Should Finland become a NATO member, the country would probably have to station troops in the Baltics and participate in policing the Baltic airspace, Janne Kuusela, head of the defense policy department of the Finnish Ministry of Defense, said.
“I hold it very likely that Finland will be expected to contribute to Enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) and Baltic Air Policing in some form,” Kuusela told Yle.
NATO countries take turns guarding the Baltic airspace because Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania lack fighter aircraft.
Estonia’s Minister of Defense Kalle Laanet would like to see Finland’s new fighter jets guarding the Baltic airspace.
“Finland’s recent decision to procure 64 new F-35 fighters is important. It would make sense for them to also fly in the Baltic airspace when necessary,” Laanet told the Finnish public broadcaster.
NATO decided to boost military presence on the alliance’s eastern flank after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, with the Baltics hosting various member states’ troops.
Commander of the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) Lt. Gen. Martin Herem told Svenska Yle last week that Finland could lend a hand primarily at sea and in the air.
Kuusela said that Finland’s exact role will become clear when it joins NATO and its defense plans.
Defending the Baltics makes for a sensitive subject in Finland. Kuusela described as mistaken the notion that as a NATO member, Finland would have to assume a major responsibility in defending the Baltic countries.
“I do not believe Finland would be expected to defend another country in case of war. The starting point is seeing to Finland’s own defense first and lending aid insofar as we are capable of doing so,” the policy chief said.
Laanet said that Estonia does not expect Finland to take over its defense. “As far as I’m aware, there are no such hopes in Estonia. It is more important to work inside the same cooperation network, have the same planning and training structure,” the Estonian defense minister offered.
He added that Finland and Sweden joining NATO would boost security in the entire Baltic Sea region.
The two countries have been actively mulling joining NATO recently, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.