Finnish welcome party for unwelcome Russians
A week ago I discussed why Peace is over for the States along the Baltic Sea. By now over 85,000 people have read the articles and already changes are underway: Iceland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Finland will deepen their defense cooperation, while the Prime Ministers of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania discussed “joint purchasing of arms” as it is “vitally important for efficient use of defense spending,” and Poland announced it will move troops East and speed up the introduction of new land forces equipment. This is an excellent start, but more steps and more daring steps need to be taken, as all the nations mentioned above, with the exception of Finland, are unprepared for the coming Russian aggression. And mark my words: Russia is not done yet with war! Not in Ukraine, not in Moldova, not in Georgia, not in Nagorno-Karabakh, and not in the Baltic Sea region. Also Norway will sooner than later find Russia invading Svalbard.
But today I will focus on Finland, the first of three nations, together with Romania and Bulgaria, that readers of the other articles discussed most. Luckily all three do not figure in Russia’s current war plans, although in the cases of Bulgaria and Finland, for very different reasons. Romania is a special case that I will analyze in detail in a separate article. Currently the most unlucky nations in Europe are Georgia and Ukraine, both of whom have already become victims of Russia’s new wave of wars to regain its colonial empire: Georgia was attacked to provide Russia with military bases south of the Caucasus, as Russia’s military bases in Armenia can only be reached by air via Iran, and because Azerbaijan’s independence is guarded by Turkey, the rising regional power; while Ukraine was attacked for its strategic Crimean peninsula. That war now continues to punish Ukrainians for being, and insisting on being, a nation and a people distinct from Russia and Russians.
Just as for Georgians since 2008 and Ukrainian since 2014, peace is now over for the three Baltic States, as Putin can break NATO there, without having to fear NATO’s overwhelming military power, which is foolishly based elsewhere. Similarly peace is over for Sweden as Russia needs to occupy Gotland to deny NATO planes and ships access to the Baltic Sea. And for Poland peace is over, as it cannot and will not stand by when Russia attacks Lithuania after Putin’s demand for a corridor to Kaliningrad will have been denied by Lithuania, just as Hitler’s demand for a corridor to Danzig was denied by Poland in 1939. Additionally Russian nationalists consider the Polish people to be their hereditary enemy, because Polish troops in 1610 occupied Moscow, and because Poles rose up five times against Russian rule and fought four wars of independence against Russia. Clearly this indomitable Polish will to live free in their own nation is what Russians cannot forgive the Poles, as Russians do not forgive the same aspiration finally being demonstrated by Ukrainians now.
Unlike the aforementioned nations, Russia doesn’t have any immediate imperial designs against Finland, Bulgaria and Romania. Although Russian nationalists see the first two as part of Russia’s restored empire, Russia won’t employ military means to subjugate them. Russian imperialism, in the guise of Soviet communism, has already tried to conquer Finland once before, but the Finns butchered enough Russians for Stalin to reconsider. A lesson every nation must learn: Russia will break whatever treaty you signed with them (i.e. the Soviet–Finnish Non-Aggression Pact) and attack you on false pretexts (i.e. Shelling of Mainila), create a puppet government to administer the occupied territories (i.e. Finnish Democratic Republic), and will only relent if enough Russian soldiers are killed. The Finns killed over 1,200 Russians a day and thus got Russia to drop its plan to occupy and annex all of Finland. Theirs is a magnificent example to study, emulate and revere by all other nations under Russian threat.
Since even the current megalomaniac Russian leadership remembers the Winter War, Finland is safe. No Russian general wants his troops to enter Finnish forests and get massacred by the nearly 300,000 troops and 600,000 reservists Finland can muster. Finland, if attacked, can field twice (!) as many ground troops as Italy, Germany, France, Spain and the UK combined (!). If Finland had followed the foolish path of most other EU nations and reduced its military forces by 75% over the last decade, Putin might be tempted to invade Finland, but as Finland stuck to its concept of total defense, it is safe. Once again “Si vis pacem, para bellum” [If you want peace, prepare for war–ed.] has been proven as the most sound national defense principle.
In 2015 Finland will spend 1.29% of GDP equal to € 2.66 billion on defense [Source], which allows for a minuscule procurement budget of just € 417 million. With a 2015 budget deficit of -2.5% and government debt of 61.2% of GDP, Finland can easily increase its defense budget, by the amount needed to fund a replacement for its outdated standard battle rifle, which still uses a Soviet cartridge design. Additionally more Spike anti-tank guided missiles should be bought as soon as possible and enough modern equipment to kit out Finland’s entire force of 900,000 men and women ready to defend their freedom against Russia. Therefore defense spending should be raised by 0.41% of GDP or approximately € 850 million as soon as possible, which would be a boon for the Finnish economy as most equipment needed to outfit soldiers is produced in Finland by Finnish companies.
