2017 is rapidly approaching its end, and a short look back (and forward) might be in order. Contrary to some earlier years, it is hard to name a single transformative event when it comes to national security. Instead, it has been a roller coaster ride of smaller ones, some more absurd than the others.
Some would prefer the metaphor ‘dumpster fire’ to ‘roller coaster ride’, and I don’t blame them. Still, the apparently dysfunctional US government has not caused any major disasters (e.g. nuclear war or breaking up NATO) so far, though there certainly are quite a number of possibilities still left unexplored in that regard. In my personal calendar, I will mark down 2017 as the year I went from not not expecting to see nuclear weapons used in anger during my lifetime to believing a war on the Korean peninsula involving nukes to be more likely than not. I don’t believe either side wants war, but the strong US rhetoric, whether honest or not, is certainly preparing the ground for possible misinterpretations and muscle-flexing which eventually leaves little room for backing down. As I have discussed earlier on the blog, the talk about the DPRK regime being ‘crazy’ is probably not helping either…
Closer to home, the single most notable incident was the midget submarine that entered Gävle harbour and was caught red-handed by a survey vessel. The blog post on the initial findings became the fourth most read post of 2017, and landed me a surprise interview on Swedish national TV. The port also featured in the third most viewed post of the year, which was my translation of Jägarchefen’s excellent post A Picture in Moscow (Swedish original here). Interestingly enough, I later during the year ran into the translated post being used as a source for a briefing I attended, and needless to say I was very happy to see that the materials posted on the blog have real-world effects other than sometimes causing minor controversies on Twitter!
Otherwise on the blog, the Finnish Army developments have been in focus, with the most popular new post and second most viewed over all being a look at artillery developments published in January, with the post on Finnish readiness units also scoring extremely well. The major Swedish exercise Aurora 17 and Finnish participation there also drew interest, with another guest post from Sweden, Herr Flax discussing the value of Patria AMV in a conventional war against a near-peer or peer adversary, also getting close to a 1,000 views.
Over all, I must say I am very happy with how the year played out on the blog. The number of views grew with a nice even 30% compared to 2016, and while that is a somewhat lower tempo than the earlier years it is still a healthy number. Most importantly, I am very happy that the two Swedish guest posts rank as high as they do, indicating that the blog is bringing quality texts from the Swedish defence debate to Finnish and international readers, while my personal texts on Finnish matters receive nice numbers of views from Sweden. This indicates that the blog is bringing topics of interest from one country to the other, something which was one of my main goals when I first launched the blog back in the early days of 2014.
On a personal level, getting to visit RAF Lossiemouth as part of the Finnish media delegation and getting up to speed on the Eurofighter was a great experience. Similarly, getting to see the Kaivopuisto Airshow and being invited to the following reception at the British Embassy afterwards are fond memories. More recently, getting the opportunity to be a panel speaker at the Estonian Defence Forces’ Psychological Defence Course was a great honour, and it was also a very interesting event to attend. Getting to follow the Air Force practicing dispersed operations at my local airfield was also great. The one thing I am sorry I missed was the Navy holding its main Navy Day event in nearby Vaasa, as I had to call in sick that day. Well, looking forward to the centennial celebrations next year!
For 2018, I will strive to make some changes to the focus of the blog and how I work. The travel opportunities I have had have been nothing short of awesome, but I have reached the point that I will have to scale down on the travel work I do due to other commitments, and instead focus more on local opportunities. As such, I hope to be able to write more on the volunteer work done at the grassroots, and catch the opportunities to cover exercises such as the IPH-series in nearby Lohtaja. In addition, expect more on the HX and Pohjanmaa-class (ex-Squadron 2020, ex-MTA 2020) where significant developments are scheduled for next year. In 2018 I will also continue with the monthly reviews, which have offered an opportunity to do something a bit different on the blog, with the review of Harpia’s Russia’s Warplanes being the most popular one.
I would also like to thank a host of different people whom I have met and/or had the opportunity to discuss a host of interesting topics with during the year that was, including officers, journalists, and a host of ‘ordinary people’. Some of you are off-the-record, some on-the-record, but I am very thankful for the advice, insights, and comments you have offered. Thank you!
And last but not least, a happy new year!