Finland is the only non-NATO EU country bordering Russia. Finland's official policy states that the 350,000 reservists with mostly ground weaponry are a sufficient deterrent. The army consists of a highly mobile field army backed up by local defence units. The army defends the national territory and its military strategy employs the use of the heavily forested terrain and numerous lakes to wear down an aggressor, instead of attempting to hold the attacking army on the frontier.
Military experts call for common defense, but are careful to avoid politics. Finland's defence budget equals about 2 billion euro or 1.4-1.6 percent of the GDP. In international comparisons the defence expenditure is around the 3rd highest in EU. The voluntary overseas service is highly popular and troops serve around the world in UN, NATO and EU missions. Homeland defence willingness stands at around 80%, one of the highest rates in Europe.
The Army is divided into four military provinces (sotilaslääni) (Southern, Western, Eastern and Northern) which bear the command responsibility for all brigade-level units and military districts. Subordinated to the military provinces, there are 19 military districts (aluetoimisto), which are responsible for carrying out conscription, training and activating of reservists and planning and executing territorial defence of their areas. Three of the military districts are called territorial military provinces (alueellinen sotilaslääni), but it is unclear what is the difference between them and usual military districts. All logistical duties of the Army are carried out by the Army Materiel Command (Maavoimien materiaalilaitos), which has one Logistics Regiment for each military province.
The Navy consists of headquarters, supporting elements and two maritime commands (meripuolustusalue): Archipelago Sea and Gulf of Finland maritime commands. These commands are brigade-level units responsible for conscript training and the integrity of Finland's territorial waters. They include both ship and coastal units.
The Air Force consists of headquarters, supporting elements and three air commands (lennosto): Satakunta, Lapland and Karelian Air Commands. They are responsible for securing the integrity of the Finnish airspace during peace and for conducting aerial warfare independently during a crisis.
In the beginning of January 2008, the Finnish Army organization was overhauled. The three Army commands and the 12 military provinces were replaced by four new operative military provinces, 3 territorial military provinces and 18 military districts. In the new system, the operative military provinces form the operative reqional headquarters, each consisting of several brigades, while the territorial military provinces and military districts conduct conscription, train and manage the reserve, found the bulk of crisis-time units, and take care of the local defence. Each military district has its civilian counterpart among the regions of Finland, which facilitates the civilian-military cooperation in total defence.
The military training of the reservists is primarily the duty of the Defence Forces, but it is assisted by the National Defence Training Association of Finland (Maanpuolustuskoulutusyhdistys). The association provides reservists with personal, squad and platoon level military training. In the training, most of the instructors are volunteers, but when Defence Forces materiel is used, the training always takes place under the direct supervision of career military personnel. In addition, the Defence Forces support the voluntary training by providing instructors and giving logistical support. On the other hand, the Defence Forces may request the association to run specialized courses for personnel placed in reserve units. From the beginning of year 2008, the legislation concerning the association will require that the chairman and the majority of the members of its board are chosen by the Finnish Council of State. The other board members are chosen by NGOs active in the national defence.
The Finnish defence forces is based on a universal male conscription. All men above 18 years of age are liable to serve either 6, 9 or 12 months. Yearly about 27,000 conscripts are trained. 80% of the males complete the service. The conscripts first receive basic training, after which they are assigned to various units for special training. Privates who are trained for tasks not requiring special skills serve for 6 months. In technically demanding tasks the time of service is 9, or in some cases 12 months. Those selected for NCO or officer training serve 12 months. At the completion of the service, the conscripts receive a reserve military rank of private, lance corporal, corporal, sergeant or second lieutenant, depending on their training and accomplishments. After their military service, the conscripts are placed in reserve until the end of their 50th or 60th living year, depending on their military rank. During their time in reserve, the reservists are liable to participate in military refresher exercises for a total of 40, 75 or 100 days, depending on their military rank. In addition, all reservists are liable for activation in a situation where the military threat against Finland has seriously increased, in full or partial mobilization or in a large-scale disaster or a virulent epidemic. The males who do not belong to the reserve may only be activated in case of full mobilization, and those rank-and-file personnel who have fulfilled 50 years of age only with a specific parliamentary decision.
Military service can be started after turning 18. The service can be delayed due to studies, work or other personal reasons until the 28th birthday. In addition to lodging, food, clothes and health care the conscripts receive between 3.8 and 9 euros per day, depending on the time they have served. The state also pays for their rent and electricity bills. If the conscripts have families, they are entitled to benefits as well. It is illegal to fire an employee due to military service or due to a refresher exercise or activation. Voluntary females in military service receive a small additional benefit, because they are expected to provide their own underwear and other personal items.
