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Smart Bombs: Military, Defense and National Security

Finland’s Military Will Make NATO Even Stronger

Finland
F-18D Hornet in service with the Finnish Air Force.

The president and prime minister of Finland said on May 12 they were in favor of expediting the membership process to join NATO. President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin believe that Finland would strengthen the alliance and create an opportunity for the country to improve its own security posture. Let’s look at Finland’s military to see just what it brings to the table when it has full membership in NATO.

Small Country; Small Military

Finland has only 5.5 million people so it will be somewhat limited in the size of personnel that it can contribute to a standing military. But 76-percent of Finns are in favor of joining NATO, according to recent polling from Finnish broadcast outlet YLE. That could mean more people would be willing to enlist in the military and perhaps not interfere with or resist the country’s conscription system. The military has only around 19,000 active members and 3,000 Border Guard personnel. But due to conscription, Finland has 280,000 people in its reserve system that have gone through some military training.

Finns Are Ready to Resist Russia

Finland, a European Union member, has the longest border (830-miles) with Russia in the entire EU. This keeps Finnish security top of mind when it comes to defending its homeland against Vladimir Putin’s forces.

Defense Spending Levels Are Fairly Good

The Finnish government usually spends about one-percent of its Gross Domestic Product on defense. From 2012 to 2015 it invested 1.2-percent of its GDP into the military, but the country closed several military bases. Since then, the Finns have spent more on defense. In 2022, they are scheduled to devote 1.9 percent of GDP to its military (five billion euros with an increase of 788-million euros in 2023), which is near the ideal expenditure of two-percent that NATO prefers to see in its members. By 2023, Finland will be investing 2.2 percent of its GDP in the military.

Finns Are Buying Modern Hardware

Due to the increased spending, the Finns have been busy buying new military hardware. The modernization effort is impressive for such a small country. Helja Ossa and Tommi Koivula in War on the Rocks run down a list of purchased arms systems that shows the Finns mean business.

The government has acquired “AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles from the United States (2012), Multiple Launch Rocket Systems and Leopard 2A6 main battle tanks from the Netherlands (2014), K9 armored howitzers from South Korea (2017), and most recently F-35 fighter jets from the United States (2021). The navy modernized its Hamina-class vessels a few years ago, and underwater warfare capabilities were improved with the integration of the Variable Depth Sonar system and torpedoes.”

Dependence On Reservists

Finland depends on its Air Force and Navy for homeland defense and these branches have the most modern equipment. However, some of its ships are operated by reserve sailors who rotate on and off duty. A naval force that would entail having active duty sailors assigned to ships full-time would be ideal.

Getting Ready for Bigger Military Jobs

Finland has a small contingent of soldiers who are on humanitarian and peacekeeping duty in a number of countries, so it has some experience in sharing duties with allies. This will operate well when it comes to giving a hand to international collective security efforts when it joins NATO.

Finland has conducted joint military training with Norway – a NATO member, but it mostly caters to homeland defense and not expeditionary military deployments.

Intelligence, Tanks, and Artillery are Strengths

The country has a good reputation in the European intelligence community because it has for so long collected intel data from Russia since the countries share such a long border and maintain a rivalry due to past wars.

Major General Pekka Toveri, head of Finland’s military intelligence until 2020, told Foreign Policy magazine that “Our army is big for a country our size, with massive artillery and strong armor, but naturally this is not a very deployable force,” he said. “Parts of the army can be used in our areas near Finland, as we have shown in different NATO exercises.”

What the Finland Defense Forces Should Aim Toward

To be an effective NATO member, Finland needs to get its conscripts ready to travel. It will be expected to take part in large alliance exercises in northern Europe. The country should also plus-up the numbers in its military and improve its special operations forces known as the Utti Jaeger Regiment. Finland also may want to give its reserves more training and allow for the part-time reservists to volunteer for full-time active duty.

Finland F-35

F-35A JSF. Image Credit: Lockheed Martin.

F-35

A U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II fighter aircraft, assigned to the 421st Fighter Squadron, Hill Air Force Base, Utah, prepares to join formation while en route to Turku, Finland, June 13, 2019. The F-35A flew alongside two Finnish F-18 Hornet aircraft as part of a Theater Security Package. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jovante Johnson)

All in all, Finland will be a good addition to NATO. It has a strong military history, a culture that entails fighting to the last soldier, enmity toward Russia, and willingness to draft people into its military. What is missing is an expeditionary attitude that will result in the country sending its defense forces to foreign lands. Russian aggression against civilians in Ukraine will likely change that reticent strategic culture.

Now serving as 1945’s Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood.

