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Finland steps up military preparedness as tension mounts over Ukraine

Finland, which is not a NATO member and has a long border and difficult history with Russia, did not provide any details on how its military preparedness has evolved.

“The readiness (of the Finnish Defense Forces) has improved due to the fact that the situation in neighboring areas has become more unstable,” said Colonel Petteri Kajanmaa, head of the war department at the University of Finnish national defence, referring to the Baltic Sea. Region.

Kajanmaa, speaking on behalf of the armed forces, said the instability in the Baltic Sea region stems from Russia’s unpredictability.

“They (the Russians) have made their goals clear but we don’t know what steps they are ready to take,” he said.

Russia has massed tens of thousands of troops near Ukraine but denies planning to attack its neighbor. NATO has responded by deploying around 4,000 troops in multinational battalions in the Baltics and Poland and is considering adding more.

Kajanmaa declined to elaborate on what actions Finland is taking, but said improved preparedness generally meant gathering more intelligence, briefing state leaders more often and moving assets such as planes and ships to new locations.

“That way they can monitor more efficiently and have a faster reaction time,” Kajanmaa said.

The Finnish Defense Forces were also making themselves visible by openly saying where they were training, he said.

Finland’s armed forces announced on Monday that extensive drills would take place in Helsinki and the region around the capital this week and next.

Finland is not under any military threat, but the defense forces still need to be prepared for any potential action, Kajanmaa said.

“The more military action there is, even if it was just an innocent move, the greater the risk of something happening, someone overreacting or misunderstanding and we have to be prepared to all of that,” he said.

The Finnish Security and Intelligence Service said it has seen an increase in foreign intelligence activities targeting Finland.

“A subject of increased interest is Finland’s relationship with the NATO military alliance,” deputy director Teemu Turunen told Reuters, adding that the subject was of particular interest to the services. Russian intelligence.

Finland cooperates with NATO but is not a member of the Western military alliance and is not negotiating to join – a position set out by Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto to Reuters two weeks ago. This message was repeated last week by Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin.

(Reporting by Essi Lehto in Helsinki, editing by Anne Kauranen and Timothy Heritage)

By Essi Lehto