According to former Finnish police inspector Antti Valtanen, in peril of modern hybrid warfare, it is the police and not the military who would take the first hit — and in both Finland and Estonia there may not be sufficient police forces for this.
Finland took special interest in the building up of Estonia’s border guard and police forces upon the regained independence of the latter as they understood that the Baltic Sea alone would not keep any problems at bay if Estonians were not prepared for the issue. The same challenge is once again on the agenda today, said specialists celebrating 25 years of Finnish-Estonian internal defense cooperation on Tuesday.
Lt. Gen. Hannu Ahonen, commander of the Finnish Border Guard, received a gun named after him as a gift from Estonia in 1999. Without the Finns, the building up of Estonia’s border guard would have taken much longer, found those involved in said work, reported ETV’s news broadcast “Aktuaalne kaamera.”
“They understood that guarding a border is two-sided and if they could not handle it on the southern shores of the Gulf of Finland then there would be problems,” said Henn Karits, former logistics commander of Estonia’s border patrol.
In the early 1990s, following the disappearance of the Iron Curtain previously separating the Baltic countries from their Nordic neighbors, the Finnish Ministry of the Interior decided against increasing their internal security budget in favor of dedicating resources to the building up of Estonia’s own internal security. Along the way, Estonians were included in Finland’s plans, taken to the Finnish-Russian border and taught.
“It was believed in Finland at the time that in the interests of both Finns and Estonians, the situation along the new state border separating Estonia from Russia must be under maximum control and that the Baltic Sea must remain as calm as possible,” recalled Maj. Gen. Ilkka Laitinen, deputy chief of the Finnish Border Guard.
Western Finnish police were stationed in Kuressaare in the early 1990s and Lääne County police spent time in Finland. Veteran former Finnish police inspector Antti Valtanen, who learned the Estonian language while in Saaremaa, believed that in the peril of modern hybrid warfare, it would be the police and not the military to receive the first blow, and that there may not be enough police forces on either side of the Gulf of Finland to handle it.
“Now there is talk of those little green men who are not military,” said Valtanen. “And if such men appear either for you or for us, then it is initially the job of the police [to respond]; it is not the military’s job. If the military’s help is needed, then it will be [a matter of] cooperation, but this would be led by the police. And if this happens on a larger scale, then I believe that we may be in trouble.”
Laitinen stated that the Baltic neighbors’ cooperation would occur in a crisis today just as it would have 25 years ago, although Estonia belongs to NATO and Finland doesn’t.
“Finland and Estonia — we are both members of the EU and the securing of the EU’s external borders is established in EU law,” he said. “As far as cooperation on the operational level goes, the EU has laid the foundations for this as well. The EU is currently the common denominator.”
Finnish police and border guard chiefs were in Tallinn on Tuesday attending a seminar organized by the Finnish Embassy in Tallinn.
Editor: Editor: Aili Vahtla