Written By

Now serving as 1945s New Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer.

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Casse

    May 12, 2022 at 6:06 pm

    Joining NATO will have international legal consequences for Finland with regards to the Russian Federation. Parts of Finland may be reclaimed by the lawful owner in case the Fins will be silly enough to become ‘unfriendly’ neighbors. Definitely NOT a good idea…

    • Tero Ja Tonttu

      May 13, 2022 at 8:15 am

      I am not so sure that the 40th or so time that Russians would try to invade Finland, counting its predecessor on this corner of the World Novgorod, would indeed be succesful. There are hundreds of thousands of russians laying six feet deep along our eastern border. This after more than a thousand years of non provoked aggression from their part and their utterly stupid leaders keeping on sending young men to their deaths century after another.

      “Some military training” in this article is a minimum of six months and ranges up to twelve months of military training plus after that there are camps to train. It is not a quick 101 on handling a rifle like “some military trainin” would indicate. 900 000 of minimum 6 months trained men in reserve and 280 000 can be mobilized in a couple of weeks. They are well armed and know the terrain they are going to fight in. To coin a now retired Mr. Raikkonen – we know what we’re doing.

      We are not afraid of losing ground. But fighting even a winning war on our own turf and exposing our population to a barbaric and savage rapists of civilians from grannies to little boys that the corrupt and honourless Russian military has shown itself to be in Ukraine – we’d rather avoid that and join NATO. Too bad the Russians seem to still live in the 19th century, and can’t wrap their head around the idea of friendly neighbourly co-operation for mutual benefit, but what can we do?

      But make no mistake: the Russian military are having some problems in Ukraine, they’d find plenty more here.

    • Bertram

      May 13, 2022 at 11:37 am

      More impotent threats from paper tiger Russia.

      Finland clearly sees that the best way to protect their sovereignty from a Russia looking to bully its neighbors, is to gain the security of being part of the NATO alliance.

      The Baltic Sea, if not becoming a NATO lake, will become a shooting gallery for any Russian ships foolish enough to leave port in the event of hostilities.

      If Putinka is foolish enough to order his unfortunate soldiers to cross the border into Finland it will bring to mind the old Finn quote from a prior war with Russian aggressors.

      “There are so many Russians, and our country so small, where will we find room to bury them all?”

      They will find room. They can bury them triple deep.

  2. Alex

    May 15, 2022 at 11:27 am

    A demobilized French soldier, author of the book “Get up and go thanks to science” Adrien Boke went to Ukraine on a humanitarian mission and spent three weeks there.

    Upon his return, he decided to convey to the French information about the events he had witnessed in Ukraine.

    “I take full responsibility for what I say. While in Ukraine, I witnessed war crimes. All of them were committed by the Ukrainian army. But in France we don’t talk about it!

    When I returned to France from Ukraine, I was shocked: TV channels invite as experts people who have not been to Ukraine and do not know anything about what is happening there now. However, they dare to speculate about these events. Between what I hear from the TV screen and what I saw with my own eyes is an abyss.

    Azov fighters are everywhere. With neo-Nazi stripes. It shocks me that Europe is supplying weapons to neo-Nazis. Not only do they not hide their views. They advertise them. I worked with these people and treated them.

    Being there, there was nothing I could do. Just watch and make videos. I have this footage and will use it as evidence of Ukraine’s crimes.

    I witnessed how the Ukrainian military shot through the knees of captured Russian soldiers and shot in the head higher-ranking officers.

    I have personally seen American videographers making fake footage from the scene of the events staging.

    All destroyed civilian buildings, given out by Ukraine for bombardment of civilians, are nothing more than the result of inaccurate shooting by Ukrainians at military facilities.

    The Armed Forces of Ukraine hide ammunition in residential buildings at night, without even informing the residents. This is called using people as a shield, ”Boke quotes one of the French media.

    The Washington Post recently drew attention to the fact that Ukrainian troops are placing military equipment in residential areas of cities in an attempt to counter the Russian Armed Forces, which threatens the lives of civilians.

    Boke also spoke about the untruthfulness of Western media reports about the events in Bucha.

    “Bucha is a staging. The bodies of the dead were moved from other places and deliberately placed in such a way as to produce shocking footage, ”the French author noted.

    The documents confirming this were submitted to the Federal Security Service – how, who – there are relevant intercepts – on what transport he came to this settlement and created the conditions for organizing this provocation.

    Soon all the collected evidence about the crimes of the Nazis in Ukraine will be seen by the whole world. And the most important thing is the help of Western countries to the Nazis of Ukraine and assistance in their crimes.

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