Finland says it is ready for war with Russia

Helsinki.- In February, just a few weeks before Russia attacked Ukraine, President Sauli Niinisto of Finland sent a message to Russia about the high price of invading his country.

“Everyone understands that there is a threshold, if you try to come to Finland uninvited, it is very expensive,” Niinisto, who has a reputation for speaking bluntly with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, said in an interview at the Presidential Palace. .

Putin knows “from history that Finns are very stubborn, and we have a lot of Sisu,” he added, translating the Finnish word as having “twice as much guts.”

On Thursday, Niinisto announced that Finland is in favor of quickly applying for NATO membership. But for decades, his country has made it clear that it will not back down from a fight put up by Russia.

Finland knows firsthand the feeling of Russian aggression. In 1939 and 1940, she fought fierce battles against Russian soldiers in what is known as the Winter War. The Finns eventually lost and gave up some of their territory, but their ability to temporarily contain the Soviet Union became a central point of Finnish pride.

Now, Finland is well armed, having recently bought 64 F-35 fighter jets from the United States. His compatibility with NATO and US defense systems has reinforced his warnings to Russia that it might join NATO. Plans are also in place to protect Helsinki, the capital, if need be by planting mines in shipping lanes, blowing up bridges and speeding up those planes to destroy roads.

Finland’s 180,000-strong army is arguably the most powerful in the northern Baltic region, and about 80 percent of the population say they are willing to take up arms if necessary.

Essentially since World War II ended, the Finns have been preparing for the next invasion. While other countries stopped requiring men to undergo military training after the Cold War, Helsinki kept up the practice and refrained from its neighbors’ defense budget cuts in the 1990s and 2000s. About a third of adults Some 900,000 people are trained members of its military reserves, the Finnish Civil Defence. As part of their training, some men go into the woods and take part in war game exercises, including learning how to shoot down phantom Russian planes.

The country has at least six months of emergency reserves of all major fuels and strategic grain reserves. Pharmaceutical companies are required to keep months of drugs in reserve. Buildings in the country are equipped with bomb shelters. Those without access to shelters can make use of car garages and ice skating rinks.

Petri Toivonen, secretary general of the Finnish Security Committee Secretariat, recently said in an email that Finland has a “long tradition of preparedness.” The country periodically tests alarms and has “continuously built shelters,” he said, accommodating some 4 million people in some 50,000 shelters.

The Finns are less proud of their Cold War policy, later known as Finnishization, a shorthand for staying out of NATO and giving the Soviets political autonomy to survive.

“Having strong military forces,” Niinisto said in February, is critical “if something happens.”

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