"Finland has prepared for a Russian attack for decades and would put up stiff resistance should one occur", its armed forces chief says.
Finland has built up a substantial arsenal. However, aside from the military hardware, Finnish General Timo Kivinen says that a crucial factor is that Finns would be motivated to fight.
“The most important line of defense is between one’s ears, as the war in Ukraine proves at the moment,” Kivinen said in an interview with Reuters.
Finland fought two wars against its eastern neighbour in the 1940s, with which it shares a 1,300 kilometers long border. Once a non-aligned country, it is now applying to join the NATO military alliance over concerns that Russia could invade, like it did in Ukraine on 24 February. Since WW2, Helsinki has kept up a high level of military preparedness.
The nation of 5.5 million has a wartime troop strength of some 280,000 with 870,000 trained as reservists. It did not abolish military conscription for males as many other western nations did after the end of the Cold War.
It has also built one of Europe’s strongest artilleries and has stocked up on cruise missiles with a range of up to 370 kilometers. It spends two percent of its GDP on defense, a level higher than many NATO countries. It is ordering four new warships, as well as 64 F-35 fighter jets from U.S. defence giant Lockheed Martin.
It plans to order up to 2,000 drones, its own high-altitude anti-aircraft equipment, and is building barriers on its border with Russia. NATO membership would allow Finland to boost its early warning capacity by being part of the alliance's joint airspace control, Kivinen said.
Nevertheless, he said, “the main responsibility for Finland’s defense will still be borne by Finland.”