Finland beefs up military amid rising Russian tensions

2017-02-17 06:07
Finnish Defence Force emblem

Finnish Defence Force emblem

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Helsinki - Finland's government announced plans Thursday to strengthen the country's military capacity due to concerns over assertive behaviour from its powerful eastern neighbour Russia.

Finland, which is not a NATO member, will increase the number of its wartime troops from the current 230 000 to 280 000 to "improve the capability to defend the entire territory of the country", which shares a 1 340km border with Russia, the government wrote in a defence report.

"Russia aims to strengthen its great-power status, and it has expressed the goal of a sphere-of-influence based security regime," the report said, noting the security situation in the Baltic Sea region surrounding Finland had deteriorated.

The increase in wartime troops entails a modest addition of $58.6m to Finland's annual military spending of $2.56 billion, but the government said expenditure was to increase more significantly after 2020.

The Nordic country plans to replace its ageing maritime fleet as well as its Hornet fighter jets during the next decade.

Finnish Finance Minister Petteri Orpo said the investments would raise Finland's defence expenditure by 0.3-0.4 percentage points to 1.5-1.6 percentage points of the country's gross domestic product in the 2020s.

"Which would put it on a good, or very good European level," Orpo said.

In October 2016, Finland and the US signed a bilateral defence cooperation deal, after a similar agreement between Sweden and the US was signed in June.

After Russia's annexation of Crimea and the conflict in eastern Ukraine, Finland has also stepped up its bilateral military cooperation with its western neighbour Sweden.

Read more on:    nato  |  finland  |  russia

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