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Defence report slams 'unsustainable' funding gap

A parliamentary assessment group has concluded that Finland’s defence establishment needs additional financing if it is to rectify current shortcomings. According to the group’s chair, the current defence deficit will significantly weaken Finland’s defence capability before the decade is out.

Niinistö Putin seisovat
Finnish President Sauli Niinistö met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in August 2014. Image: Ivan Sekretarev / EPA

The final report on Finland’s long-term defence challenges prepared by a parliamentary assessment group was submitted on Wednesday to Minister of Defence Carl Haglund.

Pointing out the predominance of the Baltic Sea transport corridor for Finland and the increasingly strained relations between Russia and NATO, the report focused on the need for higher operational readiness and improved combat resilience in the Finnish Defence Forces.

Parliamentary assessment group chair Ilkka Kanerva commented on Wednesday that there are too many shortcomings in materiel capabilities within the defence forces at present. Without additional financing, he says, the defence force will be unable to meet its obligations in just a few years.

“There is an unsustainable imbalance between defence force targets and available resources. We can’t make do with less any longer,” Kanerva says.

A push for more funding

The final report did not present any specific solutions for addressing the shortcomings. Nevertheless, Kanerva says the group felt it was justified to recommend gradually increasing financing by some 50 million euros, up to 150 million in 2020 in addition to inflation adjustments. The Left Alliance went on record as the only political party to oppose the group’s conclusions.  

“(The financing model) must naturally be considered under the prevailing circumstances, but we are of one mind that Finland cannot afford to neglect materiel investment in its defensive readiness,” says Kanerva.

Kanerva says that warfare’s changing nature in favour of low-intensity hybrid conflicts like the crisis in Ukraine adds specific challenges. The rise in material procurement costs and the depressed economy also make things problematic.

The report concludes that while Finland faces no military threat at this moment, the situation may change. Finland’s location on the border of a military alliance and a neighbour to a great power must be taken into account in issues of overall capacity and development.

The report is intended to provide policy-makers with a basis for discussion as Finland prepares for parliamentary elections in the spring, and more importantly, the next round of government budget negotiations.  

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