All fit adult males of fighting age, some 900,000 men, have been sent papers detailing conscription procedures, as concerns over Vladimir Putin’s designs on Finland deepen.
The letters come as Russia and NATO, of which Finland is not a member but cooperating ally, continue to jostle over the Baltic sea, with regular clashes in air and sea as the two power blocs attempt to assert their claims over space. Finland is unhappily caught in the middle – the only Nordic member of the Eurozone, with the economic damage that entails, but also tied closely to Russia.
Russia is Finland’s largest trading partner.
In addition to the letters, the Finnish government has also launched a public information film, shown on television, reminding adult males of their duty to defend the nation, reports The Independent. Finland, in common with many other countries that practice conscription, maintains a small standing army which in this case is less than 8,000, the size of a large brigade in some nations, in addition to giving tens of thousands of men a year basic training.
Upon reaching adulthood, roughly 30,000 young Finns begin military training, typically lasting between six and twelve months, every year. In addition to the men, 500 specially selected women also undertake training a year. Although they are released after their basic training, either into eduction or the workplace, all Finns so inducted remain on the Army reserve list, meaning a nation with a population of only five and a half million can call upon a force of nearly one million men.
Finland’s military strategy, that may be summed up as ‘defence is the best form of defence’, remains almost identical to that it deployed with remarkable success in 1939 when it was invaded by the then Soviet Union. Rather than attempting to defend the relatively open frontier, the small Finnish army retreated to the dense woodland, rendering Russia’s significant tank force into a significantly less decisive asset.
Waging a war of attrition against the invading Russian army, which had three times as many men and ten times as much equipment, including tanks and aircraft, Finland inflicted a humiliating defeat, with over 300,000 causalities to only 25,000 Finnish dead. Coming to prominence during the so-called ‘Winter War’ of 1939-40, was Finnish sniper Simo Häyhä, who killed between 500-550 Russian soldiers. Known to the Russian invaders as the “white death” for his impeccable camouflage and ability to slip away unnoticed after making his kill, Häyhä survived being shot in the face with an explosive round and died in 2002.