It’s healthier to tie up one’s horse at the roundpole fence of one’s enemy, than that he would tie up at ours
Bishop Johannes Rudbeckius
Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you: do ye even so to them
Jesus (Matthew 7:12)
The war in Ukraine is raging on, and so far the Finnish political leadership does seem to still be “looking” at what the options are to help Ukraine and to increase Finnish security. Let’s be blunt:
This war has not come as a surprise, but we’ve seen months of Russia moving units into position until it was more a question of when rather than if. As such, that there isn’t a ready plan is something of a failure of planning, as even if the Finnish politicians didn’t think that war was the most likely outcome, it should have been evident months ago that it was at very least a real risk and as such there should have been a contingency plan. Still, here we are, and in the interest of public service, here is what can and should be done:
Closer cooperation with Sweden (and possibly other partners as well)
While Finnish-Swedish defence and foreign policy cooperation is rather deep already, there are a few practical steps that can be taken swiftly and which would both serve operational purposes as well as provide valuable signalling. The lowest hanging fruit is to invite the Swedish Air Force’s intelligence gathering platforms – crucially the S 102B ‘Korpen’ and S 100D ‘Argus’ – to operate in Finnish airspace and potentially even from Finnish bases, Rovaniemi and Tampere-Pirkkala likely being the prime candidates in that case.
The S 102B Korpen (Swedish for raven, having gotten its name from the ravens that flew all over the world to bring information to the god Odin in Norse mythology) are SIGINT-equipped Gulfstream G-IVSP, while the S 100D Argus (named for the all-seeing giant in Greek mythology) is the Swedish AEW&C platform, a Saab 340 with an Erieye-radar on top (the designation ASC890 is also used). Both are regularly seen flying over the Baltic Sea towards Kaliningrad, but are also doing regular runs along the Finnish-Swedish border in the north, trying to get a look into Russian airspace. Allowing them to fly in Finnish airspace would significantly increase their reach, and allow the Swedes to gather better information on what Russia is doing. In the best of worlds, they might even be ready to share some of the material with Finnish intelligence, as while the Finnish Air Force does operate a SIGINT-aircraft, there might certainly be some differences in the sensors carried that allow for the Swedes gathering data which we don’t have, and in any case we lack an AEW&C platform. Even if the Swedish intelligence community would not want to share their information with us, helping Sweden to have a better situational picture on which to base their policy decisions is certainly in itself valuable for Finland. The political signalling would also be a value.
Joint buys of ammunition and other materiel would also be something that both would increase the combat capability (and therefore deterrence value) of the armed forces in both countries as well as signal political resolve in both countries. As it so happens, the Swedish CinC has already provided a request to the Swedish parliamentary defence committee requesting permission to buy more ammunition, fuel, food, and medical supplies than planned under the current budget. As Finland and Sweden recently signed a framework agreements for how to jointly acquire ammunition, this is an excellent opportunity to show both resolve and cooperation in practice.
Joint exercises are more difficult to drum up at short notice, but a few things could still be done. Letting key people such as unit commanders and other high-ranking officers meet for discussions (preferably with photo ops of them standing around a table or out in the field and pointing at maps and things to show how serious the discussions are) can be arranged at relatively short notice thanks to their small footprint. Everyone’s busy right now, but clearing out a day in the calendar should still be doable. Having the commanders of the Norrland’s dragoons and the Jaeger brigade stand at the shore in Suomussalmi flanked by their chiefs of staffs and look over towards at Hulkonniemi would be a rather clear message to any potential adversary, and the importance of personal connections between officers at all levels can’t be overestimated. The same can obviously be done at the political level as well.
Similar kinds of things could preferably be done with other partners in the region as well. A high-profile visit by Finnish Air Force personnel to Evenes Air Force Base in the Norwegian high north to discuss F-35 operations in adverse conditions or the decision to jointly acquire more Stingers with Latvia could certainly fit the bill. However, as Finland and Sweden are two of the only European democracies choosing not to be part of a defensive alliance with other fellow democracies, it is certainly possible that many of the other countries are too busy doing internal alliance-stuff, and it might leave Finnish-Swedish cooperation as the most viable path in the near term.
Weapons to ukraine
This really should have taken place back before Russia invaded, and it is outright bizarre that Finland has declined exports to Ukraine – not just decided not to gift weapons to Ukraine, both from allowing them to buy Finnish-made stuff – with the logic that Finland don’t ship weapon to conflict zones. Besides the obvious stuff that this hasn’t been a show-stopper in certain earlier cases – such as the Patria AMVs appearing in Yemen – it is utter stupidity that Finland would play a part in setting a precedent that if Russia threatens war, other countries should not export weapons to the threatened democracy. But that is all water under the bridge, and the next question is what to do now?
