Finnish reservists of the Guard Jaeger Regiment stand at a shooting range as they take part in a military exercise at the Santahamina military base in Helsinki, Finland. LEHTIKUVA / AFP

Finland in the world press

Finland’s military spending soars 36% as global defencebudgets hit Cold War levels

Finland’s significant boost of 36 percent in defence spending was published in an article by The Independent on April 25. The article looks into the increase in defence budget globally prompted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It highlights that the current rise in defense spending is at its peak since the end of Cold War.

The article mentions that last year’s total global military spending rose by 3.7 per cent in real terms to $2.24 trillion, according to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri). Finland recorded the most dramatic spending boost of 36 per cent following a purchase of F-35 fighter jets, the highest year-on-year increase in military spending since 1962 according to the report.

Lithuania, Sweden, and Poland increased their defense budgets by 27 percent, 12 percent and 11 percent respectively, signallinga growing commitment to military preparedness among European nations. Notably, the report highlights Ukraine’s ballooning military budget as a key driver of the region’s increased defense spending, accounting for roughly half of the annual increase.

Other European nations such as Lithuania, Sweden and Poland saw increases in their defence budgets of 27 per cent, 12 percent and 11 percent respectively. The report also states that about half the annual increase was due to Ukraine’s ballooning military budget.

"This included multi-year plans to boost spending from several governments," Sipri senior researcher Diego Lopes da Silva said adding that the military expenditure in Central and Western Europe is expected to continue rising in the coming years.

Original story was published by The Independent on 25.04.2023 and can be found here.

The mentality that Finland’s mandatory military service brings to NATO

This opinion piece about Finland’s conscription service in the light of the country’s accession to North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was published in Lawfare on April 19. The article provides details of the conscription program and ponders how NATO is now positioned to benefit from it.

The Finnish Constitution mandates that every citizen participate or assist in national defense. The Conscription Act requires every male Finnish citizen to serve in the military from age 18 to 60 unless exempted. The article highlights that only a few NATO countries, including Denmark, Estonia, and Greece have compulsory military service. The author writes in detail about his conscription which starts from call-ups and goes on with early training exercises and training with instructors.

The article also mentions larger benefits to the country from the conscription service stating that Finnish reserves provide physical and mental fitness, leadership skills, responsibility and wartime skills that contribute to national security.

“Finns retain working knowledge of what it means to be a small but valuable cog in a large machine. All of this fortifies, and is fortified by, the high will to defend one’s country—and, now, one’s NATO allies—against armed aggression. In the large Finnish reserves, NATO has just received an injection of determination and spirit that the term “sisu” only begins to cover,” the article reads.

The author Antti Ruokonen holds a master of engineering from Finland. He works for the City Vaasa as a civil engineer with over ten years of experience in environmental issues and infrastructure in the public sector.

Original story was published by Lawfare on 19.04.2023 and can be found here.

Will Finland’s political turn mean a course change on NATO too?

This article about the impact of Finland’s recent elections and upcoming new government on NATO was published in Atlantic Council on April 4. The opinion piece highlights that there is unlikely to be any turbulence in Finland’s NATO path, as security and defense policy have traditionally been areas of consensus in Finland and the decision to join NATO was backed by a strong majority of public opinion and all major parties in parliament.

The article begins with discussing National Coalition Party’s victory in the parliamentary elections with its chairman, Petteri Orpo, earning the right to be the first to try forming a coalition government. It also highlights the former Prime Minister SannaMarin’s reign is coming to an end followed by Finland finally joining NATO.

It states that the incomin government is expected to maintain continuity in security policy despite changes in nuances of foreign and security policy, with potential challenges arising from the nationalist narratives of the Finns Party and its emphasis on the sovereignty of the country. “While the Finns Party might still support greater cooperation in NATO since it is an intergovernmental organization and not a supranational one, issues like solidarity and multinational joint capabilities might put them in an uncomfortable situation,” the article reads.

The article states that Finland might face challenges as a new member of NATO, particularly in changing its policymaking culture to embrace mutual solidarity and open debate and understanding Alliance dynamics and processes.

Original story was published by Atlantic Council on 04.04.2023 and can be found here.

The author Rasmus Hindrén is a nonresident senior fellow with the Transatlantic Security Initiative in the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security and the Head of International Relations at the European Center of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats. 

How are these trees floating over a Finnish road?

The article about Finland’s camouflaging technique used during World War II was published in Atlas Obscura on April 27. It describes the surreal photograph taken by a Finnish Army photographer named Osvald Hedenström in 1941 during World War II.

The photo shows a line of pines hanging in the air above a Finnish Army car driving along a dirt road near the border with the Soviet Union. Finland used the camouflaging trick to deceive Russian planes and observation towers during the conflict. The lines of trees wouldn’t obscure the road from a plane flying overhead, but it could block the view from a tower. From a low perspective, down the road, the lines gave the illusion of an uninterrupted sequence of trees.

The caption of the photo by  Hedenström says , “The Finns have camouflaged the road to Raate, about 10 km from Russia, with pines hanging in the air, because right on the border there is an observation tower erected by the Russians.”

The article states that the photo which has appeared on social media in recent years, usually by accounts that specialize in history, is from the Finnish Defence Forces’ Photograph Archive.

“The Finns didn’t have funds to buy artificial camouflage such as nets in vast quantities,” Colonel Petteri Jouko, a military historian at Finnish National Defence University told Atlas Obscura. “So they used trees, leaves, and foliage to confuse the enemy. They were accustomed to wilderness and took advantage of the forest, unlike the German soldiers operating in northern Finland,” he added.

Original story was published by Atlas Obscura on 27.04.2023 and can be found here.

Watchdog highlights problems on SA wine grape farms supplying to Finland

A report by Finnish watchdog highlighting problems with three wine grape operations in South Africa which supply the Finnish alcohol distribution monopoly Alko was published in News24 on April 27. The article is based on the watchdog ‘Finnwatch’report that found instances of poor housing conditions, with workers complaining about how they are treated. However the report has appealed to consumers not to boycott SA wine but rather check if the wines are produced in a sustainable manner.

The article mentions that Wines of South Africa (WoSA) and Vinpro are looking into the findings of Finnwatch, which did the investigation on behalf of Alko in South Africa.Finnwatchvisited farms owned by Louisvale Wines, W+E Dreyer Boerdery, and Welgemoed (C Groenewald Boerdery) which contribute wine grapes used in 11 wines in Alko’s range.

The report found that workers on all farms visited were paid the minimum wage, but some accommodation was in poor condition and workers were sometimes treated aggressively and not allowed to unionize. Some workers on the Louisvale Wines and W+E Dreyer claimed they were exposed to agricultural chemicals such as paraquat, which is not allowed in the European Union but is still legal in South Africa.

It also mentions that some employees claimed women are discriminated against regarding hiring and wages, and some migrant workers claimed labour brokers held their work permits against their will

Zane Meyer, managing director of Louisvale Wines, pointed out that the report does not relate to the company’s wine estate near Stellenbosch but to three wine-grape farms in the Wellington area.

“We supplied answers to questions posed to us by Finnwatchand willingly took part in the process. I do not, however, think the report is necessarily fair and correct. Claims were made without providing proof. Of course, there is always room for improvement, given SA’s history. Some of the issues raised relate to macro-economic conditions in the country, which a single farmer cannot solve. We continue to communicate with our workers and their union,” Meyer said.

Original story was published by News24 on 27.04.2023 and can be found here.