Incoming Supo chief says Russia is Finland’s greatest security threat

Finland’s government has chosen Juha Martelius to serve as the new head of the Finnish Security and Intelligence Service (Supo), beginning from 1 April.

Martelius will continue to work as State Secretary to Interior Minister Mari Rantanen (Finns) until the end of March. Martelius himself is a member of the Finns Party and was appointed by Rantanen to head the agency.

In an interview with Yle, Rantanen said that the choice of Martelius was not political, as he has a wide range of experience in national security matters as well as a background in Supo.

“If you look at Martelius’ CV, you can see that even without the Secretary of State position, he would have been an excellent candidate. I don’t consider this as a political appointment per se,” Rantanen told Yle.

There were a total of 19 applicants to head the agency, two of whom were considered by the Council of State to be properly qualified — Martelius and Petri Knape, who has also had a long career working for Supo and the Interior Ministry.

“It’s great to be able to work among competent experts, when security and intelligence skills in particular are in demand, perhaps more than ever before since the end of the Cold War,” Martelius told Yle.

Finland’s security challenges moving forward

The incoming Supo chief emphasised that Finland’s most pressing security concerns come from outside its borders.

“If you look at the changed security environment in Finland, that [threat] is now coming from outside the country’s borders from the east. In particular, it is linked to the intensified confrontation between Russia and the West in general and Russia’s policy of force in Ukraine. On the other hand, there is also a disregard for certain rules of international law,” Martelius told Yle.

As for internal threats, Martelius said that a worst case scenario for Finland would be one where democracy is challenged both internally and externally.

“I don’t see this kind of scenario happening in the near future in any way,” Martelius said, adding that Finland does have to grapple with radicalisation and terrorism, from both the right and left wings of the political spectrum.

Dealing with the border

On Thursday, the Finnish National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) said that several dozen potentially dangerous individuals have entered Finland via Russia over the past few months.

Supo has also stated in the past that Russia may be trying to recruit asylum seekers coming to Finland as informers.

“We are seeing Russia’s widespread influence through the exploitation of migration. On the other hand, individuals can also pose a security threat to Finland. There are different developments, but they all need to be taken equally as seriously,” Martelius told Yle.

Martelius also called for stronger legislation in regards to addressing the situation at Finland’s border.

“It is essential that the government’s exceptional legislation on border closures is written in such a way that it [the border situation] does not pose any further threats to our national security,” Martelius said.

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