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The speech of Lieutenant General Heiskanen on the Finnish Independence Day 2023

Publication date 6.12.2023 12.30
Press release

Esteemed veterans, lottas, and other representatives of the generation of our wars, ladies and gentlemen, soldiers! We are living through exceptional times. Ukraine fights heroically for all of Europe. In the Artic Sea and Baltic Sea, cables and gas pipeline have been damaged.

In areas in the vicinity of Finland the situation is stable and peaceful at the moment but the future remains uncertain. Changes in the security situation led Finland to apply for accession to the defence alliance NATO and towards deeper defence co-operation with the United States. Today marks our first Independence Day as a militarily allied nation. We are no longer alone.

As a NATO member nation Finland is responsible for defending our country by itself primarily. This underlines the need for sustaining a strong defence capacity. The defence of Finland and of the Finnish people continues to be the main task of the Finnish Defence Forces in the future as well.

The war in Ukraine has shown that the correct choice has been preparedness that considers Finland’s comprehensive security, inter-agency co-operation, and the Defence Forces’ focus on the defence of own nation. A critical factor affecting the success of Ukraine has been their will to defend. The level of the will to defend of the Finnish people is among the highest in the world. As a nation we can be proud of this.

Our defence capability has been constructed for a small country so that we are able to utilise forces and systems equipped with high technology and rapid operational capacity. Additionally, we have a competent and broad reserve based on the liability for military service that enables us to respond to any potential more extensive and long-term threats as well. The example set by Ukraine has demonstrated the efficiency of our concept also in this respect.

Effective defence requires also materiel readiness. In this regard as Deputy Chief of Staff Armaments and Logistics I can state that our materiel capability is today better than it has ever been since our wars. This applies to both its quality and quantity. We have procured and will continue to procure more defence materiel. Artillery pieces, ammunition, missiles, and other defence materiel. The top-quality Finnish defence industry is doing their part in this. Production capacity could be increased further.

We have developed our defence capacity and readiness also by increasing the number of exercises held together with our allies, partners, other agencies and organisations. Our capability has certainly stood international comparison with that of any other force. 

Over the past year we have increased our international training exercise activity. A significant number of allied and Swedish troops have undertaken training in Finland with the Army, Navy and Air Force. By combined exercises we ensure our capability for joint combat if necessary.

The future for capability development looks bright with the F35 multipurpose fighters and Pohjanmaa-class corvettes as well as their adjacent weapons system programmes. Land defence capability development will be outlined in the Defence Policy Report currently in preparation. We will develop capability in all warfighting domains and environments. This whole entity will be integrated so that correct effects are delivered in the right place at the right time. All this will be enabled by our key capability, in other words our professional service personnel and our competent reservists.

Ladies and gentlemen,

With the NATO membership we now have wider shoulders and firmer arms for the defence of the entire nation. In practical terms this means that already under normal circumstances such conditions are created that enable concentrating forces of the alliance if necessary to Finland with the ability to fight alongside the Finnish troops with sustained combat capacity. NATO will defend every inch of its member nations’ territory.  When all Nordic countries are militarily allied there will be improved conditions for this. With the NATO membership we must be also ready to defend our allies.

None of the elements as described here would have been attainable without the commitment of society as a whole to a coherent overall effort, safeguarding Finland and the living conditions of the Finnish people, and success as a nation among nations.

I would like to thank you all for the work that you have done for Finland and for the security of the Finnish people. Together we are stronger! 

Let us raise a three-fold Long Live to independent Fatherland!