The military service consists of lessons, practical training, various cleaning and maintenance duties and field exercises. The wake-up call is usually at 6 o'clock and the day's service lasts for 12 hours, including meals and some breaks. In the evening there are a few hours of free time. Roll call is at 9 o'clock in the evening, and at 10 o'clock silence is announced, after which no noise can be made. Most weekends conscripts can leave the barracks on Friday and are expected to return by midnight on Sunday. A small force of conscripts are kept in readiness on weekends to aid civil agencies in various types of emergency situations, to guard the premises and to maintain defence in case of a sudden military emergencies. Field exercises can go on regardless of the time of day or week.
The training of conscripts is based on joukkotuotanto-principle (lit. English troop production). In this system, 80% of the conscripts train to fulfill a specific role in a specific war-time military unit. Each brigade-level unit has a responsibility of producing specified reserve units from the conscripts it has been allocated. As the reservists are discharged, they receive a specific war-time placement in the unit with which they have trained during their conscription. As the conscripts age, their unit is given new, different tasks and materiel. Typically, reservists are placed for the first five years in first-line units, then moved to military formations with less demanding tasks, while the reservists unable to serve in the unit are substituted with reservists from the reserve without specific placement. In refresher exercises, the unit is then given a new training for these duties, if the defence funding permits this.
The inhabitants of the demilitarized Åland islands are exempt from military service. By the Conscription act of 1950, they are however required to serve a time at a local institution, like the coast guard instead. However, until such service has been arranged, they are freed from service obligation. The non-military service of Åland islands has not been arranged since the introduction of the act, and there are no plans to institute it. The inhabitants of Åland islands can also volunteer for military service on the mainland. Also exempt from military service are the Jehovah's Witnesses. It is also possible to serve either weapon-free military service of 270 or 362 days or undergo a 12-month-long non-military service. Finnish law requires that men, who do not want to serve the defense of the country in any capacity (so-called total objectors) be sentenced to a prison term of 197 days. As of 1995, women were permitted to serve on a voluntary basis and pursue careers as officers.
The Finnish military ranks follow the Western usage in the officer ranks. As a Finnish peculiarity, the rank of lieutenant has three grades: 2nd lieutenant, lieutenant and senior lieutenant. The 2nd lieutenant is a reserve officer rank, active personnel beginning their service as 1st lieutenants. The basic structure of the NCO ranks is a variant of the German rank structure, but the rank system has some peculiarities due to different personnel groups. The duties carried out by NCOs in most Western armed forces are carried out by
In a case of war, most of the NCO duties would be carried out by reserve NCOs who have received their training during conscription.
The rank and file of the Finnish Defence Forces is composed of conscripts serving in the ranks of private, lance corporal and NCO student.
During the 19th century, the most important Finnish unit was the battalion-sized Guard of Finland which fought as a part of the imperial army in several of Russia's wars. The unit was founded in 1827, received the junior guard status in 1830, senior guard status in 1878 and was disbanded in 1905. During their visits in Finland in the late 19th century, the Russian emperors usually donned the uniform of the Guard of Finland. In addition to the Guard, the Finnish Cadet School was an important training establishment which educated Finnish, Swedish-speaking officers for service in both Finnish and Russian units. Numerous Finnish officers reached general rank during the Russian era.
During World War I, Finnish volunteers secretly joined the Imperial German Army to receive military training. These Finnish Jäger troops, numbering about 2,000, arrived in February 1918 in the white capital city of Vaasa and formed the core of the White Army in the Finnish Civil War. The Russian revolutions had caused the creation of Red and White Guards in Finland. On January 25, 1918 the White Guard were declared to be the official troops of the white government. This marks the formation of the armed forces of the independent Finland. After the Finnish Civil War the armed forces were organised according to the German system. In February 1919 the White Guard separated from the armed forces and became an independent organisation.
Finland fought the Soviet Union in two separate wars (Winter War and Continuation War) and Germany (Lapland War) during World War II. Peace terms in the Continuation War included disbanding the White Guard.
