Finland Table of Contents
An essential ingredient in Finnish strategic planning was to establish the perception that the nation had the will and the capability to defend its territorial integrity if conflict broke out. To avoid giving the Soviet Union a pretext for intervention, Finland considered it vital to demonstrate to Moscow that it could fully meet its obligations under the FCMA treaty. Similarly, Finland needed to convince Norway, together with its NATO partners and Sweden, that Finnish territory would not be used as a base for threatening them militarily. The primary task, therefore, was to maintain a credible force for repelling a limited conventional attack upon the country during the course of a wider conflict.
Finland's traditional policy was to defend the entire country. It believed that its level of military preparedness rendered unlikely the success of an airborne surprise attack against administrative centers and other key areas. It planned to take advantage of its relatively large underpopulated expanses and of the special terrain conditions to pursue a strategy of defense in depth in order to frustrate an invader. Total defeat of an enemy was not expected. The Finns hoped to demonstrate that any effort to secure their territory as a base for military operations elsewhere would not be profitable compared to the time and sacrifices involved. Despite Finland's small population, military planners assumed an enemy would have most of its forces employed elsewhere and would be able to use only some of its military assets against Finland; hence, the country's limited aims could be achieved. The primary burden for thwarting an attack directed through Finnish territory would fall upon the army.
The heightened strategic significance of the far northern regions of Europe since the 1960s has accentuated the importance of Lapland's defenses. In the late 1980s, first-line Finnish troops were being specially equipped to take advantage of the harsh conditions of terrain, climate, and winter darkness encountered there. Peacetime force deployment in Lapland had been reinforced during the 1980s with the goal of stationing half of Finland's interceptor aircraft and nearly one-third of its ground forces there. This deployment was considered compatible with the force strengths in northern Sweden and in northern Norway.
Reacting to hints by the Soviets that the threat of cruise missiles fired from United States submarines or from West European bases justified joint defensive measures, Finnish leaders have strongly underscored their determination to act on their own to resist intrusion of Finnish air space in any form. Although advanced radar, fire control, and surface-to-air missile systems were being acquired, the Soviet embassy in Helsinki asserted in mid-1988 that Finland and Sweden must do still more to improve their air defenses.
Finland's mobilization system was characterized by a flexibility that enabled the degree of preparedness to be stepped up as required to meet a particular crisis situation or threat. The first forces called up for mobilization would be the Fast Deployment Forces, consisting of the most mobile and powerful army elements, together with almost all navy, air force, Frontier Guard (Rajavartiolaitos--RVL) units, and assorted local forces. The Fast Deployment Forces would be able to reach peak strength-- about 250,000 men, 130,000 of whom would be ground forces--in two to three days. The Fast Deployment Forces (also called Protective Forces) would have as their chief duty a protecting or covering mission that would allow the total mobilization in seven days of 700,000 men, including 500,000 ground forces.
Finnish military doctrine divided forces into general forces, local forces, and support forces once full mobilization was achieved. General forces were the best and most powerfully equipped units of all the services, and the elements most suited for decisive massed attacks. In the late 1980s, these forces were estimated at about 250,000 men. In addition to the professional cadre, local forces consisted of older reservists. It was projected that they, being less heavily armed, would be used in guerrilla operations, often behind the lines in areas overrun by the enemy. When needed, local forces could combine with general forces for intense battles against a weakened and encircled enemy. Support forces assisted the other forces with logistics, supplies, and other requirements.
During peacetime, standing ground, sea, and air forces, in keeping with Finland's neutral posture, were not concentrated against any single potential threat but were deployed to deal with invasion from any direction. Defense was predicated on rapid mobilization of the country's general forces and on their rapid deployment to active fronts. Rather than a static defense, for which resources were insufficient, a strategy of maneuver was contemplated. A powerful frontal attack would be met by a "deep zone" defense, taking fullest advantage of geographical features and climatic conditions. Tactics of delay and attrition would be employed to prevent an aggressor from reaching vital areas. As the attacker's lines of communication lengthened, concentrated counterattacks would be launched under conditions favoring the more lightly armed Finnish units. In areas seized by the invader, local forces would continue to conduct guerrilla-type operations, such as ambushes, limited raids on the enemy's supply lines, mining of roads, and strikes against logistics centers. In the 1980s, military planners modified this flexible defense somewhat, concluding that certain areas were so vital to the country's survival that they were to be held at all costs. Defense of southern Finland and Helsinki, the Aland Islands, and Lapland was to be so intense that they would never be ceded in their entirety to enemy control.
The local defense forces and the RVL would be expected to operate as self-contained units carrying out peripheral attacks in relative isolation. The object would be to sap the strength of the aggressor as he moved deeper into the country, denying the use of roads, and, after combat units were cut off from supplies and reinforcements, segmenting the fighting. Local and general forces could then be brought to bear in devastating strikes against the invader. After suffering costly damage over a protracted period, the aggressor country would find it expedient to abandon its original objectives and to accept a negotiated settlement.
Finland recognized that the outbreak of general war in Europe might result in the use of nuclear weapons. A considerable effort was therefore undertaken to prepare the civilian population against the eventuality of nuclear warfare (see Civil Defense , this ch.). Finland's limited resources did not permit full preparation against nuclear warfare, however, and defense planners based their efforts on the assumption that any threat to the country would be of a conventional nature. Political measures were also undertaken to minimize the likelihood of exposure to nuclear attack. Finland's active promotion of comprehensive disarmament measures and of a Nordic Nuclear-Weapons-Free Zone (NWFZ) was premised on the belief that, if the Nordic countries had no nuclear weapons on their territories, the superpowers might refrain from including nuclear arms in their strategic plans affecting those terrotories (see Neutrality , ch. 4). The objection to such a commitment, in the view of Western defense planners, was that it would deny NATO the nuclear option in defense of Norway and Denmark while placing no restrictions on Soviet nuclear forces in the Kola Peninsula or on naval vessels in the Baltic Sea.
Data as of December 1988
Finland Table of Contents