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Finnish general: If war breaks out in Ukraine, it also affects the Baltic Sea region

The commander of the Defence Forces does not see direct threats to Finland at the moment.

General Timo Kivinen is the commander of the Finnish Defence Forces. Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle

Timo Kivinen, the commander of Finland's defence forces, told Yle's weekend morning talk show that he regards the decision to purchase F-35 fighter jets, announced on Friday, as the best possible deal.

It's the biggest military procurement in Finnish history, with 64 planes on their way to Finland in the next decade. The selection process took six years from start to finish, including three separate tendering calls, and four rounds of negotiation with the five candidates.

In the last stage, each bid was scrutinised by working groups composed of a total of around a hundred people. The project's military and financial significance meant everything had to be done thoroughly, and Kivinen says that shows in the final result.

"The group that has done this, has done great work," said Kivinen. "The money that was used for this [preparation] ensured we got the best package."

In the final round there were three candidates: the US F-35s and Super Hornets and Sweden's Gripen. The Eurofighter Typhoon and France's Rafale fell before the final hurdle.

Cost, industrial co-operation and security of supply tests had to be passed for candidates to reach the final round, said Kivinen.

Overall, the procurement will cost some ten billion euros. Between 2025 and 2030 maintenance will be included in the project cost, and from 2031 the maintenance costs will come out of the Defence Forces' budget.

"It has the capability to support ground forces, naval forces and far-reaching firepower," said Kivinen. "With this we're getting air to air missiles, later we can consider other things."

The project won't affect defence co-operation between Finland and Sweden, according to Kivinen.

"In both countries there is still a political will to deepen co-operation," said Kivinen. "I don't see that the decision would have any effect on that. Sweden is our closest partner. We make operational plans together that we don't make with anyone else."

Finland's current fighter jets, the McDonnell-Douglas-made Hornets, will be retired starting in 2025. They will mostly be scrapped, according to Kivinen.

Baltic sea security difficult to anticipate

Kivine says that the strategic situation in the Baltic Sea is not likely to change for the better in the near future. The situation in Ukraine could have ripple effects in the Baltic Sea region.

In itself there has been no significant change," said Kivinen. "In this situation, when there is an exceptional buildup on Ukraine's borders, we are following the situation closely."

The general does not see any military threats directed at Finland at the moment. Russia has concentrated around 100,000 troops on the borders of Ukraine and that has raised interest in Finland as well.

"There is an exceptional buildup there, and it is being followed closely," said Kivinen. "We are looking at different scenarios and evaluations. It is possible that military actions there could start, and there would be broader ripple effects also here, in te Baltic Sea region. I wouldn't say that this is happening, now, but it is possible."

Real threat of war in Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin recently repeated his view that Nato should not expand further to the east.

Russia's goal looks to be a security arrangement based on 'spheres of influence' in Europe.

This year Russia has raised and lowered readiness of its forces in the vicinity of Ukraine, and Kivinen says that military action is possible even though all sides would first seek a resolution through negotiations.

"We adjust our own actions according to what is happening in the region and I can say that in Finland's immediate vicinity there is no operation ongoing that we would need to be concerned about," said Kivinen. "There is no military threat directed at Finland."

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