Researcher: Finland significantly increasing defense capabilities
In response to Russian aggression, Finland is increasing its defense capabilities and statements made by the prime minister and president show the door is still open to NATO membership, said Martin Hurt, a researcher at the International Center for Defense Studies (ICDS).
Speaking to newspaper Eesti Päevaleht, Hurt said: "Finland is modernizing its armed forces."
The country is buying new fighter aircraft, increasing cooperation between public authorities such as cyber security and strategic communications, and increasing the number of people employed in the military, he said.
Both Prime Minister Sanna Marin and President Sauli Niinistö said in New Year statements that Finland could join the NATO alliance if it chose to in the future.
"The statements from the president and the prime minister emphasize one of the principles of Finnish security policy, that Finland has the right to decide for itself whether and to which military alliance the country should apply, including applying for NATO membership," the researcher said.
"Niinistö's and Marin's statements must, of course, be seen as a response to Russia's ultimatum in recent weeks to restrict the admission of new members to NATO and the alliance's military activities on the territory of the member states."
Last month, ERR reported Finland had purchased new F-35 fight jets - some of the most expensive in the world. Estonian experts said this move was also beneficial for Estonia as it will increase regional security.
Hurt also spoke about Sweden's defense policy, saying the new development plan is significant and will increase personnel from 60,000 to 90,000 by the end of 2030.
However, he said the new government, which took office in November, has already ruled out applying for NATO membership.
"This is remarkable because in Sweden the majority in parliament actually supports an approach similar to Finland's, i.e. to leave the door open for possible accession. After the parliamentary elections in September 2022, it is possible that a new government will come to power, emphasizing NATO membership," the researcher said.
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Editor: Helen Wright