As of 2012 Finland's defense forces consisted of 22,000 persons in uniform (16,000 army; 3,500 navy; and 2,600 air force). As recently as 2007 Finland's defense forces consisted of 35,000 persons in uniform (26,000 army; 5,000 navy; and 4,000 air force). The country's defense budget equals about 1.3% of GDP. There is universal male conscription under which all men serve from six to 12 months. As of 1995, women were permitted to serve as volunteers. A reserve force ensures that Finland can field 300,000 [as of 2012] trained military personnel in case of need.
Finland is a neutral democratic state located between the northern regions of Russia and the strategic areas of Norway and neutral Sweden. With a coastline of 700 miles and land boundaries of 1,575 miles, Finland is about the combined size of New England, New Jersey, and New York, but has a population of just under five million. The capital city of Helsinki is the northernmost capital on the European continent. By the end of the Cold War, Finland's trade was mostly with the West, principally West Germany, Sweden, Britain, the United States, and Norway. About 25 percent of her trade with the Soviet Union, though 70 percent of her energy supplies came from the Soviet Union.
From the Middle Ages until the time of Napoleon Bonaparte, Finland was part of Sweden. In 1809 she was conquered by Russia's Czar Alexander I and became an autonomous Grand Duchy within the Russian Empire. In 1917, in the midst of the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, Finland declared her independence.
In November 1939, after the Finnish government refused to make territorial concessions to the Soviet Union related to strengthening the defense of Leningrad, the Soviets attacked Finland along the entire 800 mile frontier separating the two countries. Over 600,000 well-armed Soviet troops, supported by hundreds of tanks and aircraft assaulted Finland, wearing their summer uniforms in what was expected to be a short campaign. Even as the Soviets struck Finland, however, the harshest winter in many years began to carpet the country with fresh snow. In the north the Russians faced a mobile army on skis, virtually invisible in snow-white parkas, and perfectly suited for hit-and-run tactics against the unwieldy Russian columns. The Finns knew every inch of the terrain and were quite at home in temperatures of 50 degrees below zero. The Soviets had a manpower superiority ranging to over 40 to 1, but the Finns made their invasion very costly. Even after suffering the loss of a million lives and 2,300 tanks, as well as 1,000 aircraft, the Soviets prevailed through sheer numbers. Finland was left with 25,000 dead and 55,000 wounded, but in proportion to her population, it would have been like the United States in 1940 losing 2.6 million dead in 105 days.
On March 13, 1940, Finland had to make peace with her gigantic, aggressive neighbor. Russia took Finland's second largest city, Viipuri (now Vyborg), her largest Arctic Oceanport, Petsamo (now Pechenga), and the entire Karelian Isthmus, home for 12 percent of Finland's population. Finland was forced to relinquish 22,000 square miles of territory to the Soviet Union, and about 400,000 Finns became refugees, leaving their homes rather than remaining behind to be absorbed into the expanding borders of the workers' paradise. The Finns took up arms again during World War II in which as an ally of Germany, they fought the Russians to regain their lost territory, but this effort gained them nothing. Karelia and Petsamo were lost forever. The Russians seized most of the Finnish merchant fleet and imposed $300 million in war reparations on Finland. Finland faithfully paid it all, with the last train load of reparations leaving Finland in the autumn of 1952.
A treaty of peace with the Soviet Union was signed in 1947, which limited the size of Finland's active duty forces to 41,900 troops (Army: 34,400; Navy: 4,500; and Air Force:3,000). Then, in 1948 Finland signed an Agreement of Friendship, Cooperation, and MutualAssistance with the Soviet Union, under which Finland was obligated to resist armed attacks by Germany or its allies against Finland or against the Soviet Union through Finland. Both the United States and Britain encouraged Finland to sign the 1948 treaty, viewing it as away to remove at least one potential source of tension from the rapidly growing cold war. Two years earlier Moscow had abrogated the Yalta Agreement, which called for the establishment of a democratic government in Poland, and in February 1948 there had been a communist coup in Czechoslovakia. The naval and air base on Finland's Porkkala Peninsula, 12 miles from Helsinki, was under "long term lease" to the Soviet Union, and there were Soviet troops poised outsideHelsinki. Nikita Khrushchev later wrote: "The Finns knew perfectly well that our troops stationed right outside their capital weren't there to make shashlik and go fishing."
By statesmanship and prudence, the Finnish leaders were able to convince Moscow that a neutral, Western-oriented Finland would not be used as a corridor or staging area for an attack onthe Soviet Union. At last, in 1955, the Soviet Union withdrew its forces from the Porkkala Peninsula, one of the rare instances in which the Soviet Union ever withdrew forces from occupied territory. Some observers attribute this move not so much to reasonableness and good faith on thepart of the Soviet Union as to a ploy to influence Sweden, the major Scandinavian power, and persuade her not to move closer to NATO.
In order to maintain the necessary military forces to meet her defense requirements, Finland requires conscription of all males. Annually, 90% of all eligible males are found fit for military service. While adhering to the limits imposed on its active duty forces, Finland has been able to train a military reserve force of 700,000. An additional 400,000 people are committed to civildefense operations in an emergency. Finland spends about seven percent of its annual government budget on defense. Beside some military purchases from abroad, Finland manufactures much of its own militaryequipment, such as assault rifles, anti-tank weapons, mortars, transport equipment, gunboats,mine sweepers, army radio equipment, and some of its artillery. The Finnish Air Force has madeuse of both Soviet MIGs and Swedish Drakens (some of which have been assembled in Finland). Finland also maintains stockpiles of fuel, food, fodder, and civil defense equipment, with shelters for at least two million people. Although Finland is culturally, socially, and politically western, the Finns realize they must live in peace with their giant eastern neighbor and not take any action that the Soviet Union might have interpreted as a threat to its security. It has long been United States policy to express sympathy and understanding for the particular conditions of Finnish neutrality and to encourage the Finns to be as balanced as possible in their neutrality. The US also favored maintaining and reinforcing Finland's historic cultural and economic ties with the West.
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