Ambassador Korhonen's speech at the 2nd ESA Security Conference

The conference took place in Brussels on 16th of May 2023.


Dear Colleagues and other Friends,

1. Introducing the topic

It is a real pleasure to give you these brief remarks at the Second ESA Security Conference.


In the annotated programme under this topic reference is made 1) to the Strategic Compass for Security and Defence of the European Union but also 2) to EU Space Strategy for Security and Defence (which is not to be mixed with the general Space Strategy for Europe).

Various initiatives and orientations of the European Space Agency itself are mentioned, including ESA Agenda 2025, and documentation of the ESA Council meeting of 2022.

The basic conclusions in these documents are that 1) the importance of space as a domain is growing in all spheres of life in our societies and that 2) the need to take into account implications for Security and Defence in the Space domain is definitely growing.

This evolving perspective can be seen also in my own country. In the first ever Finnish national Space Strategy in 2013 Security and Defence questions were absent. But now a brand new report on the establishment of a Finnish Space Situational Awareness Centre has Security and Defence as a main angle to approach the subject.

The topic of Foresight is ambitious.

Foresight is about the future, which we never know for certain. It is difficult enough to assess the present day, and even the historical path that has lead us to this point.

There is the famous story about Henry Kissinger’s question in 1973 to the then Chinese Prime Ministeri Zhou Enlai on how he would assess the impact of the 1789 French Revolution on world history. Zhou Enlai reportedly said “It is too early to say”.


It has been claimed afterwards that the story is a little bit more delicious than the actual discussion that took place in Beijing in 1973, but here I would like to stick to the legend it to illustrate my own point.

2. Finland and NATO

On this very day Finland has been a member of NATO for six weeks. On Tuesday 4th of April at 4 pm the Finnish Flag was hoisted as the 31st national flag at NATO’s main entrance. The yellow-blue identity cards of an Invitee Country were collected from employees of the Finnish Mission and these all-blue ID Cards of a Full Member were given to us. That afternoon I many times had to take the Card and look at it to understand that this is for real.

My few points are very much from the angle of a new NATO member but also from a country that for many years has been a member of the European Union and at the same time a close Partner of NATO.
Like European Union, NATO is about Peace. Finland’s accession to NATO is not against anybody. But it will increase our security and decrease the likelihood of aggression and hostile pressure against Finland. I am convinced that Finland joining NATO will also make the Alliance stronger and safer.

We expect that Sweden as well will be able to follow suit in the very near future. Finland’s accession to NATO is not complete without Sweden.


I will not dwell much upon Strategic Foresight as a tool to prepare better and more informed decisions. Strategic Foresight is a discipline to anticipate developments and to embed the findings into policy-making. The idea is, number one, to identify different but credible scenarios, and, number two, to design policies and actions to be taken in these alternative futures.

In NATO the responsible organisation for systematic foresight is Allied Command Transformation, ACT, in Norfolk, 300 km south of Washington D.C. I had a pleasure to visit ACT in Norfolk last November.

In my own country Strategic Foresight is widely used, and Finland is one of the very few countries where the Parliament has a permanent Futures Committee.


3. Resilience and Partnerships

I have just two points to make to contribute to the Discussion: One on Resilience and One on Partnerships.

1) Resilience.

I think the concept of Resilience is a good place to start with in discussing Space Policy. The ability to adapt and continue functioning also in difficult circumstances. This is important from the point of view of civilian life in our societies as well as from the point of view of sustaining Military Defence under external threat and possible attack.

A prominent topic recently both in the European Union and NATO has been the security of Critical Undersea Infrastructure. So in addition to discussing Space we are discussing assets deep under water. But many challenges are the same, including Resilience of Communications systems. Communication cables undersea and Communication satellites high up in the sky.

For Finland Resilience is based on our Comprehensive Security Model, where we try to link all dimensions of Security and all domestic and international actors so that they serve the same goals.

2) Partnerships

Countries and organisations that are represented here very much face the challenges of recent months and years.

Regarding Russian invasion of Ukraine the stakes are high. If Russia wins, it will show to everybody that aggression and flagrant violations of international law do pay off. You would benefit from criminal conduct. And we cannot let that happen.

In terms of Foresight we must envision a scenario where Ukraine lives in peace and its sovereignty and territorial integrity are respected. A time when Ukraine is a member of the European Union and NATO , if it so chooses and fulfils the criteria for membership. Ukraine has not yet joined the European Space Agency.

In our global environment China has adopted an assertive posture and the risks need to be carefully monitored. In China’s space sector assets are significant and growing fast.


With China, elements are there for realisation of all of these four Cs: Cooperation, Competition, Conflict and Co-existence. The fifth C if already here: Space has become a contested enivironment.

China’s partnering with Russia during the war against Ukraine is a disappointment and a reason for serious concern. In addition, it is disturbing that here and there in the Global South Russia and China have found receptive audiences.

If we want to push back Russia’s and China’s influence and disinformation, counter-narratives are not enough. Democratic countries must show in concrete terms that partnership with us is beneficial.

Is there something more that can be done in the Space domain to support our Southern friends and partners?

In recent years China has become a topic also on NATO’s agenda. In the new Strategic Concept of the Alliance that was adopted in Madrid Summit last year, challenges posed by China were extensively covered.


So what should we do?

To start with, I recommend that we explore the possibilities in contacts among our three organisations EU, NATO and also ESA. All three are supporters of a Peaceful and Rules Based International Order, including in Space.

Composition of the European Space Agency is interesting in exploring cooperation between the three organisations. ESA has 22 members. Countries that are members of the EU but not NATO (Austria, Ireland, and Sweden for the moment), Countries that are in NATO but not in the European Union (Norway and UK), one country outside both EU and NATO (Switzerland) and countries that are members of both EU and NATO, Finland being the latest.

ESA has a close relation with NATO member Canada and also functioning cooperation with the United States.

All three organisations EU, NATO and ESA have a developed Space Policy – of course with different roles and mandates.


In NATO Space was introduced as the Fifth Operational Domain in 2019, in addition to Land, Sea, Air and Cyberspace. NATO’s focus is first and foremost in Security and Defence aspects of Space. An attack from or within space could lead the North Atlantic Council to invoke Article 5 of the Washington Treaty.

It is a complicated picture because Space domain is a case in point where there is increasingly difficult to make a distinction between civilian and military activities and civilian and military assets. But both are relevant for Security.

In the Declaration of EU and NATO leaders in January, Space is mentioned as one area where EU and NATO could expand and deepen their cooperation. My observation is that much more could be done.

I am interested to hear what needs or possibilities other speakers see in dialogue between the European Space Agency and NATO. Among speakers in this ESA Security Conference I don’t see anybody from NATO Secretariat or NATO Commands. Maybe next time.

4. Conclusion

I want to conclude thanking you for this opportunity to speak to you. Participating in an event of the European Space Agency reminds me of many visits that I made to ESA’s European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) in Nordwijk, Netherlands, during my time as Ambassador to the Netherlands. A truly fascinating place and I recommend everybody to visit ESTEC if you have not already done so.

Thank you.

Klaus Korhonen
Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Finland to NATO

More information about the conference: to another website.)