April 2001

What military threats?

For a quiet country minding its own business, Finland spends quite a lot of time worrying about potential military threats. So what are they thought to be? A clue can be found in a column by Unto Hämäläinen in Helsingin Sanomat (21 April 2001).

Hämäläinen goes through the strategic thinking which military experts have developed in order to help the defence forces to hone their tasks and needs.

"The first stage is a spin-off crisis, a crisis in adjacent areas which can have consequences for Finland. The second stage is political, economic and military pressure which can be combined with a threat of military force or its limited use. The third stage is a surprise strategic strike which aims to force the leaders of the state into concessions. Strikes against defence and other important targets are used. The fourth stage is a wide-ranging attack to conquer territory, possibly in order to gain access to other countries.

"The Kosovo crisis, among others, has influenced this new threat scenario. Earlier, different threats were seen as alternatives. Now the thinking is that crises consist of consecutive operations, initiated by a spin-off crisis."

Hämäläinen writes that so far, the concept of a spin-off crisis has not really been adequately defined in the public debate. Where could it start and how could it spread to Finnish territory? West, north, east or south? The columnist points out that Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen, Minister of Defence Jan-Erik Enestam and the new Commander of the Defence Forces Juhani Kaskeala will have to explain to the government and parliament why the modernisation of the army requires more money while at the same time much of the old defence system needs to be maintained.

This, according to Hämäläinen, is not an easy task because the Finns believe that they live in peaceful times and in peace with their neighbours. Hämäläinen then reminds readers of recent revelations about secret Soviet pressures against Finland in the 1970s as an example of possible underlying dangers.

The column also examines some critical comments by the leader of the Left Alliance, Suvi-Anne Siimes. She has complained that some of the current strategic thinking seems to be partly based on old Cold War scenarios. According to these scenarios, the enemy is always in the east. Siimes suspects that the idea of this kind of threat is kept alive deliberately because it may make it easier to get more money for the defence budget.


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