Analysis: Finland and Sweden set sights on Nato after years of Putin’s provocation

·3-min read
A Leopard battle tank of the Armoured Brigade is seen during the Army mechanised exercise Arrow 22 exercise at the Niinisalo garrison in Kankaanp’’, Western Finland (AP)
A Leopard battle tank of the Armoured Brigade is seen during the Army mechanised exercise Arrow 22 exercise at the Niinisalo garrison in Kankaanp’’, Western Finland (AP)

There is more to Finland’s bid to join Nato, and the friendship treaty with UK signed on Monday, than meets the eye.

Sweden is expected to follow in joining Nato. The Anglo-Swedish understanding signed by Boris Johnson during his lightning tour of Scandinavia paves the way – and hints at a lot more besides.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has finally tipped public opinion in both traditionally neutral countries.

But it is the occasion and not the cause of the move. It has been in the works for some years.

For decades Finland and Sweden have been prodded, raided and provoked by Russian forces in cyber-attacks, physical incursions including Spetsnatz special forces recce raids into Finland, and submarine probes into Swedish home waters.

With the Ukraine offensive, Putin has turned Russia into a complete totalitarian police and military state.

If he is to succeed in occupying even part of Ukraine, he will have to go to a full military call up beyond the annual conscription of 430,000 for the military and security services.

He will need a second army of around 100,000 of occupation in addition to the 90,000 or so struggling to take control of the Donbas pocket and much of Ukraine’s Black Sea coast. He is gambling on turning Russia into a nation in arms – and for a cause few care about or understand.

As Ukraine moves into the heat of full summer there is no conclusion, win or lose, in sight on the ground. Military commanders like to refer to a ‘decisive point’, a move which delivers victory.

It’s not there.

And the Finns and Swedes, like their Nato neighbours, Norway, the Baltics and Poland, realise this could grind on for years Their situation become more precarious as Putin’s threats become wilder and more bizarre.

Despite the bluster, Putin has now succeeded in strengthening Nato right on Russia’s border and in the Baltic.

With Finland he now has more than 800 miles more of land border with a Nato partner.

The UK’s agreement with Finland emphasises the need to work together in a range of fields from cyber to electronic warfare and securing the Arctic.

Above all it pledges exchanges in exercises and training – where Finland has a lot to offer – especially to the UK.

Technically it has standing forces of just under 20,000 out of a population of five and a half million.

But it can call up a reserve for all security duties of 285,000 in weeks.

This part of the concept of ‘total defence’, revised and updated as the national strategy last year.

Specialist reserves can be used for a range of resilience roles from repelling invaders, cyber-attacks, helping out in pandemics and disasters.

The Covid pandemic, increased tempo of flooding and weird weather events has shown the need in Britain for a smart use of smart support from the military.

The forces have proved particularly adroit at planning, organisation and logistics – which both politicians and senior civil servants have tried to downplay.

Unlike Ukrainian commanders – who continually ask for British support in logistics management, organisation and training.

These skills have to be nurtured both for home defence and resilience and working with allies like the Estonians, Swedes and Finns.

Joining Nato is not a hard sell for the Swedish and Finnish people – for it is still a club for mutual defence – despite what the horror show of Kremlin propaganda may say.

Learning and sharing with the Finns and Swedes, may also enhance the value of the forces and the reserves to Britain’s civil security and resilience. It’s time the political class and the commentariat caught up.

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