President Alexander Stubb was photographed in Helsinki on Wednesday, 22 May 2024. Stubb on Wednesday told Helsingin Sanomat that the Russian proposal to re-draw borders in the Baltic Sea was likely released by accident. “I don’t think there’s need for any kind of concern. Either it could be a hybrid operation, or it could be a pure accident. That’s why you shouldn’t react too strongly,” he said. (Antti Aimo-Koivisto – Lehtikuva)

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EXPERTS AND POLITICIANS in Finland have called for calm following reports that Russia is intent on re-drawing its borders with Finland and Lithuania in the Baltic Sea.

The Russian Ministry of Defence on Tuesday published a proposal for re-drawing the sea borders on grounds that current nautical maps, which are founded on measurements dating back to 1985, do not fully correspond to modern cartographical coordinates.

The proposal was deleted the following day, according to a report by Reuters.

Finnish President Alexander Stubb on Wednesday stated to Helsingin Sanomat that Finland is looking into the situation, assuring that the public have no need for concern. He revealed that even though it is possible that the proposal was released as part of a hybrid operation, the latest information points simply to a misjudgement.

“The current information isn’t too different from the information we had in the morning. That’s to say we’re still looking carefully into what this is about. And now the latest that we’ve received is that there’s been some kind of a misjudgement,” he said to the daily newspaper yesterday afternoon.

“I don’t think there’s need for any kind of concern. Either it could be a hybrid operation, or it could be a pure accident. That’s why you shouldn’t react too strongly.”

The incident, he added, has no effect on how the security situation is perceived in Finland.

“This is simply yet another indication that we’re well equipped to tolerate different potential hybrid operations,” commented Stubb. “With the European elections coming up, it isn’t difficult to imagine that different kinds of hybrid influence operations and whatnot could pop up. Let’s maintain our media literacy.”

Prime Minister Petteri Orpo (NCP) similarly did not rule out the possibility of a hybrid operation but highlighted that thus far no evidence of such has emerged, according to YLE. Russia, he viewed, is most likely referring to a routine border measurement.

“No matter how intriguing it may be to think about different scenarios, I’d urge everyone for calm. Russia has after all wanted to communicate its intentions outward already at this stage,” he remarked at a news conference on Wednesday.

Orpo said Finnish authorities are monitoring the situation constantly and have used diplomatic channels to reach out to Russia.

YLE on Wednesday also wrote that two experts in hybrid threats believe the proposal may have been published by accident.

Panu Moilanen, a lecturer at the University of Jyväskylä, told the public broadcasting company that the proposal may point to a standard measurement of territorial waters, a process that is allowed under the UN Law of the Sea Convention.

“I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that a party would like to define its borders more accurately with more modern technology. And given that documents have been drawn up about it and published online, they were found by accident, so to say,” he analysed.

He admitted that it is interesting that the documents were later deleted. “Maybe it tells something about the possibility that they weren’t supposed to be there in the first place.”

If the release was indeed an accident, it could well be a happy one for Moscow, according to Moilanen. “In a way this could be an accidental but successful hybrid operation because it received so much attention in Finland.”

Jukka Savolainen, the director of resilience and vulnerabilities at the European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats, similarly viewed that it is likely that the proposal relates to a desire to update territorial waters. Its release, he added, initially provoked an overblown response in Finland.

“I think we made a mountain out of a molehill, a storm in a teacup,” he said to YLE.

Savolainen also urged against drawing firm conclusions about the possibility that the proposal is part of a hybrid influence operation.

There were calls for a firmer response, too. Charly Salonius-Pasternak, a senior researcher at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, told Helsingin Sanomat that Finland should dispatch Navy or Border Guard vessels to the Gulf of Finland in response to the proposal to demonstrate its disapproval with what he described as a unilateral announcement about re-drawing the border.

A quick and determined response, he argued, is warranted specifically because the proposal was likely released to provoke a response from Finland. A failure to produce one could lead Moscow to draw the conclusion that Finland does not value its borders and does not have the courage to act to safeguard them.

“Russia’s actions align with its view that a great power is a great power that’s capable of making these kinds of unilateral announcements and ignoring smaller countries,” he said to the newspaper.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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