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    'Russian Threat' Forces Finns to Cancel Property Deals, Beef Up Defense

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    Amid ludicrous fears of a Russian threat which is being trumpeted across Europe, the Finnish government has voiced plans to block foreigners from acquiring property in "sensitive" areas. The reason? Sneaky Russians that are buying up Finnish land to accommodate troops for a future invasion.

    A number of real estate transactions by non-residents would be canceled due to national security concerns, Finnish Defense Ministry announced. This move is a follow-up to last year's intelligence report, according to which foreigners, specifically Russians, were buying up property in "strategic" areas to use them later in a potential crisis situation.

    The report by the Finnish Intelligence Agency (Supo) warned of the risk of a foreign state (for which read Russia) using the acquired land plots to sever transport links or even house soldiers of their own.

    Finnish MP Suna Kymäläisen, who reported the cancellation of property deals to Finnish national broadcaster Yle, noted that sales of land near the Finnish-Russian border as well as key infrastructure, such as airports, will be prioritized. According to Kymäläisen, land transactions that do not appear "business-related" will come under special scrutiny. After a formal investigation, the Finnish Justice Ministry is also poised to legally ban foreigners from buying land in strategically important locations, the definition of which may also be extended.

    Furthermore, anti-Russian paranoia triggered non-aligned Finns to arm themselves. The Finnish Defense Ministry announced plans to increase the number of wartime troops from the current 230,000 to 280,000 in a nation of 5.5 million amid Russia's alleged efforts "to regain superpower status," Yle reported. In the government report, the troop boost was said to "improve the defense capabilities in the entire territory of the country."

    "Russia aims to strengthen its superpower status and has expressed the goal of a sphere-of-influence-based security regime," the report said.

    Additionally, the Finnish government also pledged to boost its annual military expenditure of 2.4 billion euros ($2.6bln) with 55 million euros ($59mln). Helsinki also plans to increase its annual military expenditure by a further 150 million euros ($160mln) starting from 2021.

    In the next decade, the Nordic country also plans to replace its aging naval fleet and its 62 Hornet fighter jets. The price of Hornet replacements is expected to land at 10 billion euros ($10.7bln), whereas the acquisition of Navy ships within the framework of the Squadron 2020 project is expected to set Finnish state coffers back 1.2 billion euros ($1.3bln), Finnish newspaper Kaleva reported. The Chairman of the Parliamentary Defense Committee, Ilkka Kanerva, called the demanding efforts of bolstering Finland's self-defense "the leap of a tiger."

    Defense Minister Jussi Niinistö also pledged extended defense cooperation with the EU, NATO and the United States and even neighboring Sweden, with which "a collective self-defense" could be established.

    In peace time, Finland has a standing strength of 16,000 troops. At present, its conscript-centered armed forces can fully mobilize over 200,000 combat troops and service personnel within four weeks, which is the largest in Scandinavia.

    Finland shares a 1,270-kilometer-long border with Russia and together with Sweden remains the only non-aligned Nordic country.

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    Tags:
    Russophobia, defense, NATO, Ilkka Kanerva, Russia, Sweden, Scandinavia, Finland
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