Country Listing

Finland Table of Contents




Figure 20. Organization of National Defense, 1988

Source: Based on information from Ermel Kanninen and Vilho Tervasmäki, Revue Internationale d'Histoire Militaire, 62, Vassa, Finland, 1985, 271-76.

Authority over national defense rested with the president as the supreme commander of the Defense Forces. The president exercised the highest decision-making responsibility, including the power to declare war and to make peace with the consent of the Eduskunta (parliament), to order mobilization, and to issue orders directly to the commander in chief of the Defense Forces. A decree issued in 1957 established a Defense Council with a dual function as the supreme planning and coordinating organ and as the president's consultative arm in matters affecting the defense of the country. The prime minister acted as chairman of the Defense Council if the president were not present. Its other members were the ministers of defense, foreign affairs, finance, interior, and trade and industry; the commander in chief of the Defense Forces; and the chief of the General Staff. Other ministers could be called upon to serve temporarily (see fig. 20). The Defense Council reviewed basic defense plans for wartime, deliberated on the financing of national defense, and directed preparations for national security in areas other than military readiness.

Parliamentary oversight was exercised through ad hoc parliamentary defense committees, which had been convened in 1971, in 1976, and in 1981 to assess basic issues of strategy, equipment, and missions. Recommendations of the committees had an important bearing on defense policy and on future budget allocations. Unlike the Defense Council, all parties represented in parliament were invited to participate. A parliamentary defense commission, acting within narrower terms of reference than parliamentary defense committees, was convened in 1986. In 1988 the government considered setting up a permanent parliamentary council on defense, but no action had been taken by the year's end. The parliamentary committees had been useful in helping to develop a national consensus on security policies and on the commitment of resources to defense. The representatives sitting on the committees tended to be among those most sympathetic to the needs of the military. Government leaders felt, however, that the committees often plunged too far into sensitive strategic matters and threat scenarios. Their budgetary recommendations also tended to be generous, leaving the military disgruntled when the proposed resources could not be found. (One notable exception occurred in 1981, when the procurement recommendations of the Third Parliamentary Defense Committee were largely realized, in part because of the special circumstances of a trade imbalance that made possible large arms purchases from the Soviet Union.)

The Ministry of Defense supervised the preparation of legislation affecting national defense, the submission of the annual defense budget, the drafting of defense policies in accordance with principles defined by the national leadership, and the implementation of policies approved by the government and the parliament. The minister of defense had mainly administrative responsibilities, with limited influence over major military policy issues. His deputy, customarily a military officer of three-star rank, exercised an important role within the ministry.

Data as of December 1988