Sustainable Foreign Policy series presents the Foreign Ministry’s key themes
In a series of videos and articles on sustainable foreign policy, several leading experts from the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs present key foreign and security policy issues on which they are working. In the first episode of this series of interviews, Satu Mattila-Budich explains her work as Ambassador for Hybrid Affairs and tells what Finland has done in its capacity of President of the Council of the European Union to bring hybrid threats to the agenda of EU meetings.
The different episodes will be published during autumn 2019, and the experts will be interviewed by Tuomas Lähteenmäki.
Countering hybrid threats through information and cooperation
Hybrid issues are widely discussed, but can hybrid threats be combated, and how?
Preparing for the interview in her office in Helsinki, the new Ambassador for Hybrid Affairs Satu Mattila-Budich takes a moment to answer.
“In a broad sense, hybrid influencing aims to destabilise the social system, create uncertainty or interfere with the internal affairs of other states without resorting to traditional use of force. It has now become a commonplace activity.”
Mattila-Budich took up her duties in the Unit for Security Policy and Crisis Management at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs this autumn. Having joined the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in 1983, she previously served in Strasbourg, France, as Head of the Permanent Representation of Finland to the Council of Europe.
“Hybrid issues are highly topical and very challenging. With regard to the key objective set for the Foreign Ministry, we have three main duties to perform to promote hybrid issues.
First, as a society, we should be better aware of the intentions behind hybrid operations and the objectives of the actors involved. We should strive actively to counter their activities.
Second, Finland boasts a good and well-known reputation in both hybrid and cyber issues. It is extremely important that we continue to accumulate this experience and showcase our competence in international contexts.
Thirdly, continued multinational cooperation with public authorities is a most essential thing. For historical reasons, a comprehensive security thinking is inherent in Finland. We boast a high standard of education, and our corruption levels are low. I believe that digital literacy is a particularly important tool in combating hybrid threats. Digital literacy is a skill that is needed throughout life, at all ages,” says Mattila-Budich.
Phenomena that can be characterised as hybrid influencing do not only relate to foreign and security policy – they are also linked to legal, social and commercial issues.
“Hybrid influencing methods include, in particular, cyberattacks against services such as banking and ICT services. Other examples are electoral interference and various types of disinformation campaigns. Disseminating false and fake information is at the heart of this activity. As an antidote, we should sustain and enhance social resilience,” says Mattila-Budich.
Raising hybrid issues has become even more topical during Finland’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union.
“We are very pleased that a working party on countering hybrid threats was established in the Council during Finnish Presidency. Efforts are made to improve awareness of these issues in the Member States and in EU institutions and to ensure better coordination between them," says Ambassador Mattila-Budich.
Creating extensive networks of experts is also key to the work of the Ambassador for Hybrid Affairs.
“I engage in active dialogue with stakeholders, relevant public authorities and the Helsinki-based European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats, among others. I also work actively with Ambassador Janne Taalas, who is responsible for cyber diplomacy, with the goal of introducing matters that relate to both hybrid and cyber issues to the agendas of decision-making bodies”, Mattila-Budich says, and she continues,
“These themes will continue to be topical in the near future, and they will increasingly be part of European security policy. The scenario-based exercises conducted at both the ministerial and public official levels during Finland’s Presidency are recognised as particularly successful. Achieving wider awareness of hybrid influencing attempts by state and non-state actors and gaining a better understanding of how to combat them is also in Finland’s best interests.”
The key themes promoted by Finland’s Presidency of the EU Council and by the Foreign Ministry are discussed in the new Sustainable Foreign Policy video series.
Read more about common actions to counter hybrid threats at the webpage of Finland’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union.