Finland has prepared for decades for a Russian attack and would put up stiff resistance should one occur, head of Finnish Armed Forces General Timo Kivinen said. He added that the Finns are highly motivated to fight against any aggressor.
“We have systematically developed our military defence precisely for this type of warfare that is being waged in Ukraine, with massive use of firepower, armoured forces and also airforces. Ukraine has been a tough bite to chew for Russia and so would be Finland,” Kivinen said.
The nation of 5.5 million has a wartime troop strength of some 280,000 with 870,000 trained as reservists. It did not abolish military conscription for males as many other western nations did after the end of the Cold War.
It has also built one of Europe's strongest artilleries and has stocked up on cruise missiles with a range of up to 370 km. 2 percent of Finland’s GDP is spent on defence, a level higher than many NATO countries.
The Nordic nation is ordering four new warships, as well as 64 F-35 fighter jets from the US defence giant Lockheed Martin. It also plans to order up to 2,000 drones, and high-altitude anti-aircraft equipment and is building barriers on its border with Russia.
In a recent poll carried out by the Defence Ministry, some 82% of respondents said they would be willing to participate in national defence if Finland was attacked.
“The most important line of defence is between one's ears, as the war in Ukraine proves at the moment,” Kivinen said commenting on the nation’s readiness to fight in a war against Russia.
He also welcomed Finland's decision to apply to join NATO. Finland and fellow Nordic country Sweden are in talks with Turkey to discuss the latter's opposition to their applications. Ankara has been angered by what it says is Helsinki and Stockholm's support for Kurdish militants and arms embargoes on Turkey.
NATO membership would allow Finland to boost its early warning capacity by being part of the alliance's joint airspace control. The country would also benefit from the deterrence of being part of an alliance in which an attack on one member is an attack on all its members, Kivinen said.
He added that “the main responsibility for Finland's defence will still be borne by Finland.”
Finland fought two wars in the 1940s against its eastern neighbour, with which it shares a 1,300 km long border. Some 100,000 Finns were killed during the two wars and the nation lost a tenth of its territory to the Soviet Union.