The Government Approved Presenting the Defence Policy Report to Parliament
(Source: Finland Ministry of Defence; issued Feb 16, 2017)
The Finnish government has detailed in a new report how it plans to strengthen and modernize its armed forces by boosting its equipment investments, as well as the army’s manpower. (Finnish Army photo)
The Government’s Defence Policy Report to Parliament was adopted in a Government plenary session on Thursday 16 February 2017.

The Report defines defence policy guidelines for maintaining, developing and using Finland’s defence capabilities. Through implementing the Defence Policy Report Finland secures its defence capabilities in a changing security situation, creates preconditions for maintaining a credible defence system that covers the entire territory and outlines the implementation of strategic performance projects.

It will also improve the readiness of the Defence Forces and steer both the deepening of defence cooperation and development of national legislation. The timeline extends into the mid-2020s.

The Defence Policy Report was drawn up, for the first time, as a separate report. It follows the report by a parliamentary working group (the Parliamentary Office Publication 3/2014) and the Government Report on Finnish Foreign and Security Policy (Prime Minister’s Office Publication 7/2016).

The Defence Policy Report has been prepared through broad-based cross-sectoral cooperation and also a parliamentary monitoring group was consulted.

Click here for the full report (37 PDF pages in English) on the Finnish MoD website.


Six Key Points About Finnish Defence Policy
(Source: Finnish Broadcasting News, Yle; issued Feb 16, 2017)
The Finnish government on Thursday published the first ever official policy report focused solely on defence issues. Yle picked out six key points in the government's report ranging from higher troop levels to closer cooperation with Sweden.

Six key points in the Defence Policy Report publish on Thursday provide an overview of how the government sees the nation's defence and how it plans to make improvements.

1) Troop strength
Total wartime strength of Finland's Defence Forces will rise to 280,000 troops. At present wartime strength is set at 230,000.

"The increase is moderate. It is around 20 percent and basic equipment for these troops already exists," Defence Minister Jussi Niinistö stated at a press conference on Thursday.

The emphasis will be on developing the army and cross-services rapid reaction units.

2) Billions for arms procurement
According to the report, Finland has two major upcoming procurement projects: new fighter aircraft and new naval ships. Thursday's report contained little new information about plans to purchase new jet fighters.

The Air Force's Hornets will be reaching the end of their operational lifetime during the years 2025-2030, and a replacement is to be introduced beginning in 2025. The cost of the project is estimated at 7-10 billion euros. A decision on what aircraft will replace the Hornets will be made under a new government sometime in the early 2020s.

The Navy should replace its Rauma-class missile boats and Hämeenmaa-class minelayers. Altogether seven ships are to be decommissioned after they reach the end of their service life in the mid-2020s.

Four new vessels to replace those taken out of service carry a total price tag of 1.2 billion euros.

3) Resources
The report contains an estimate that additional annual financing of 55 million euros is needed from 2018 onwards to improve readiness so as to be able to respond to the changes in the security environment.

Additional annual financing of 150 million from 2021 onwards, on top of index adjustments, is needed to maintain the level of the Defence Forces’ materiel investments.

4) Threats
The report takes note of the occupation of Crimea, the conflict in eastern Ukraine, and a rise in military tension in the Baltic Sea region, as well as Russia's aim to strengthen its great-power status and its expressed goal of a sphere-of-influence based security regime.

Additionally, the Defense Forces are aiming to further develop capacities to respond to increasingly varied hybrid threats combining military and non-military measures.

According to government ministers in attendance at Thursday's press conference Russia is not a direct threat to Finland. They said that there are no indications within the Russian leadership of a desire to meddle with Finland's status.

5) Cooperation with NATO
Finland's policy promotes the deepening of cooperation with NATO by utilising the possibilities open to partner countries in, among other things, training and exercises and in the development of shared situational awareness.

One feature mentioned in the report is attention to the interoperability of Finnish and NATO forces.

6) Sweden
At Thursday's press conference, Defence Minister Niinistö said that defense policy will promote closer international cooperation. In addition to the EU, NATO and the United States, Niinistö also referred to Sweden.

"The defence system will be developed in such a manner as not to create any practical impediments to possible membership in a military alliance," he stated.

Finland will continue training and exercises with other Nordic countries. No predetermined limits will be set on deepening bilateral defence cooperation with Sweden, and this could even mean exercising "collective self-defence", as stated in the report.


Defence Development to Focus on Army
(Source: Finnish Broadcasting News, Yle; issued Feb 16, 2017)
The government on Thursday released its latest Defence Policy Report which is expected to go to Parliament for review next month. Defence Minister Jussi Niinistö told the media that for the rest of this decade, the emphasis will be on developing land forces and cross-service rapid reaction units.

The nearly 150-page report was drawn up for the first time as a separate document. In past years, it has been bundled as part of a broader report on both security and defense policy.

Speaking to the media on Thursday afternoon, Jussi Niinistö said that meeting any military threat will require well trained and equipped operational forces, as well as more lightly equipped local troops.

Plans call for local defense to be enhanced by more efficient use of volunteer resources. Total wartime strength of ground forces will rise to 280,000 troops. Rapid reaction units that include troops from all services will primarily aim to prevent the escalation of a situation into an attack against Finland.

During the next decade, Finland will have to both modernize its fleet of fighter aircraft and procure new ships for the navy. Defense Minister Niinistö pointed out that past cuts in funding for defence materials procurement have been reversed during the term of the present government.


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