Russia transfers military equipment to Finland

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Unverified footage appears to show defensive missiles being pushed along a road leading to the Finnish capital, Helsinki.

Russia has moved military equipment including missile systems towards its border with Finland, according to an unconfirmed video.

Unverified footage appears to show defensive missiles being pushed along a road leading to the Finnish capital, Helsinki.

The apparent escalation comes after Moscow warned Finland against joining NATO, with the traditionally neutral country saying it was considering progress to join the bloc.

Given that Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine was largely linked to his ambitions to join NATO, Russia’s move to bring weapons closer to its border with Finland could be an important step.

Finland is preparing to make a potentially historic decision “before midsummer” on whether to apply to join NATO as a deterrent against Russian aggression.

The Scandinavian country of 5.5 million people was militarily impartial, in part to avoid provoking its eastern neighbor, with which it shares a 1,300 km (830 mi) border.

But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24 saw public support for joining NATO double from 30 to 60 percent, according to a series of opinion polls.

“Don’t underestimate the ability of Finns to make quick decisions when the world changes,” former Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Staub told AFP.

A longtime NATO advocate himself, Stubb now believes Finland’s application for membership is a “imposed outcome” as Finns reassess their relationship with their neighbours.

Next week, a government-mandated national security review will be presented to Parliament, the Eduskunta, to help Finnish MPs make their decision, before putting it to a vote.

“We will have very careful discussions, but we will not take more time than we need,” Prime Minister Sanna Marin told a news conference on Friday.

“I think we’ll finish the discussion before midsummer,” she added. “I think the request will be made sometime in May” in time for the NATO summit in June in Madrid, Staub said.

Finland declared its independence in 1917 after 150 years of Russian rule, only for its vastly outnumbered army to fight the attempted Soviet invasion during World War II, inflicting heavy losses on the Red Army.

The hostilities ended with a peace agreement that saw Finland cede several border areas to the Soviet Union.

Finnish leaders agreed to remain neutral during the Cold War in exchange for guarantees from Moscow that it would not invade.

It was the country’s obligatory neutrality to please its more powerful neighbor that coined the term “Finnish”.

Finland has remained outside the transatlantic military alliance and, despite some post-Cold War cuts, has focused on maintaining well-funded defense and preparedness capabilities.

“We are able to mobilize 280,000 to 300,000 men and women in a matter of days,” Stabb said, adding that 900,000 reserves could also be called up.

The Finnish government agreed last week to increase defense spending by 40 percent by 2026, to boost the country’s standing.

“We have come a long way when it comes to our security policies, and they have worked so far,” said Center Party MP Jonas Konta.

Like the majority of his fellow parliamentarians, the 32-year-old used to think NATO membership was “something we don’t need at the moment”.

But the Russian invasion “changed something in Europe in a way that could never be changed again,” he told AFP, and Konta recently declared that he now believed it was time to seek to join the alliance.

A number of MPs have also recently announced similar changes of opinion regarding the Finnish “NATO question” – although many others are keeping their positions to themselves pending more detailed discussions.

Only six of the 200 Finnish parliamentarians in a recent poll by public radio Yle publicly expressed anti-NATO views, including Markus Mostajarvi of Finland’s Left Alliance and the Swedish non-alignment “bringing stability to the whole of Northern Europe,” he said. MP from Lapland told AFP.

Mostgarvey questions whether NATO’s Article 5 commitment to mutual defense would provide real protection in the event of an attack.

Instead, he cites Finland’s own defensive capabilities, which are “so strong that they will force Russia to consider the price to pay for the attack.”

Despite receiving “all kinds of comments” from the public and fellow MPs about his position, Mostgarvey insists he has “thought about it until the end and so far I see no reason to change my position”.

Since the Russian attack, the Finnish leadership has held an intense series of talks to solicit the opinion of other NATO countries about a possible membership bid.

Along with neighboring Sweden, Finland has received general assurances from Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg that the door to the alliance remains open, as well as expressions of support from several members including the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Turkey.

But the bid to join NATO is likely to be seen as a provocation by the Kremlin, which views the expansion of the US-led coalition on its borders as a major security complaint.

Finland’s president, Sauli Niinistö, warned that Russia’s response could be “on the surprising side,” including airspace, territorial violations and mixed attacks.

The Kremlin has vowed to “rebalance the situation” should Finland join NATO.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto acknowledged that Russia could seek to destabilize the membership bid during the “grey zone” between demand and ratification by all 30 NATO countries, which could take from four months to a year.

“Finland has always tried to stay out of the gray area,” Stubb said, but he believes Finland has the ability to withstand potential Russian aggression or mixed attacks.

Originally Posted as Russia ‘sees transfer of military equipment towards Finland after warning the country against joining NATO’

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