HELSINKI — Finland has refuted any possibility that the currently unaligned Nordic state will consider hosting nuclear weapons on its territory once a member nation of NATO.
The rebuttal comes as Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s government presented new proposals to reinforce the country’s 830 mile (1,340 km) border with Russia.
Underlining the need to retain “good neighbor relations” with Russia, Sauli Niinistö, Finland’s president and commander-in-chief of the Finnish Armed Forces (FAF), said that siting nuclear weapons on its territory was never intimated or discussed as a pre-condition for Finnish membership in the alliance.
“Finland has no intention of allowing nuclear weapons to be located on its territory. There are no indicators that any NATO-nation is offering nuclear arms to Finland,” Niinistö said.
Some 28 member states have so far issued individual declarations that they believe Finland and Sweden qualify for membership of the alliance and have a right to NATO support under Article 5.
The prospect of nuclear weapons being located in Finland post NATO membership is “nonsensical”, said Mika Aaltola, Director of the Helsinki-based Finnish Institute of International Affairs (Ulkopoliittinen Instituutti).
“No nuclear weapons will be brought to Finland. Neither NATO nor Finland have such aspirations. The doctrines of the United States and other member countries do not include any offer of nuclear weapons to Finland. Moreover Finland has no desire to place nuclear weapons on its soil,” said Aaltola.
Like Finland, Sweden has equally made it clear it is not prepared to enter in to preconditions on nuclear weapons ahead of NATO membership.
“We won’t be making any preconditions. Sweden has the exact same approach as Finland as regards the issue of siting nuclear weapons in our countries. Naturally we embrace all of NATO’s capabilities on nuclear weapons, but on positioning Sweden and Finland share the same conclusions and are on the same page,” said Ulf Kristersson, Sweden’s Prime Minister.
Finland, in advance of its pending membership of NATO, has mapped out plans to spend around $2 billion by 2025 to reinforce security along its extensive border with Russia. The defense budget will be expanded to include new border-security strengthening projects, the acquisition of new surveillance aircraft, the expansion of the Border Guard and the wider use of drones, security surveillance robots and electronic sensor technologies.
In the first stage, $150 million in funding has been earmarked to build sensor-supported fencing along parts of Finland’s Eastern border with Russia in 2023. The spending, which forms part of a range of new measures by Finland to fend off hybrid threats emanating from Russia, has been incorporated in to the Border Guard’s budget for 2023.
The Border Guard is currently building a two-mile “test fence,” costing $6.2 million, along a section of its eastern border with Russia. Ultimately, the border security enhancement plan is expected to result in the construction of up to 200 miles of new sensor-supported fencing along Finland’s border with Russia.
The Border Guard’s elevated budget for 2023 includes plans to upgrade its Air-Patrol Squadron (APS). One area of investment is to replace the Border Guard’s two Dornier 228 German-manufactured turboprop surveillance aircraft, introduced in 1995, with two new manned multipurpose aircraft.
The government has allocated the Border Guard a $170 million budget to procure two new surveillance aircraft. A procurement contract is expected to be concluded in 2023, and deployment of the aircraft is envisioned for 2026. The switch to jet propulsion will enable the Border Guard’s APS to operate the aircraft for longer periods and patrol larger areas.
The new multirole aircraft will be equipped with advanced radar and camera systems, radio interceptors and jammers rendering the planes capable of engaging in signals intelligence, said Maj. Kenneth Rosenqvist, the surveillance aircraft project’s procurement director.
“The security environment has changed rapidly due to the current war situation in Ukraine. We have a much higher need to improve our capabilities,” said Rosenqvist.
The Finnish government has allocated $1.7 billion to the military for defense materiel procurements in 2023. This represents a $800 million increase compared to the defense equipment procurement budget for 2022.
Gerard O'Dwyer is the Scandinavian affairs correspondent for Defense News.