Defence policies of Finland
Finland has had a military
presence in the region since the days when it was a part of the
Swedish kingdom more than three centuries ago. In fact, the Swedish
kingdom, at the height of its power, obtained as much as a third of
its soldiers from Finland. The Finnish people began to protect their
border with Russia as the Swedish kingdom declined in power. Over
the years, it has always been Russia that has been its major enemy.
The Russians have occupied Finnish land several times.
In 1917, Finland became an independent country. After a brief civil
war, the victorious White Guard militia transformed itself into the
Finish military. However, the military was not given sufficient
funding, and in 1939, Finland was invaded by its old enemy. This
time the Russians were the Soviet Union, and the effect of this
invasion would have a profound influence on the future defence
policy of Finland.
The initial advantage in 1939 went to the Finns. They were
outnumbered by the Russians, but the Finnish army had better trained
soldiers and more importantly, they had experience fighting in the
severed temperatures of the winter in Finland. Their initial victory
was short lived as they were defeated in the following year by sheer
numbers of the Red Army.
With a common enemy, Finland received support from Germany during
World War II. They built up their military force and resistance to
the Soviets during this period. They also formulated a policy of
retaking control of Finnish land one parcel at a time. The Germans
wanted the forces sent to fight against the Russians on Russian
land, but the Fins wanted to liberate their own country and were not
interested in conquest.
After World War II, the Finnish military was reorganized for peace
time. It wasn’t until the early 1960s that the Soviet Union became a
threat to Finland. The nation increased its military spending and
adopted a defence policy that focused on the territory of Finland.
The military would be used in a tactical way to slow down advancing
soldiers that invaded the country. Just as they had done in the 1939
invasion, the Finnish military would wear down the invading
Russians. This time it would be strategy and not happenstance.
The defence policy was expanded to include all available resources
in response to a Soviet invasion. This was a reaction to the
invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. This event had a strong
influence on strengthening the military deterrence to the Soviet
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, there was not an immediate
change in defence policy. After all, the Russians had been enemies
long before there ever was a Soviet Union. However, the use of all
national resources to stop an invasion and wearing down invading
forces was de-emphasized. Much of it has been replaced with the
protection of the valuable assets of the country.
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