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 Union.

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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