Finns are ready to fight any Russian attack, says armed forces chief | Finland

Finland has been preparing for decades for a Russian attack and would put up strong resistance if it were to happen, the head of its armed forces said.

The Nordic country has amassed a substantial arsenal. But military equipment aside, General Timo Kivinen said, a crucial factor is that the Finns would be motivated to fight.

“The most important line of defense is between the ears, as the war in Ukraine right now shows,” Kivinen said in an interview.

Finland fought two wars in the 1940s against its eastern neighbor, with which it shares a 1,300 km (810 mi) border.

Once a non-aligned country, it is now applying to join the NATO military alliance out of concern that Russia may invade as it did with Ukraine on February 24. Since World War II, Helsinki has maintained a high level of military readiness.

“We have systematically developed our military defense precisely for this type of war that is being waged there. [in Ukraine], with massive use of firepower, armored forces and also air forces,” Kivinen said. “Ukraine has been a tough bite to chew [for Russia]and so would Finland.“

One hundred thousand Finns died during the two wars that Finland waged against the Soviet Union and lost a tenth of its territory.

The nation of 5.5 million has a wartime troop strength of 280,000, with 870,000 trained as reservists. It did not abolish conscription for men as many other Western nations did after the end of the cold war.

It has also built one of the most powerful artillery arsenals in Europe and stocked up on cruise missiles with a range of up to 370 km (230 miles). It spends 2% of its GDP on defense, a level higher than many NATO countries.

It is ordering four new warships as well as 64 F-35 fighter jets from US defense giant Lockheed Martin. He plans to order up to 2,000 drones and deploy his own high-altitude anti-aircraft team, and is building barriers on his border with Russia.

82% of respondents in a May 18 Defense Ministry survey said they would be willing to participate in national defense if Finland were attacked.

Still, Kivinen welcomed Finland’s decision to apply for NATO membership. Finland and the Nordic country Sweden are in talks with Turkey to discuss its opposition to their requests. Ankara has been angered by what it says is Helsinki and Stockholm’s support for Kurdish militants and arms embargoes on Turkey.

NATO membership would allow Finland to increase its early warning capability by being part of joint control of the alliance’s airspace, Kivinen said. Finland would also benefit from the deterrence of being part of an alliance in which an attack on one member is considered an attack on all members, she said.

However, he said, “the primary responsibility for the defense of Finland will remain with Finland.”

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