Niklas Helwig, Leading Researcher at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, has been granted funding from the Academy of Finland for a joint research project on change in strategic cultures in Europe.

The research project Transforming strategic cultures in contemporary Europe: Towards an understanding of reasons, intermediaries and processes of change (STRAX) will bring together three leading Finnish research institutions, Tampere University, the Finnish Institute of International Affairs and the Finnish National Defence University. In doing so, it combines in innovative ways academic research, policy-analysis and professional military education and pedagogy.

Hanna Ojanen, Research Director at Tampere University, will act as the Consortium Director, with Niklas Helwig and Tommi Koivula, Professor of Strategy at the Finnish National Defence University, as project partners, each leading an individual sub-project.

FIIA’s share of the funding is €160 362, while the consortium project as a whole received a total of €533 260 for the four-year research period (2022-2026).

The project takes the focus from national strategic cultures and their evolution to the overlap between strategic cultures in Europe, analysing the interrelations and mutual influence between them.

“In recent years we were able to witness the rise of great power competition and further steps in European defence integration” says Helwig, “however, the effects on strategic cultures and how they translate into foreign and security policy decisions across Europe has not been studied in detail.”

“We offer a novel take on analyzing change in strategic cultures. Instead of looking at country debates in isolation, we aim to break down the national silos and to study venues of transnational cooperation, such as crisis management operations and strategy processes.”

Focusing on the impact of transnational epistemic communities, the research widens the academic lens to include exchange and evolution stemming from interaction and how these processes contribute to the development of a European strategic culture.

“Our research project starts at a time when the Russian invasion of Ukraine forces many countries – including Finland – to re-evaluate their security policies. We hope to create a better understanding of how change happens, how it translates into concrete actions and to what extent we get closer to a joint understanding of our security situation in Europe”, says Helwig.

Leading Researcher – European Strategic Autonomy