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Finland making plans to host large-scale joint military exercises

Defence Minister Jussi Niinistö says his ministry has begun laying the groundwork for Finland to host large-scale joint military exercises in Finnish territory. The war games would resemble the Aurora exercises held this autumn in Sweden, and would involve Finland, Sweden and the US defence forces at a minimum.

Puolustusministeri Jussi Niinistö eduskunnan täysistunnossa Helsingissä 27. lokakuuta
Finnish Defence Minister Jussi Niinistö on October 27. Image: Markku Ulander / Lehtikuva
Yle News

Finland's Minister of Defence Jussi Niinistö has announced that Finland is making plans to host joint military exercises. He estimates that the large-scale event would occur in 2020 at the earliest, and says Sweden has already committed to participating.

Niinistö says there is a clear need to organise joint military exercises in Finnish territory, if only for Finland to practice accepting military assistance from its allies.

Following the Swedish example

Niinistö predicts that arranging a massive event like this will take time, and proposes a realisation date sometime in 2020 at the earliest. The exercise would be modelled on similar exercises that took place this autumn in Sweden. Some 20,000 troops took part in the Aurora17 exercises, and Finland was also well represented. 

"The need for similar kinds of exercises in Finland is obvious, especially when you consider that new legislation came into effect last summer on the obligation of the Finnish Defence Forces to receive and provide international assistance. Finland should have opportunities to practice receipt of this international assistance," Niinistö says.

The minister says he hopes that as many of Finland's defence partners as possible would participate in the drills. 

"The Swedish defence minister informed us immediately that they were on board. I have extended the offer to several other countries in different forums. This coming week I will be able to tell even more, as several groups – Nordic Defence Cooperation Nordefco, the Nordic Baltic Eight, and the Northern Group – are meeting in Helsinki, where US Defence Secretary James Mattis will be in attendance," the minister says.

Obligations to provide and receive assistance

As a member state of the EU, Finland must provide assistance upon request to another member state in the event of, for example, a terrorist attack or a natural or man-made disaster.

The right to receive these same services is also part of the agreement, but Defence Minister Niinistö won't speculate about what kind of event might create this need in Finland.

"It is important for the Defence Forces to have the preparedness to accept international assistance if we are faced with a crisis. It's good to practice, because it doesn't happen at the flick of a switch. We've got to dig down and carry out cooperative exercises, so that things will work when the situation gets real," he says. 

Niinistö says the planned exercises will include all three branches of the military: the Army, Navy and Air Force. 

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