The obvious fact still stand. It is in Finland’s interest to aid Ukraine with as much weapons and ammunition as possible. This argument does not rest on altruism – though you can make that argument as well – both on cold hard realism. Finland has only one possible military adversary in today’s world, and that is Putin’s Russia: a country ruled by a dictator that has outright invaded some neighbouring countries, propped up dictators in others, and supported (more or less organic) separatist movements in yet others, and which has as late as this week warned Finland (and Sweden) against us exercising our sovereign right to choose our security solutions. As such, few things would improve Finland’s geopolitical situation as much as a Ukrainian “victory” (whatever that means) in this war.
The cold hard truth is that every T-80BVM tank of the 200th OMB that is knocked out in Ukraine is one less tank in Pechenga, and that means less forces close to the Finnish border, and that in turn means less combat capability that Russia can use to threaten – or if the worst comes, invade – Finland with. It also means less funds for training and more of the training done being at a simpler level, as the focus in the Russian armed forces shifts to replacing lost equipment and personnel.
This is the cold face of war, that securing the upper hand usually means those on the other side of the border will die or otherwise be made to suffer. It is the grim reality we need to keep in mind when discussing these things, but at the end of the day we didn’t choose this any more than the Ukrainians. Instead, Putin did, and we need to be prepared for him actually staying true to his word when he keeps threating the use of force. As such, arming Ukraine builds Finnish deterrence as our relative strength grows, meaning that the Russian leverage to put pressure on us decreases.
So what can we do?
The obvious thing is the old AK-clones in different version. Finland has earlier bought numerous different foreign-made AKs, including from ex-DDR and Chinese stocks. Following the downsizing of the armed forces, word on the street has it that none of these would be used by the 280,000 strong fully mobilised force (with the exception of the rather limited number of foreign-built folding-stock rifles used by AFV crews), and already back in 2006 there was talk that they could be gifted to the Afghan National Army as the FDF didn’t want or need them. It is highly unlikely that the FDF would need them more now than they did back then, and they could certainly fit the requirement of simple weapons that could be handed out to volunteers in the campaign Ukraine has now embarked upon.
One weapon system that has not been mentioned is the sniper rifles that are becoming surplus in the near future with the introduction of the Sako M23 which will replace most 7.62 TKIV 85 (a highly modded Mosin-Nagant) and all 7.62 TKIV Dragunov. These sport calibres that are found in Ukrainian service and rounds which will be surplus to the FDF with the retirement of the rifles. While it is too early to ship away all, I would certainly believe that at least some of them could be declared surplus right away.
But the big deal is the NLAW and Stinger missiles. With armoured vehicles and massed helicopter assaults being among the key threats facing the Ukrainians, providing simple weapon systems that Ukraine already operate would be a significant addition the combat capability of the Ukrainian army. Also, the knowledge of more missiles being on the way will ensure that the Ukrainian defence forces are freer in using the stocks they already have. And from a Finnish perspective, again, tanks that become burning hulks in Ukraine won’t be used to intimidate Finland in half a years time.
But doesn’t Finland need these weapons for ourselves?
Yes, and no. The weapons are needed, but right now we are in a rare situation where Russia actually does not have the capability to perform offensive operations in our neighbourhood thanks to the better part of the units normally stationed nearby being in Ukraine. If Finland is quick (because we might not be the only one who wants to top up our stocks) to call Saab and Raytheon and place orders for more NLAWs and Stingers respectively this could provide a good opportunity to rotate stocks (granted the current stocks probably have plenty of shelf life left, so it isn’t urgent from that perspective), and still be back at having a sizeable stocks of missiles by the time the Russian units are back from Ukraine and have recovered from their losses. Obviously, that would require more funds, but the weapons right now would certainly do more for Finnish security in Ukrainian hands than in Finnish depots. And as mentioned, we have a framework for buying anti-tank munitions jointly with Sweden, so this would fit in with the idea of using that very framework as expressed above.
We are back to political will. If the political leadership is ready to grab the opportunity and prepared to pay for the costs, it certainly is doable (though the scale depends on a number of factors, many of which are classified).
Yes, we should have joined NATO ages ago. Nothing has changed, besides there now being yet another data point that non-NATO countries get invaded by Russia more frequently than NATO-countries. Why we wouldn’t want to build our security together with or European and trans-atlantic partners is beyond my understanding, and anyone arguing for us being safe from Putin’s anger if we just keep calm has a rather more difficult time making that argument convincingly following this week (though in all honesty this was clear to anyone willing to look at the world and make a sober assessment already in 2008). The exact form and steps taken to join can be discussed, and I leave that to other.
