European countries need to increase their defense budgets and the capacity of their defense industries beyond 2 percent of their GDP, Timo Kivinen said in his last speech as commander of the Finnish Defense Forces on Monday, March 4.

At the opening of the National Defense Course – Finland’s National Defense University’s program that brings together Finnish leaders on defense issues – General Kivinen called for greater investment in defense in light of the tense geopolitical context in Europe, particularly Finland.

“It seems to me that the level of defense spending of 2 percent of GDP agreed by NATO countries will not be enough to cover everything that Europe has to do,” Kivinen said in his speech, as reported by Helsingin Sanomat.


Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, Finland, along with Sweden, abandoned its long-held neutral stance and became the Alliance’s 31st member in April 2023, making it the NATO country with the longest direct border with Russia at 1,340 kilometers.

While Finland’s membership comes with the country having committed to meet NATO’s minimum defense spending requirement of 2 percent of GDP, Kivinen believes there is a need for greater investment in defense because, in his view, the world is now going through a transition period comparable to the end of the Cold War, only this time it is heading towards greater instability.

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“China and Russia, which have grown stronger in recent decades, are dissatisfied with the Western-dominated world order led by the United States and are trying to shape the world’s security architecture to their liking from their own starting points,” Kivinen said.

“Just like now, such transitional periods have been accompanied by conflicts and wars, the outcome of which partly determines the weight and positioning of the great powers and the alliances they lead in the world order of the new era,” he added.


Finnish Defense Minister Antti Häkkänen also spoke at the national defense event on Monday, arguing that a new era of power politics has begun in which the rules and principles of the previous post-Cold War era no longer apply.

According to Häkkänen, Russia’s narrative that its Western neighbors pose a security threat to the country is unfounded.

“Painting pictures of threats to one’s own citizens is a historical way of justifying an authoritarian regime at home and around the world,” Häkkänen said.

He also compared Western leaders to British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain in the late 1930s, who is remembered for his naive will to appease Adolf Hitler.

“Many decision-makers probably thought, like Chamberlain in 1938, that this would be enough,” Häkkänen said, adding that this has certainly emboldened Russia to act so “brazenly” this century.

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