The terms of the Paris Peace Treaty, imposed after the Continuation War limited the strength of the Finnish Army to 34,400 men, the Navy to 4,500 men and the maximum displacement of naval ships to 10,000 tonnes. The Air Force was limited to 3,000 men and 60 combat aircraft. Also certain weapons such as guided missiles, submarines, proximity mines, torpedo boats, bombers with internal bomb racks and any weapons of German origin were forbidden. In the 1960s, Finland was allowed by United Kingdom and Soviet Union to buy "defensive" missiles. This enabled the requisition of antitank, antiaircraft and coastal defence missiles. The force strength restrictions were interpreted to mean the peace-time strength of the Defence Forces and a large reserve was trained. In the late 1980s, the mobilization strength of Finnish Defence Forces was around 700,000. After the unification of Germany in 1990, all of the restrictions, except for the ban on nuclear weapons, were unilaterally renounced by the Finnish government, led by president Mauno Koivisto.
After the second world war, the Finnish Defence Forces relied largely on war-time material. The defence spending was minimal until the early 1960s. During the peak of the Cold War, the Finnish government made a conscious effort to increase defence capability. This resulted in the commissioning of several new weapons systems and strengthening the defence of Finnish Lapland by establishing new garrisons there. From 1968 onwards, the Finnish government adopted the doctrine of territorial defence, which require the use of large land areas to slow down and wear out a potential aggressor. The doctrine was complemented by the concept of total defence which calls for the use of society's all resources for national defence in case of a crisis. One of the aims of the new doctrines was to prevent a strategic strike which Soviet Union employed successfully to topple the government of Czechoslovakia in 1968. During 1970s and 1980s, the Defence Forces capabilities were developed from this basis. In an all-out confrontation between the two major blocs, Finnish objective would have been to prevent any military incursions inside the borders and, in this way, to keep Finland outside the war.
The collapse of Soviet Union in 1991 did not annihilate the military threat perceived by the government, but the nature of the threat has changed. While the concept of total, territorial defence was not dropped, the military planning has moved towards the capability to prevent and frustrate a strategic attack toward the vital regions of the country.
Finland has taken part in peacekeeping operations since 1956 (the number of Finnish peacekeepers who have served since 1956 amounts to 43,000). In 2003 over a thousand Finnish peacekeepers were involved in peacekeeping operations, including UN and NATO led missions. According to the Finnish law the maximum simultaneous strength of the peacekeeping forces is limited to 2,000 soldiers.
Since 1996 the Pori Brigade has trained parts of the Finnish Rapid Deployment Force (FRDF), which can take part in international crisis management/peacekeeping operations at short notice. The Nyland/Uusimaa Brigade has started training the Amphibious Task Unit (ATU) in recent years, a joint Swedish-Finnish international task unit.
Finnish participation and number of personnel in peacekeeping operations as of 2008:
The Finnish military doctrine is based on the concept of total defence. The term total means that all sectors of the government and economy are involved in the defence planning. In principle, each ministry has the responsibility for planning its operations during a crisis. There are no special emergency authorities, such as the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) or Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations. Instead, each authority regularly trains for crises and has been allocated a combination of normal and emergency powers it needs to keep functioning in any conceivable situation. In a war, all resources of the society may be diverted to serve the national survival. The legal basis for such measures is found in the Readiness Act and in the State of Defence Act, which would come into force through a parliamentary decision in a case of a crisis.
The main objective of the doctrine is to establish and maintain a military force capable of deterring any potential aggressor from using Finnish territory or applying military pressure against Finland. To accomplish this, the defence is organised on the doctrine of territorial defence. The stated main principles of the territorial defence are
The defence planning is organised to counteract three threat situations:
In all cases, the national objective is to keep the vital areas, especially the capital area in Finnish possession. In other areas, the size of the country is used to delay and wear down the invader, until the enemy may be defeated in an area of Finnish choosing. The Army carries most of the responsibility for this task. The war-time army is combined of
The army units are mostly composed of reservists, the career soldiers manning the command and specialty positions.
The role of the Navy is to repel all attacks carried out against Finnish coasts and to safeguard the territorial integrity during peace time and the "gray" phase of the conflict. The maritime defence relies on combined use of coastal artillery, missile systems and naval mines to wear down the attacker. The Air Force is used to deny the invader the air superiority and to protect most important troops and objects of national importance in conjunction with the ground-based air defence. As the readiness of the Air Force and the Navy is high even during the peace-time, the career personnel have a much more visible role in the war-time duties of these defence branches.
The Border Guard has the responsibility for border security in all situations. During a war, it will contribute to the national defence partially integrated into the army, its total mobilized strength being some 11,600 troops. One of the projected uses for the Border Guard is guerrilla warfare in areas temporarily occupied by enemy.