With the visit of US Defense Secretary James Mattis just behind it, the Finish government, which is staring the Russian army right in the eye from its borders and wants to make a strong stance to rebuff the Kremlin’s military might, is now calling for large US military exercises to be held in its territory in the coming months.
Together with its Scandinavian partner Sweden, the both countries’ strategic location next to Russia (Finland’s has a direct 833-mile border with the country.) have made them very attractive defense partners for NATO, and both have been building ever closer ties with Washington because of this.
Mr Jim Townsend, the former U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for European and NATO policy, said: “We tried for years to get a US Secretary of Defense to go to Northern Group meetings. Mattis in Helsinki is a sign that it’s now worthy to do so, mostly because of the Russians.”
Finland wants to assemble its largest military exercise in years, modeled on Sweden’s recent “Aurora” drills that concluded in September. According to the Finnish army command, next year some 20,000 troops, including 1,500 US army member will take part in the Scandinavian biggest military exercise.
Finland Defense Minister Jussi Niinisto said: “The exercise in Finland is planned to broadly gather conscripts, reservists, and soldiers to practice together with our main partners like Sweden, the United States, and other countries.”
“If there’s a crisis, it will be good for us to practice receiving help.”
Seeing the recent Zapad War Games by the Russian army (the joint strategic military exercise of the armed forces of the Russian Federation and Belarus) as well as the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2015 has made the Finnish government very aware that it needs to step up its military readiness in case the Red Army is ever at its doorstep.