Country Listing

Finland Table of Contents



Finland has taken an active role in United Nations (UN) peacekeeping matters as a means of demonstrating its interest in the maintenance of international peace. Because of their unimpeachable behavior in conformity with Finland's neutral status, Finnish troops have almost invariably been welcomed as elements of UN peacekeeping forces by the parties involved in international crises. A law enacted in 1964, defining the conditions of Finnish participation, limited the maximum number of soldiers serving at any one time to 2,000. Regular troops of the Defense Forces could not be sent abroad, so the peacekeeping forces were composed of volunteer reservists, career officers, and NCOs who wished to be detached from their units to serve with UN contingents. A six-month rotation was customary, but many reservists had volunteered for repeated service. By the late 1980s, some 20,000 Finns had served in UN peacekeeping missions. Specialized instruction was provided at a permanent training site where clothing and equipment were stored for immediate availability. A stand-by force, consisting of a reserve motorized infantry battalion of approximately 700 men, could be prepared for mobilization anywhere in the world within four weeks. Its key officers could be in place much sooner. Officer training for the special requirements of UN service was conducted on a cooperative basis with other Nordic countries. Finland was responsible for training military observers; Sweden trained staff officers; Denmark, military police officers; and Norway, logistics and transportation officers.

Within a year after its admission to the UN in 1955, Finland sent a reinforced rifle company of 250 men as part of the UN Emergency Force (UNEF) based in Egypt for service in the Sinai and the Gaza Strip. In 1964 a reinforced battalion with a strength of 1,000 men was attached to the UN Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP). It was composed of five light infantry companies and a support company, armed with rifles, machine pistols, light machine guns, mortars, and bazookas. Later Finnish contingents were organized and equipped in similar fashion, with the addition of a vehicle repair unit, a field hospital, and most transport, signal, and housing requirements.

Finnish units served from 1973 to 1979 in a buffer zone between Israel and Egypt in the Suez Canal area as part of the UN Emergency Force II (UNEF II), after which the contingent was transferred to the Golan Heights between Israeli and Syrian forces as part of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF). Beginning in 1982, a Finnish battalion was assigned to serve with the UN Interim Force (UNIFIL) in southern Lebanon. As of late 1988, about 1,000 members of the Finnish armed forces were serving on peacekeeping missions. In addition to the UNIFIL battalion, they were assigned as cease-fire observers in Cyprus, along the India-Pakistan border, in the Sinai, on the Golan Heights between Israel and Syria, in the Persian Gulf, and in Afghanistan. Finland was also committed to contribute to the UN peacekeeping force to be sent to Namibia.

Data as of December 1988