MS Risk Blog

Finland and Sweden’s Total Defence

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Finland and Sweden have been improving and developing the defensive capabilities for the last few years. It is clear that they are worried about a Russian attack against their countries. The fear has risen in recent years after Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014. While both have increased their military budget they are also focusing on creating alliances with other countries; this has been made more complicated because Finland and Sweden both pride themselves on their neutrality and are not a part of NATO. They are only two countries not in NATO in the Baltic area leaving the defence of their country against Russia in their own hands.

As one of the bordering countries with Russia, Finland is worried about invasion. There fears are not unfounded Russia and Finland have fought four wars this century. In the winter war of 1938-40 and continuation war 1941-44 led to the loss of territory for Finland. The capital Helsinki is very close to the border and with much of the natural defences gone from the territory loss Finland has long been aware of its vulnerabilities and as such has never really slowed down their combat capability like Sweden did. They have planned something called deep defence. This is an agreement with Sweden allowing Finland to use and, presumably, fight from Swedish military bases. This is a big step as they had a similar deal of cooperation before the Second World War and Sweden hesitated allowing the Russians to attack Finland with impunity; additionally if this action is taken it ensures a Russian attack on Sweden. Finland may be looking for other allies it can call on if they come under attack. As a result Finland has talked about joining NATO but there is considerable push back as people fear that it will cause Russia to invade. While this is being debated it is highly likely that the country will take more steps towards ingratiating themselves with other countries so they can call on them in the time of need.

While Sweden doesn’t share a border with Russia they are only separated by the Baltic Sea. In 2014 Sweden accused Russia of hiding a submarine in the waters of Stockholm. In the aftermath Sweden permanently stationed troops on the island of Gotland located in the Baltic Sea. In 2017 they set up the defence commission. The commission is set to release a report in 2019 about how to create a “Total Defence” that made use of all of Sweden to repel invaders. The Commission released an early report when they said that they would need reinforcements from other countries to help them. This has led to Sweden allowing NATO forces to train in the country has participated in more NATO exercises. They have also made moves towards the US with 1,000 US troops joining Swedish troops on their largest exercise in 25 years and focused on the defence of Gotland. The defence plan has led Sweden into increasing the military budget. The initial report said that 4 billion would need to be spent on defence. Sweden also reintroduced the draft for men and women in 2017. Like Finland, Sweden is looking to create partnerships to help them in the defence of their country. This will be hard to do as they pride themselves on there neutrality, which is what caused them to refuse membership to the NATO in the first place.

While military is an important part of the “Total Defence” the commission focuses on all areas of life as well. But it has also focused on other areas, during the cold war Sweden nuclear bunkers for civilian use and they have been looking at getting them usable again allowing civilians to survive and fight back. Recently Sweden released pamphlets that they issued during the cold war which described what to do in the case of a crisis and threat of war. The pamphlet has information what to do in an air-raid shelter and what belongings Swedes should pack in case of timely departures (ID, clothing and gas masks). Citizens will also be informed on what the government’s response to a national crisis will be. Finally, the pamphlet will also give advice on how to handle false information and propaganda. A newer factor is Cyber warfare something that has been well utilised by the Russians affiliated groups in recent years. With Sweden being a technologically advanced country a lot of day to day life is dependent on electricity to function. A hit against their power supply like the one Estonia suffered could be debilitating especially if done during the cold winter months. For this the commission has looked to Finland which has the one of the best cyber security in the world. This total defence is Sweden’s best answer to the possibility of Russian invasion and it seems willing to put in the money to do so.

The commission hopes Sweden will hold out for three months and a week. They assessed that the Swedish army would need a week to mobilise, it would then take three months for partners to join the war. This means that Sweden knows its survival is dependent on another country coming in and helping them. This mean that the Swedes will ask for help against Russia and many countries will have to decide whether to fight Russia or not.