But given Finland’s extensive capabilities and practice defending its own territory, it’s unlikely, at least for now, that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Nato) will replicate defence structures on the rest of the eastern flank by stationing allied battle groups in the nation, according to officials familiar with the issue.
Nato has already established eight multinational battle groups in Poland and the Baltic nations — and more recently in Hungary, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania — to serve as a “tripwire” in the case of a Russian attack. Those battle groups will also be able to scale up to brigade size, where and when required.
There are currently no plans to deploy a Nato battle group to Finland, a Nato official said, adding that Nato’s supreme allied commander constantly assesses threats and could make that recommendation if deemed necessary. A senior US official also said Americans didn’t expect to see a battle group in Finland and that the country hasn’t made such a request.
“For years, we have developed our Nato compatibility. There is still considerable work ahead to integrate Finland’s defence as part of Nato’s common defence,” President Sauli Niinisto said at Tuesday’s accession ceremony. “The Finnish defence forces are facing new demands and challenges to which we must respond.”
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said earlier that Russia viewed Nato expansion as an encroachment on its security and that it would take countermeasures, according to the state news service Tass.
General Chris Cavoli, Nato’s supreme allied commander for Europe, is currently drafting the alliance’s regional plans, which are due to be sent to allies this month and which will spell out where countries will need to allocate forces to defend the alliance.
Finland’s military, which can deploy 280,000 troops in wartime thanks to its conscription-based system, has long trained in defending its territory against attack and already has its own combat-ready battle groups in place, the Nato official said. What’s more likely is that Finland will contribute troops to the other existing battle groups, the official added. The professional force is relatively slim.
Finland is bringing a slew of assets to the alliance. In addition to a long tradition of military intelligence with a strong understanding of Russia, the Nordic country has also invested in areas where the alliance needs to step up including artillery and munitions, the Nato official said. Still, Finland will need to invest to get its army and air force in shape to deploy abroad across the alliance, which will require logistics and sustainment forces along with training, the official added.
(With assistance from Kati Pohjanpalo.)