Finland’s eastern border with Russia is around 1,300 kilometers long, which is roughly the distance between Hamburg and Rome. After decades of only simple wooden fences marking the border and the Finnish border guard being withdrawn due to austerity measures, the situation has changed.
The Finnish Defense Forces (FDF) have begun “secretly reinforcing their eastern border,” Finland’s largest newspaper Helsingin Sanomat reports. To this end, the FDF has entered into voluntary agreements with local landowners. Anyone who signs will receive 750 euros. For example, watchtowers, loudspeaker systems or fences may be built for this purpose. For each cultivated hectare there is a further 4,800 euros for the affected population.
Finland experienced Russian imperialism as early as 1939
Since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, many Finns have remembered the Winter War of 1939/1940, when the then Soviet Union tried to conquer Finnish territory. Finland initially defended itself against the Red Army, which was only able to cross the border after two months. On March 13, 1940, a peace treaty was signed in Moscow, but Finland had to cede part of its territory.
In 2015, Russia once again caused unrest in Finland. A large number of refugees from the Middle East suddenly crossed the largely unprotected eastern border. At the time, it was suspected that Russia wanted to destabilize the situation in the country. In fact, there are kilometers of exclusion zones on both sides that can only be passed with permission. But over a length of 1,340 kilometers, this is difficult to control.
Since the Russian attack on Ukraine more than a year ago, many residents have become more open to a reinforced border, the daily reports. “The attitude has become more positive. “The people have understood what these agreements are for,” military spokesman Sauli Hangistö is quoted as saying. The first section of the fence was completed over the summer near the town of Imatra. The government is providing around 350 million euros for the new border fence, which will be around 200 kilometers long and three meters high.
Finland is preparing for an “overpowering opponent”.
But the Finns are not just investing in a new border. They are now prepared for much tougher measures: “Finland already has capacities that are aimed at defending against an overwhelming enemy. In the event of war, they can practically increase their small army tenfold within a few days because they have been training reservists very consistently for decades and have the necessary equipment,” said military expert Thomas Wiegold in an interview with “ntv“.
The change at the Russian-Finnish border thus marks a paradigm shift in the attitude of Finland, which has long been neutral towards Russia. Now the country is moving into NATO, a clear signal against Vladimir Putin’s Russia.