Helsinki to host hub aimed at curbing cyber warfare threats

The Finnish capital Helsinki is to host a new centre to combat what officials describe as an increase in hybrid warfare threats. The Helsinki centre will be a joint venture involving 10 other countries including the US, Germany and Sweden, among others.

Image: AOP

Finland is one of 11 countries collaborating to establish a joint centre to combat hybrid warfare threats. The centre will be located in Helsinki and will feature cooperation by the USA, EU members Germany, Spain, the UK, Sweden, Poland and the Baltic States.

Representatives of the 11 countries involved met in Helsinki last Thursday to conduct the centre’s founding conference. However some countries still have not arrived at final decisions to participate in the establishment of the hub. Juha Sipilä’s administration will table a motion about the centre in Parliament next spring.

Deputy secretary of state responsible for EU affairs Jori Arvonen said that cyber warfare threats have been escalating and shifting. Hybrid threats refer to interventions considered to be less disruptive than traditional warfare, and which target a country’s weaknesses and sow insecurity.

Examples of hybrid warfare include the dissemination of disinformation or fake news via social media, cyber attacks on IT systems or as in the case of the conflict in Ukraine, disinformation and the use of anonymous troops, also dubbed “little green men”.

According to Arvonen, on the basis of recent discussions taking place in Finland, Russia and the extremist group Islamic State have maintained a hybrid influence in the country.

EU and NATO cooperation

The aim of the Helsinki hybrid centre will be to increase EU members’ awareness of and resistance to hybrid threats and their ability to combat them, and identify the players behind them. Another goal is to enhance cooperation with NATO organs that specialise in countering hybrid warfare threats.

Finnish security and intelligence police department head Matti Saarelainen has been named to head up the new unit, and plans are afoot to hire four to six additional employees for the cell.

The agency will work in close cooperation with the EU’s foreign affairs council and the NATO military alliance. NATO has dozens of its own cells that specialise in different kinds of threats in member countries such as its arctic skills centre in Norway.

The annual budget of the proposed centre is an estimated two million euros. Participating countries will pay an annual member fee, but as the host country, Finland is expected to contribute the lion’s share of the budget.

A final decision on setting up the hybrid centre will be made next spring.