Finland’s next government will have to grapple with the difficult decision of appropriating additional funds to update Finland’s aging defence armaments. This added funding will mean that the money will have to be cut from other national priorities, said Minister of Defence Carl Haglund in a television interview Saturday morning.
“As it is, the public sector will be confronting major adjustments in the future, so this will be a hard nut to crack. The money must partially be raised via savings, because we can’t count on a rapid influx of tax revenue. We also cannot expect to take more loans. Government negotiation over this will be tough, and I think it is a good thing to give people a heads-up already at this stage,” the minister said.
Haglund stresses that the acquisitions must nonetheless be made in order to maintain Finland’s defence capability.
“There is no other option”
“We have carried out Defence Forces reform, and it brought the savings we were looking for, but it has led to a situation in which the lemon has been squeezed dry. In the long term we will need a new supply of materiel to replace aging equipment. If we fail to do this, Finnish defence will no longer be credible,” Haglund said.
An even bigger investment is ahead as well: renewal of the air defence system and replacement of the existing Hornet fleet. A feasibility study is underway at the Defence Ministry to identify the available options. It will be released in May 2015.
“In my judgment, there is no other option beyond new fighters if we wish to maintain a credible defence. We need to work from the premise that it must be taken care of. Of course we also have to face the fact that it will be a very expensive endeavor.”
Swedish submarine scare
Haglund was also asked about the recent military mobilization in Sweden. Finland’s Minister of Defence says the unresolved underwater search should not be considered a loss of face.
“On the contrary, (the events in Sweden) demonstrate how tense the situation is here in the North, mainly due to the crisis in Ukraine,” he said.
Swedish Defence Forces called off the large-scale search off the coast of Stockholm on Friday after a week-long intelligence operation. Although officials said they were trying to pinpoint “foreign underwater activity”, the media speculated that the vessel in question must have been a Russian submarine.
“You can be sure that people will be talking about this for a long time, even if no definitive or water-tight evidence was found at this juncture,” said Haglund.