12,000 Finnish soldiers start war games

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Rapid response is the main theme of these war games, in Finland. (Petri Aaltonen/Yle)
From Wednesday the 27th through December 4th, Finnish defense forces will be mounting resistance to an imaginary attack from the north along an equally imaginary border running across the country at about 62° north.

That was all some 12,000 personnel preparing to meet the hypothetical threat knew on Wednesday morning.

“The rest is only known to the planners and exercise controllers. So, for example, to conscripts the situation looks like the real thing,” explains Lt. Colonel Tomi Pekurinen of Finland’s Army Academy.

The exercise, dubbed “Kaakko 19”, is aimed at testing the Defense Force’s readiness to react to a fluid, swiftly changing situation. Taking part are 6,200 conscripts, 3,200 reservists, and 2,600 regular army and Border Guards.

“It has happened all over the world that situations have escalated quickly and led to the use of military force. Previously, it was assumed that we’d have weeks or months to prepare our own response,” says Pekurinen.

Troop movements may affect road traffic in the southeast during the exercises. (Toni Pitkänen/Yle)
Land, sea and air

All branches of the military will have a part in the exercise, including coordination with the Border Guard.

Many residents of the south-east are likely to see military activity over the next week. War gaming will be going on in areas around Savitaipale, Taipalsaari, Lappeenranta, Mikkeli, Mäntyharju, Valkeala, Hamina, Kotka and Porvoo.

Locals may encounter military road convoys made up of mainly lorries and buses. Most of the action, however, will take place in Defense Forces training areas.

At sea and in coastal areas, naval units will be involved in coordinated exercises along Upinniemi-Kotka-Hamina, as well as in the archipelago and further out in the Gulf of Finland. Ten naval vessels and coastal artillery are taking part.

Seven Air Force jets will be operating in a zone covering Hamina–Imatra–Savonlinna–Mikkeli–Jyväskylä–Lahti–Porvoo. Air Force exercises kicked off last Friday with practice bombings using precision-guided munitions at a range north of Kouvola.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Canada, U.S. must do more to check Russian military in the Arctic, says NORAD chief, CBC News

Finland: Finnish Defence Minister tells party leaders shrinking fighter fleet would be “irresponsible”, Yle News

Iceland: Iceland talks Arctic, Trump’s ditching of climate accord, with U.S. Secretary of State, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: Russian jets led mock attack on Arctic Norway radar, intel director says, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Russia accuses Norway of northern military buildup, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Arctic Sweden to welcome thousands of international troops for Northern Wind exercise, The Independent Barents Observer

United States: U.S. experts call for ‘vigilance’ on Russian military buildup in Arctic, Alaska Public Media

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