Russia’s threat to Finland is predicated on Finland’s potential for joining NATO, due to Putin’s concern of Western encroachment.
It is almost certain that Russia will use information and cyber warfare against Finland if it submits a NATO membership application or a referendum is held over NATO membership. Moreover, it is highly likely that the Kremlin will revitalise disinformation campaigns denouncing the Finnish Government and disputing Finnish independence. Furthermore, it is unlikely that Russia will begin a military offensive against Finland.
Key Judgement 1: In the next 24 months, it is almost certain that Russia will use information and cyber warfare against Finland if a referendum is held over NATO membership or Finland submits a NATO membership application.
- State-sponsored Russian hackers and information operatives have previously targeted elections and referendums in Western countries to benefit Russian interests.
- In February 2022, a Finnish citizens initiative supporting a referendum on joining NATO achieved the necessary 50,000 signatures to trigger a parliamentary debate.
- 53% of Finns now support NATO accession, and it has been reported that Sweden and Finland have agreed to simultaneously submit NATO membership applications as soon as mid-May 2022.
- As the technology is the most important sector of the Finnish economy, with services and operations forming over 50% of all exports, cyber-attacks against the Finnish technology sector would be an effective means of coercion.
Key Judgement 2: In the next 24 months, it is highly likely that Russia will revitalise a disinformation campaign that disputes the legality of Finland’s independence and denounces their government if Russia believe Finland are likely to join NATO.
- Finnish society is still divided over the civil war following their independence from the Soviet Union in 1917, with a poll in 2018 showing 68% of Finns believing the civil war still divides Finnish society. Russian information campaigns typically attempt to utilise and worsen social divisions to benefit Russian interests.
- In 2016, Russia promoted propaganda through Kremlin-funded media outlets on television and online that disputed the legality of Finland’s independence, suggesting that Lenin’s government had no right to grant independence.
- Also in 2016, Russian media denounced Finnish authorities as being Russophobic in their social services’ approach toward Russian children, stating they are “cold-blooded”.
Key Judgement 3: In the next 24 months, it is unlikely that Russia will launch an invasion against Finland.
- Russian officials have warned Finland and Sweden of “military and political consequences” if they attempt to join NATO.
- Russian forces heavily outnumber Finland’s military capacity, with Finland estimated to have 317,000 total military personnel compared to Russia’s 1,350,000.
- Finland shares a 1300 km land border with Russia, making Finland particularly vulnerable to a combined ground and air offensive. Moreover, Russia’s Baltic Fleet has the capacity launch a supporting naval assault.
- Despite Finland signing a Memorandum of Understanding with NATO (2014), guaranteeing military support in times of crisis, the current war in Ukraine has indicated that NATO is unwilling to militarily assist non-member states.
- Finland military doctrine is formulated around the model of Total Defence, requiring all sectors of Finnish society participate in defence planning and action in the event of invasion.
- Finland’s conscription model, allowing them to quickly call up nearly 1,000,000 trained soldiers, moreover, its well-armed citizenry will significantly frustrate any attempted invasion.
- Russian forces are currently occupied in Ukraine and have suffered major losses in personnel and equipment. Further military action would therefore not be viable.
Intelligence cut-off date: 6th of May 2022