Candles outside the Jokiranta teaching unit of Viertola School in Vantaa on April 8, 2024. Both 12-year-old girls injured in the Vantaa school shooting are still hospitalized, and one of them is still in critical condition, according to the police. LEHTIKUVA

Finland in the world press

Here is a selection of what the international press has published about Finland in the last week:

School shooting brings up tough questions for Finland

The tragic school shooting in Vantaa was covered in an article by BBC on April 4.

The article presents deep reflection and questions about how such an extreme act could occur, particularly involving a 12-year-old perpetrator.

The 12-year-old killed one pupil and seriously injured two others. The shooter’s actions, including wearing a mask and noise-cancelling headphones, indicate premeditation, leaving the community shocked and struggling to comprehend the young age of the suspect.

The article also delves into the issue of bullying, as the shooter reportedly indicated bullying as a motive for the attack. While bullying is a widespread issue in Finland, with studies showing a significant percentage of children affected, the extreme response of violence is rare.

It also examines Finland’s gun control laws, noting the country’s high rate of gun ownership but little discussion about tightening regulations following the shooting. Instead, there is a call for social intervention and support services to prevent such tragedies. Some argue for lowering the age of criminal responsibility, while others emphasize the importance of addressing underlying issues through societal discussions and preventative measures.

“The most important thing is preventative measures. What I would hope to see is a societal discussion on how we can provide services for children and young people in supporting their growth,” Tomi Kiilakoski, youth researcher at the University of Tampere, told the BBC.

Original story was published by BBC on 04.04.2024 and can be found here.

Putin miscalculated on Finland’s border

This article about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent threat to deploy troops near Finland’s border was published by Politico on April 8. The article examines the potential implications of such a move. Despite the intimidating rhetoric, the article suggests that Finland’s NATO membership provides it with substantial protection, diminishing any existential concerns over Putin’s threats.

The article highlights the logistical challenges posed by Putin’s threat, given the extensive length of the border between Russia and Finland.  It also critiques Putin’s complaint about Finland’s NATO accession, likening it to the behavior of a bully or an abusive partner.

“We generally had ideal relations with Finland. Simply perfect. We did not have a single claim against each other, especially territorial, not to mention other areas. We didn’t even have troops; we removed all the troops from there, from the Russian-Finnish border,” Putin complained in an interview with the RIA state news agency.  Putin’s assertion that Russia had removed all troops from the border with Finland before Finland joined NATO overlooks Russia’s own belligerence, which contributed to Finland’s decision to seek NATO membership.

The article also delves into Russia’s military capabilities and constraints, stating that Russia lacks the necessary resources to fulfill Putin’s threat effectively, citing challenges such as stretched military forces, recruitment difficulties, and logistical limitations. “They still have the 138th Separate Guards Motor Rifle Brigade in Kamenka [near St. Petersburg], around 50 kilometers from the Finnish border. But the garrison is pretty empty, with no combat-ready troops because they’re all in Ukraine. And all the five brigades close to us were half-strength already before the war,” Retired Major General Pekka Toveri said.

The article asserts Finland’s response to Putin’s threats as calmer in tone,  reflecting the understanding of Russia’s military limitations and recruitment challenges.

The author, Elisabeth Braw is a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, the author of “Goodbye Globalization” and a regular columnist for Politico.

Original story was published by Politico on 08.04.2024 and can be found here.

A year of living less dangerously? Finland’s first 12 months in NATO

Finland’s first year as a NATO member was covered in an article by Al Jazeera on April 4. The article discusses Finland’s shift away from its traditional policy of neutrality and self-reliance towards embracing NATO for security.

The article highlights the reasons behind Finland’s decision, including concerns about Russia’s aggression and the perceived benefits of NATO membership in deterring potential Russian threats.

“The war [in Ukraine] led to a major threat evaluation caused by Russia’s vocal demands for sphere of influence, its appetite for risk-taking and readiness to use military force at a massive scale, as well as its nuclear coercion,” Matti Pesu, a leading researcher at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs (FIIA), specialising in Northern European security, told Al Jazeera.

“NATO membership emerged as the only viable solution to fill this perceived ‘deterrence deficit’ in Finnish security. Currently, the prevailing view on Russia in Finland across the society is overwhelmingly negative, and Finland calls for hardline solutions both in EU and NATO,” Pesu said.

The article also examines the impact of Finland’s NATO membership on its relationship with Russia, noting increased tensions and changes in economic and political engagement between the two countries.

“Russia tries to destabilise Finland by facilitating or at least allowing more illegal migration,”  Wolfgang Pusztai, a senior adviser at the Austrian Institute for European and Security Policy told Al Jazeera. “There is even information that Russian border authorities are actively assisting migrants without proper documents in reaching the border zone. Finnish officials consider this as a form of payback for Finland’s NATO accession,” he added.

The article also discusses Finland’s contributions to NATO, including its strategic location, military capabilities, and expertise in Arctic warfare.

Original story was published by Al Jazeera on 04.04.2024 and can be found here.

Is finland really the happiest country in the world?

Finland’s status as the happiest country in the world was covered in an article by Gript on April 4. The article questions Finland’s status, contrasting it with Ireland’s declining happiness ranking.

It highlights Finland's challenges, including high rates of intimate partner violence, workplace harassment, and mental health issues such as depression and drug-related fatalities. The methodology of the World Happiness Report has been criticized, suggesting that factors like GDP per capita do not accurately measure individual happiness.

It also challenges the self-reported nature of happiness surveys, questioning their reliability. The article suggests that these metrics may not accurately capture the complexities of individual happiness and societal well-being.

Furthermore, the article discusses Finland’s mental health challenges, particularly concerning its youth population. High suicide rates, drug-related fatalities, and increasing rates of depression and anxiety paint a more nuanced picture of Finland’s societal well-being, contrasting with its image as a happy nation.

Original story was published by Gript on 04.04.2024 and can be found here.

Russia Issues Nuclear Warning to New NATO Member

Russia’s nuclear warning amid Finland’s NATO membership was covered in an article by Newsweek on April 6. The article outlines how Russia perceives NATO as a hostile entity and views the expansion of the alliance, especially to countries like Finland, as a direct threat to its security interests.

The warning issued by the Russian ambassador underscores Russia’s concerns about NATO’s presence near its borders and its readiness to respond to what it sees as provocative actions, such as the deployment of nuclear weapons in Finland.

The article provides context by mentioning Finland’s decision to join NATO in response to Russia’s military aggression, particularly its invasion of Ukraine. It reflects on Finland’s strategic shift towards aligning with Western security structures to deter potential Russian threats.

The article also highlights the diplomatic tension between Russia and Finland, with Russian President Putin denouncing Finland’s NATO membership as a “senseless step.” It touches upon Finland’s Prime Minister’s address to the European Parliament, where he emphasizes the importance of supporting Ukraine and standing up to Russia’s military activities in Europe.

Original story was published by Newsweek on 06.04.2024 and can be found here.