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Defence Minister: Finland not under military threat, but regional tensions could rise

Minister of Defence Antti Kaikkonen told Yle there are concerns that tensions in Ukraine could have spill-over effects in the Baltic Sea region.

Finland's Minister of Defense Antti Kaikkonen. Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle

Asked in an interview on Yle TV1 on Wednesday morning why the Finnish Defence Forces (FDF) raised their level of internal security on Tuesday, Minister of Defence Antti Kaikkonen (Cen) said that, "Times are such that the Defence Forces are taking their own measures," but denied that Finland is facing any military threat.

On Tuesday, the chair of Parliament's defence committee, Ilkka Kanerva (NCP), told Yle that the upgraded security posture was due to the tense situation between Ukraine and Russia.

Kaikkonen stressed that raising the security level from the lowest level to the second lowest does not yet mark a radical change.

"Rather it means small actions. Defence Forces facilities are being guarded a little more closely," Kaikkonen said.

No current threat

The defence minister stressed that there is currently no military threat to Finland, and pointed out that the relationship between Finland and Russia is functioning, and a dialogue is being maintained.

"The main concern here is that if the situation escalates in Ukraine, it would also have spill-over effects on the whole of Europe, and the Baltic Sea region," he explained.

According to Kaikkonen, in such a case, tensions would undoubtedly be reflected in Finland.

"But at the moment our borders are calm, and I can also say that Russia has moved troops from the vicinity of Finland to its border with Ukraine," he added.

"Defence is in good shape"

While expressing the hope that efforts to reach a diplomatic settlement to ease tensions in Europe will continue, Kaikkonen said that it is difficult to assess Russia's actions.

"The situation between the West and Russia has become even more tense, but it remains to be seen what forms it will take in the future."

At the same time, Kaikkonen emphasised that there is no need to question Finland's defence capabilities.

"Our defence is in good shape. For example, we did not make the mistake of winding down our own defences after the end of the Cold War. We have taken care of our own house," Kaikkonen said.

Nato defence ministers start a two-day meeting in Brussels on Wednesday. As partners, but not members of the alliance, the Finnish and Swedish ministers of defence will be taking part in the discussions on Thursday.