World News

Finland plans to set up center to counter 'hybrid' threats

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Several NATO and EU countries are planning to establish a center in Helsinki to research how to counter “hybrid” warfare, a senior Finnish government official said on Monday.

Finland has a 1,300-km (800-mile) border with Russia, which has been accused of mounting “hybrid” campaigns in the Ukraine conflict - combining conventional and unofficial military means with cyberwarfare, propaganda and other indirect tactics.

The Nordic state, a militarily non-aligned EU member, last month voiced concern about what it sees as an intensifying propaganda campaign against it by the Kremlin.

Under-Secretary of State Jori Arvonen told reporters Finland had discussed the Helsinki “center of excellence” with the United States, Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Poland, Sweden and the Baltic countries, as well as with EU and NATO officials.

“These countries have expressed strong support for founding this center. Some of them are yet to confirm their participation, but nevertheless we have enough support to move forward,” he said.

He said hybrid attacks could be “diplomatic, military, technological or financial in their nature”.

“For example, there has been a lot of talk here in Finland about Russia’s influencing of information,” Arvonen said.

He named Islamic State as another organization employing “hybrid” tactics, saying it used disinformation to radicalize people in Europe.

“The aim of the center is to strengthen the involved parties’ resistance and prepare for hybrid threats by training, research and exchanging of best practices,” Arvonen added.

Germany last week said it was alarmed that Russia might try to interfere in its national elections next year, echoing concerns raised in the United States before Donald Trump’s presidential election victory.

Reporting by Jussi Rosendahl; editing by Andrew Roche