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Finland Vows to Uphold Own Defenses Amid Cuts as Conflicts Ease

Finland’s government said cuts to its defense forces won’t hamper the country’s ability to defend itself as the likelihood of an extensive military conflict has lessened.

“International networking and closer cooperation are a priority,” Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen said at a briefing in Helsinki today after the government published its security and defense policy report. “Finland’s borders and sovereignty will be defended and a strong domestic defensive ability will be upheld.”

Finland, together with neighboring Sweden, isn’t a part of any military alliance. It shares a 1,340 kilometer (833 miles) border with Russia after fighting wars against the Soviet Union in 1939-1940 and 1940-1944. Norway and Denmark, as well as the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, are members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Finland is shuttering garrisons as its aging population and technological improvements mean fewer recruits need training each year. The cuts will also help reduce its budget deficit.

Finland retains the option of seeking NATO membership, even as the government isn’t preparing an application, the report said. The government has engaged in training and exercises within NATO’s Partnership for Peace program since 1994. Its defense forces’ equipment is increasingly compatible with the bloc’s, as it has participated in NATO-led peace-keeping missions.

UN Missions

Finland has taken part in United Nations’ peace keeping missions since 1956 and currently has 177 troops in Lebanon and 141 in Afghanistan, according to the defense forces’ website.

Its conscription-based defense forces will have war-time reserves of 230,000 troops by 2015 to defend a population of 5.4 million and Europe’s fifth-biggest land mass, about the size of Germany’s, according to the CIA Factbook. The report, published approximately every three to four years, sets out the guidelines for Finnish security policy.

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