Defence chief: Finland may permanently host Nato troops

General Janne Jaakkola assumed command of the Finnish Defence Forces at the beginning of April. (Jorma Vihtonen / Yle News)

Finland does not face an immediate military threat, according to General Janne Jaakkola, Commander of the Finnish Defence Forces (FDF).

He made the comments in an interview with Yle on Thursday.

Many Western countries have tried to assess whether Russia actually plans to attack Nato member states — and if so, when?

However, Jaakkola did not speculate about potential attacks. He said the West has an opportunity to influence the situation through its own actions.

“It is largely a question of how we develop our defence capabilities so that we have a sufficient defence, including against possible Russian military threats,” Jaakkola said.

He added that Europe must also be able to respond to the broader influence that Russia may continue to exert.

Russia’s recent incidents of suspected instrumentalised migration tactics on Finland’s eastern border served as an example of such influence. Jaakkola said the Defence Forces trust the Finnish Border Guard’s situational awareness and will provide support if needed and requested.

Nato troops to Finland?

Finland is currently the only Nato country sharing a border with Russia that lacks a permanent presence of troops from other Nato countries. So far, Finland has not yet requested that kind of defence help.

Plans are currently being drawn up on how Nato will organise its command structure and how allied forces might operate in Finland. Last month, Finland approved Nato agreements which lay out ground rules for military personnel and central HQ staff in another state’s territory.

“We have made no decisions on this, but we are considering different options — whether it should be an extended exercise, a rotational model, or some other type of activity,” Jaakkola told Yle.

Jaakkola pointed out that Finland has a relatively strong defence force of its own and that there is no immediate need for allied troops at the moment. He did not rule out their future presence in Finland, however.

“Of course. In a possible crisis situation, reinforcements to help us would be needed and wanted, whether they are troops or capabilities,” Jaakkola said.

How quickly would allies come to aid Finland?

Nato allies share common defence obilgations as the alliance’s Article 5 clause states that an attack against one member state is an attack against all of Nato.

But being part of the alliance does not change the fact that you have to have your own defence in place, Jaakkola noted, adding that national defence is essential now and in the future.

How quickly troops or other assistance arrive in a wartime situation would depend on political decision-making.

“It is not possible to give a specific timeframe, but moving forward we must maintain our ability to defend ourselves and then rely on allied assistance at a later stage,” Jaakkola said.

Finland has been a member of Nato for just over a year and is only now building its own identity in the alliance, according to Jaakkola, who added that the country will not solely look inward to address its security concerns.

However, due to historical reasons, Finland’s self-defence will still be emphasised.

“The current system is optimised for national defence. Now we are coordinating it for common defence with our allies and that will take time,” Jaakola explained.

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Canada pledges billions for defence, falls short of NATO’s 2%, CBC News

FinlandMilitary exercise apparently disrupts weather images from Lapland, Yle news

IcelandIceland authorizes U.S. submarine service visits, Eye on the Arctic 

Norway: “Historical strengthening of our Armed Forces,” says Norway, The Independent Barents Observer

RussiaAs NATO forces move north for exercise, Northern Fleet sails out frigates, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Swedes must mentally prepare for war, says military top brass, Radio Sweden

United States: U.S. nominates Alaskan as first Arctic ambassador, Eye on the Arctic

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