Finland goes missile shopping, moors itself to Western security structures

As a show of unity amid the war in Ukraine, all political parties in Finland have backed increased military spending. According to the Minister of Defence Antti Kaikkonen, the actual sums will be decided during the spring. [Shutterstock / Oleg Elkov]

After a hectic weekend of diplomacy and the president’s visit to the White House, military and political ties have been deepened with the US and Sweden. Finland is also strengthening its defence capabilities with new purchases.

As a show of unity amid the war in Ukraine, all political parties in Finland have backed increased military spending. According to the Minister of Defence Antti Kaikkonen, the actual sums will be decided during the spring.

In a TV interview on Saturday, 5 March, Kaikkonen revealed that Finland is speeding up efforts to improve its anti-aircraft defence by buying surface-to-air missile systems. The decision will be made in early 2023 between two Israeli tenders of Israel Aerospace Industries and Rafael Advanced Systems.

Currently, the country’s defence budget is €5.1 billion, constituting 1.96% of the GDP and 7.9% of the state budget. In relative terms, Finland is militarily powerful compared to Nordic neighbours and many other European countries. Its artillery is the biggest among Western European countries with some 1,500 different weapons, and the country claims to have the second-largest ground forces in Europe after Turkey.

Strong national defence will be an asset if Finland decides to apply for NATO membership. Outside NATO, the intention is to strengthen the country’s position by a web of agreements. Following Sweden’s example, Finland is eager to update defensive cooperation with the UK, said Minister Kaikkonen in the YLE interview.

However, any NATO applications of Finland and Sweden seem to be on hold. Whether the two countries seek Major Non-Nato Ally (MNNA) status also hangs in the air. This status, which the US has given to 17 countries including Japan, Australia and Israel, would provide enhanced security and defence cooperation.

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