29 thoughts on “A Modest Proposal”
There’s an age-old saying, the Swedish steel bites.
From peace to war in a second and contrys wich are sleeping the cudly slep!
Send at ones the Swedish and Finish primeministers for peace work at the stand in PuttesPalace striproom!
Shame on you so cold leaders, we send you to snake island!
I will take back what I wrote this morning.
We send 5′ helmets, 5′ protectionwests, 5′ At86 and 135′ foodpacks!
We feel your pain, and admire your bravery. Rest assured that the arsenal of democracy will deliver, in a continuously increasing fashion. Help is coming through! 🌻
I think this is the moment for Sweden and Finland to join NATO while Russian army is occupied in Ukraine.
Well. The megalomaniac did it. Hope he bit this time more than he can chew. On the post – very good choice of weapons that would suit the UA and Finland could spare. On other points I agree also. On NATO – yes Finland should have joined – at best when the Baltic countries joined. Right now … I would wait. As proven few days ago, this poor excuse for a human being proved that he does not even need an excuse. NATO probably would have to change the law to legally intervene. I think they would because it would be too much but there could be some …slaking – for sure some countries would help. If accessing could be done very fast and for most part secret … maybe ….fat chance of that.
Right now I am asking myself what the real Russian loses are. Maybe its cold but I do not think that they are high enough so that it will spark any change. On the other hand if the sanctions last for long time he will get addicted to China and marginalized or somebody will end him sooner. It would be a right time to access NATO. For the time being I would sign individual defense agreements with all the NATO countries – so still neutral but practically in NATO.
Replaying to my own comment. Because I am changing my mind here. I am starting to think that it actually is a good point in time to rapidly together with Sweden access NATO. I do really think rapid is the key word here. Not because of a special danger Finland is in. It would simply weaken the Putins position further. Maybe then some of their military staff according to their tradition would end him.
Beside everything else like morality and solidarity with Ukraine and even the fact that every tank that has been hit down there is one less for us to worry about, you also has to consider the fact that one day it may be Sweden and Finland who stands there asking to by more weapons and ammunition in a time of crisis. At that point get the answer that no we don’t sell to a country in a conflict wont be that nice.
I couldn’t agree more on everything you said.
The time for Finland and Sweden to join NATO is right now! Here’s why:
1. The Russian invasion of Ukraine seems to be producing rather bad consequences for them. Not only are they dragging on the battlefield, but the strength of the international response must have been a big surprise to them. Putin is rumored to be furious and I bet he’ll be screaming for vengeance to all the countries who dear to stand in his way by helping Ukraine. We are the easiest targets for his wrath, since we’re outside of NATO. (There are quite a plethora of other reasons for future Russian invasions in the Baltic region. Which, by the way, Mr. Putin has quite explicitly talked about in his writings and in his speeches.)
2. At the moment, though, Russia has limited resources to put serious military pressure on us. They seem to have their hands full in Ukraine. I think this situation will continue quite a while giving us a time window of, say, year or so.
3. The west will use practically all of its means to oppose Russian actions, short of direct military actions, in the current situation. So, if Russia chooses to focus her attention to Finland and/or Sweden after it has recovered from the adventure in Ukraine, there are no more non-military tools left in the western toolbox. In other words, Russians may think that as the west cannot do anything more, they have more freedom to do what they want.
In summary, this is probably the safest moment for us to start the process that leads to NATO membership. Later on, after Russia has recovered from the current war in Ukraine, they will undoubtedly come back with a vengeance and I cannot think anything more stupid for us to do than waiting idle that to happen.
Yes, but joining the Nato Membership Action Plan should be decided in a public referendum in both Finland and Sweden.
No, that’s why we have elected officials: to take difficult decisions that require a deeper study of benefits and consequences.
Only it is more risky if the politicians decide. It woul’d be more difficult for Putin to treat Sweden and Finland if it was decided by the people.
Putin caring about an election or a referendum. He would just say that that the vote was fixed, we are all nazis or drug addics possibly both.
@Bandaidhunter and he wouldn’t do that much eazier if the postive decision of joining Nato Membership Action Response Plan woul’d come from the government itself? I think that this is one of the very tricky questions, just like the voting in 2003 on if we should adopt the Euro monetary, that the people if well and properly informed are at least as qualified as the politicians to decide. As a matter of fact, math tells us that the result probably will be better if the people are to decide, since you know, in the jar full of balls the total number of balls are more easily evaluated by the mass who’s collective numbers will be a better guess of the total number of balls, probably the exact number. Of course politics is not balls and if Putin is to order an attack on Scandinavian countries there is but a one (he goes ahead with it) and a zero (he abstain from doing it) to chose from. On the other hand we do not know how many Kremlins are in on the decision. But you get the point.
