Courtesy Photo | Senior Advisor for Arctic Security Affairs, Randy “Church” Kee provides insights during a discussion panel at the Rovaniemi Arctic Spirit Conference 2023, which was held from Nov. 13-15 in Finland. This year’s theme for the conference was “Towards New Horizons.” Kee, had the opportunity to present in two plenary panel events, including one with Esther McClure, Director of Arctic and Oceans Policy in the Office of Arctic and Global Resilience in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. (Courtesy photo) View Image Page
The Ted Stevens Center strengthened existing partnerships and built new ones in a November visit to Helsinki and Rovaniemi in Finland, NATO’s newest member nation. Senior Adviser for Arctic Security Affairs, Randy “Church” Kee, and Associate Director, Joel Kopp, met with officials from the U.S. Embassy, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Defense, and Parliament, as well as with local organizations and media in order to share the Ted Stevens Center’s “building while doing” story, learn how Arctic security is evolving in the wake of Finland’s NATO membership, and identify practical areas of collaboration with our new NATO ally. U.S. Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission, Chris Krafft, and other Embassy section heads updated the Ted Stevens Center delegation on the strong bilateral relationship and Finland’s Arctic security posture and policies, including the Government of Finland’s strong support for the Arctic Council and its focus on territorial integrity along its more than 800-mile border with Russia. In a public diplomacy event at the Embassy, Kee discussed with local media representatives the origin of the TCS and how Finland’s membership in NATO strengthens the international Arctic security regime. The delegation met with Finland’s senior diplomat covering Arctic issues, Ambassador Petteri Vuorimaki, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and with Director General for Defense Policy, Janne Kuusela, at the Ministry of Defense. These meetings deepened the delegation’s understanding of Finland’s Arctic policy and Arctic security priorities and raised awareness within these ministries of the work of the TSC and potential areas for partnership. Vuorimaki said he was looking forward to returning to Alaska to participate in TSC events. Kee and Kopp also met with two international affairs advisors for the Parliament of Finland – Sari Wessman and Teemu Vuosio. Among their duties is supporting the Parliament’s Arctic engagement and policy work, especially that of the Standing Committee of Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region. (Wessman acts as secretary for the Finnish delegation to that committee). The committee addresses a range of Arctic issues, including security, climate change, and Indigenous peoples. Wessman and Vuosio were interested to hear about the USG’s National Strategy for the Arctic Region (NSAR) and its new Implementation Plan, and Kee provided an overview of the center’s work and how it fits into the NSAR strategy. Kee and Kopp met with two Helsinki-based organizations whose work includes Arctic security issues: the Finnish Institute of International Affairs (an organ of the Finnish government) and the European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats (Hybrid CoE). At FIIA, one of the highest profile research institutes in northern Europe, delegation members met with acting director Samu Paukkunen and with staff members Henri Vanhanen, Minna Alander, Joel Linnainmaki, and Jyri Lavikainen. The meeting touched on several FIIA priority research areas, including international Arctic policy, NATO, Russia, and China. The group agreed there were significant opportunities for TSC collaboration with FIIA, given the overlap in work and priorities. At the Hybrid CoE, staff members Johan Schalin, Viktorija Rusinaite, Tapio Pyysalo, and Shiho Rybski highlighted the organization’s work, which includes designing and implementing tabletop exercises simulating hybrid warfare scenarios, and training individuals to lead such exercises. Some of their work has been published as case studies. The Hybrid CoE team conducts research and analysis on hybrid threats, particularly those emerging from Russia and China, and on those targeted toward infrastructure. While the Hybrid CoE does not normally focus specifically on Arctic scenarios, they did conduct an Arctic-focused wargame exercise in Copenhagen in 2021 and are interested in doing more Arctic-focused work. As in the meeting with FIIA, there was general acknowledgment that a virtual staff-level exchange between the TSC and Hybrid CoE could be fruitful. Following these and other meetings in Helsinki, the delegation participated in the Arctic Spirit conference in Rovaniemi, where Kee had the opportunity to present in two plenary panel events, including one with Esther McClure, Director of Arctic and Oceans Policy in the Office of Arctic and Global Resilience in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Following the conference, Kee served as an adjudicator in a Hybrid CoE-led Arctic tabletop exercise with representatives from NATO, NORAD, the United States, Canada, Norway, Finland, the Kingdom of Denmark, and others.