As Finland already acquired 100 used Leopard 2A6 main battle tanks (MBT) from the Netherlands, hundreds of American FIM-92F Stinger man-portable surface-to-air missiles, 24 Norwegian-made NASAMS 2 medium-range air-defense system, 16 German-Swedish ASRAD-R short-range air-defense system and 55 Israeli Aeronautics Defense Orbiter unmanned aerial vehicles (drones), just a few weapons systems remain, which need to be acquired in the coming years: first on the list are modern self-propelled howitzers (SPH) to replace the currently fielded Soviet 2S5 Giatsint-S and 2S1 Gvodzika SPHs. Although there are five possible SPH models Finland could buy, ultimately either the fully automated Swedish Archer system or the powerful German PzH 2000 will be bought, as both could be produced under license by Finland’s Patria corporation. Also more CV90 infantry fighting vehicles (IFV) need to be acquired to replace Finland’s 94 aging Soviet BMP-2 IFVs and 300+ outdated Soviet MT-LB armored personnel carriers (APC). However not all MT-LB need to be replaced with the expensive CV90, about half should be replaced with Finnish made Patria AMV wheeled IFVs. To increase the lethality and compatibility of its AMVs, Finland should follow Poland’s lead and combine its AMVs with Oto Melara Hitfist-30P turrets, which mount the same 30mm Mk44 Bushmaster II chain gun as Finland’s CV90s. Last but not least, the Finnish army should grow a pair, and in spite of Russian pressure renew the contract to buy 70 American MGM-168 ATacMS Block IVA surface-to-surface missiles for its M270 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS) to give Finland the capability to strike Russian targets 300km away.
The Finnish Air Force currently fields 55 F/A-18C, assembled by Patria in Finland, and 7 American built F/A-18D fighters. Although not the most modern system, it can remain in service for another five to seven years, giving Finland enough time to choose its next fighter. An ideal choice for a nation fighting from deep within its most valuable strategic asset, namely its vast impenetrable forests, would be American F-35B stealth fighters. The F-35B can take off from air strips of less than 200m in length and land on just a few meters of meadow, but it is pricey and I doubt Lockheed Martin will allow Patria to share in the production of this highly advanced fighter.
Therefore Finland should enter into a tri-national agreement with Poland and Sweden to jointly produce the JAS 39E Gripen. Together these three nations would order at least 200 JAS 39E, and the higher production numbers will lead to lower unit costs. Furthermore such a cooperation would deepen Baltic and Scandinavian defense cooperation and allow Patria to share in the production and further development of the JAS 39E. Finland could also buy the Eurofighter Typhoon, but for its national defense industry, the Gripen is a better choice, especially now that Airbus Group, the main stakeholder in the Eurofighter project, has sold its 26.8% share of Patria to the Finnish government. To make sure its air force can take to the skies even if Russia destroys its three main air bases, Finland must continue to maintain its 17 highway landing strips and seek an agreement with Sweden to be allowed to use Swedish air bases as alternative airfields.
Finland’s Navy is well prepared to thwart any attempt by Russian forces to land on Finnish shores as the Navy’s Uusimaa Brigade is equipped with Spike-ER guided missiles and truck mounted RBS-15 Mk. III anti-ship missiles, making it impossible for Russia’s Baltic Fleet to pass the Finnish coast unscathed. The only two things Finland’s Navy lacks are anti-submarine warfare helicopters and submarines, with the latter not necessary for the coastal defense needs of Finland. However Finland should buy at least 12 NH90 helicopters of the NFH variant to give it the capability to chase and sink Russian submarines and ships. Finland already operates 20 NH90 in the TTH variant, and as Sweden operates both NH90 variants, it would be possible for Finland to train its NH90 NFH crews jointly with Sweden’s crews at Sweden’s Malmen Airbase. Joint training would be especially useful for Finland as Sweden, unlike Finland, fields submarines to exercise against.
Ultimately, Finland is at peace and will remain at peace because it is well prepared to bleed out a Russian invasion force in its forests and has no territory Putin covets or needs. Also working in Finland’s favor is the fact that Russia’s leadership, with its worldview minted at the KGB in the waning years of the Cold War, assumes Finland will fall back into Finlandization if Russia issues enough military threats. This is an erroneous idea, which when finally realized by the Kremlin, will have led to even more Finnish militarization and thus even less desire by Russia’s army to revisit the endless, deadly Finnish forests.