@Corporal Frisk And not to mention it is much more democratic.
No. Democracy can be direct or indirect. Finland (and Sweden) has a strong tradition of indirect democracy. There’s a reason for that.
How about some GlobalEyes ASAP? FAF is not getting F-35 Bl.4s for quite a while at current estimates, so an intermediary effort at the combat support would be valuable if not budgetary possible.
Saab might even be persuaded to ‘loan’ one intended for UAE?
There’s no budget to acquire or operate the GlobalEye for the Finnish Air Force.
I suppose we could send them our M72 LAWs. Sure they are not effective against tanks but they would still be more useful against lighter vehicles thank bottles filled with flammable liquids.
I’d imagine it would easier for us to replace the ones we have sent.
Couple thoughts :
The logic on joining nato now looks as clear ar and strong as it is ever going to be absent a direct threat, so if a public referendum helps, it would be very beneficial as a statement. In the end I agree politicians should do their jobs but a referendum is a valid “gamble” as long as leadership themselves are solidly behind… i would think public opinion will come around in both countries.
I’m holding out hope for more meaningful direct military assistance from some countries. Unlike in other theaters and situations, there is still room for 3rd party nations to militarily. In the wildest case, Poland is right there and has a clear strategic concern if Ukraine falls. Other options include air support (some uk politicians have floated this), clandestine/stealth ops (that could be secret, plausibly denied, or just denied a la Russ) , or even rip a page from Russia and have non state volunteers armed with state assets.
Last thought, it’s important long term that a nuclear armed state is not allowed to conquer a non nuclear state (esp one that voluntarily gave up nukes). If we fail to act for fear of nukes that just means we’ve already surrendered to the rule of the strong and the only deterrent lesson would be everyone needs nukes
Important that the democratic world communicates, mirroring the policy toward Saddam Hussein, that if chemical weapons are used against civilians, a no-fly zone will be operated through a international air-policing mission.
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What about a bilateral treaty between Finland and the United States? Why not sign a very concise treaty next week saying that Finland and the US pledge to defend each other in the event of a foreign adversary entering their borders or deploying nuclear weapons? In that case, Finland would get the majority of the benefits of NATO membership without the potential of being pulled into overseas conflicts or causing undue stress on those who are stressing over NATO.
I don’t think joining NATO is that big a problem anymore. Over half of the population (53%) supports joining, according to recent poll. Over 65% supports joining together with Sweden or if the president will recommend it.
More over, we have two citizens’ initiatives on the process. One demanding that Finland should join NATO, and the other demanding a referendum about it. The latter has already collected enough support to make it to the parliament. The other one is rapidly approaching the required number of supporters.
And finally, today all the parties represented in the parliament met and discussed about how the NATO issue should be processed and moved forward. This is the first time the politicians are actually doing something concrete around the topic.
Any of the above does not mean that Finland will apply for membership, though. There are still people who have hard time accepting the new realities. The president seems to be one of them, unfortunately. His recent interview was quite revealing in that regard. He didn’t seem to be too happy about the change in the public opinion. On the other hand, this is the first time his arguments were criticized in the major newspapers. This is unheard of in Finland. The president institution has been traditionally above criticism. I think he will have hard time going against the public will.
My own prediction is that we will join NATO eventually, but it may take a bit more time than many of us hope. One thing I am quite sure of, though. The public support for the membership does not go away anytime soon, if ever. Putin dropped his mask, so to speak, and nobody in Finland has any trust in Russia / Russians anymore. And almost everyone understands the dangers we may have to face are such, that it is better to face them with others rather than alone.
Interesting, but many practical, legal, and even effectiveness issues. It would be a worse deal for both the US and Finland vs the better Nato deal. That would sign Finland up to potentially fight China for example, whereas NATO does not. Conversely, the US would need a logistical way to aid Finland at hour zero, without using committed NATO resources (e. g. Would require US bases in Finland imho).
I don’t think we need to get into more detail, just suffice it to say the nato for is open, it’s the better choice for Finland (and Sweden) and provides a better security guarantee for Finland
Does Finland still have the russian BUK systems?
If they still are stored I guess Ukraine would have good use for it.
Thats a good idea. Forgot that Finland still had them. Do it quietly. You still will have Nasams. They really need to even the odds in the sky. Especially the high altitude because I think they will start losing or stalemate and then they will bring heavy stuff.
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