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Six key points about Finnish defence policy

The Finnish government on Thursday published the first ever official policy report focused solely on defence issues. Yle picked out six key points in the government's report ranging from higher troop levels to closer cooperation with Sweden.

Image: Tommi Pesonen / Yle

Six key points in the Defence Policy Report publish on Thursday provide an overview of how the government sees the nation's defence and how it plans to make improvements.

1) Troop strength

Total wartime strength of Finland's Defence Forces will rise to 280,000 troops. At present wartime strength is set at 230,000.

"The increase is moderate. It is around 20 percent and basic equipment for these troops already exists," Defence Minister Jussi Niinistö stated at a press conference on Thursday.

The emphasis will be on developing the army and cross-services rapid reaction units.

2) Billions for arms procurement

According to the report, Finland has two major upcoming procurement projects: new fighter aircraft and new naval ships. Thursday's report contained little new information about plans to purchase new jet fighters.

The Air Force's Hornets will be reaching the end of their operational lifetime during the years 2025-2030, and a replacement is to be introduced beginning in 2025. The cost of the project is estimated at 7-10 billion euros. A decision on what aircraft will replace the Hornets will be made under a new government sometime in the early 2020s.

The Navy should replace its Rauma-class missile boats and Hämeenmaa-class minelayers. Altogether seven ships are to be decommissioned after they reach the end of their service life in the mid-2020s.

Four new vessels to replace those taken out of service carry a total price tag of 1.2 billion euros.

A Rauma-class missile boat. Image: Kalle Talonen / Yle

3) Resources

The report contains an estimate that additional annual financing of 55 million euros is needed from 2018 onwards to improve readiness so as to be able to respond to the changes in the security environment.

Additional annual financing of 150 million from 2021 onwards, on top of index adjustments, is needed to maintain the level of the Defence Forces’ materiel investments.

4) Threats

The report takes note of the occupation of Crimea, the conflict in eastern Ukraine, and a rise in military tension in the Baltic Sea region, as well as Russia's aim to strengthen its great-power status and its expressed goal of a sphere-of-influence based security regime.

Additionally, the Defense Forces are aiming to further develop capacities to respond to increasingly varied hybrid threats combining military and non-military measures.

According to government ministers in attendance at Thursday's press conference Russia is not a direct threat to Finland. They said that there are no indications within the Russian leadership of a desire to meddle with Finland's status.

Finance Minister Petteri Orpo, Defence Minister Jussi Niinistö, and Agriculture and Environment Minister Kimmo Tiilikainen at the government's defense policy report press conference in Helsinki. Image: Jussi Nukari / Lehtikuva

5) Cooperation with NATO

Finland's policy promotes the deepening of cooperation with NATO by utilising the possibilities open to partner countries in, among other things, training and exercises and in the development of shared situational awareness.

One feature mentioned in the report is attention to the interoperability of Finnish and NATO forces.

6) Sweden

At Thursday's press conference, Defence Minister Niinistö said that defense policy will promote closer international cooperation. In addition to the EU, NATO and the United States, Niinistö also referred to Sweden.

"The defence system will be developed in such a manner as not to create any practical impediments to possible membership in a military alliance," he stated.

Finland will continue training and exercises with other Nordic countries. No predetermined limits will be set on deepening bilateral defence cooperation with Sweden, and this could even mean exercising "collective self-defence", as stated in the report.