus lies in the domain of counter-intelligence and anti-cyber-warfare measures. In 2016 SuPo published its yearbook, stating that Russia sees Finland as an interesting intelligence target”.
Activities of the non-governmental sector
The Aleksanteri Institute at the University of Helsinki, has published several reports analysing Russia’s subversion tactics and ways to counter them. One publication authorized by Bettina Renz and Hanna Smith highlights the issue of Russians’ acquisition of critical infrastructure in the Turku archipelago is highlighted, as well as Russia’s potential threat to communication satellite links in space.
The Finnish Institute of International Affairs (FIIA) is an independent, publicly-funded institute that publishes papers analysing Russia’s war in Ukraine and Finland’s preparedness to withstand foreign subversion, emphasizing the role of psychological readiness for a potential attack. The institute has published a report calling Russia a greater threat to Finland and highlighting Russian intelligence attempts to influence Finnish energy policy. FIIA has also launched a year-long research project entitled: A Stronger North? – Developing Nordic Cooperation on Foreign and Security Policy. The project examines possibilities for deepening Nordic cooperation in the field of foreign and security policy. It is coordinated by FIIA and supervised by the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Faktabaari is an open-source project tasked with spreading factual information and fighting disinformation online. It is the pilot project of a wider EU initiative to establish national-level fact-checking services on the eve of the 2019 EU Parliament elections.
In 2016 the editors-in-chief of several leading Finnish media published a statement condemning fake or so-called “alternative” media that present a danger to Finnish society as well as other countries. Meanwhile, The Finnish Society on Media Education (Mediakasvatusseura) is an organization focused in improving media literacy in Finland, operating both in Finnish and Swedish languages to this end.
Dr. Saara Jantunen published a book detailing and debunking Russian disinformation and the tactics of harassment and false reporting used by pro-Russian trolls online. Jessikka Aro, an investigative journalist for Finnish public broadcaster Yle, also played an important part in uncovering a troll factory in Russia in 2014. Aro also won the Bonnier Grand Journalist Prize in 2016 in the category: Story of the year for her work in exposing Russian trolls on social media. She has been extensively harassed by unknown individuals via phone calls, SMS messages, email and social media ever since.
 “How do European Democracies react to Russian aggression”. European Values. 22 April 2017. Available at: http://www.europeanvalues.net/russia/