Finnish Defence Minister announces €300 million investment in Lapland defence

By Hannah Thule, The Independent Barents Observer - May 30, 2024
Finnish Defence Minister Antti Häkkänen visits military exercise Northern Forest 24 in Rovajärvi on Wednesday, May 29. Photo: Ministry of Defence

During his visit to military exercise Northern Forest 24 in Rovajärvi, Minister Häkkänen underscored the importance of allied military exercises in Arctic conditions, and told of investments in Finnish defence and infrastructure in Lapland.

On Wednesday, May 29, Finland’s Defence Minister Antti Häkkänen visited the ongoing  international brigade level military exercise, Northern Forest 24, where Finnish, U.S. and Norwegian soldiers train together.

The exercise takes place on May 26-31 in the forests of Rovajärvi between Sodankylä and Kemijärvi.

In his opening speech, Defence Minister Häkkänen underscored the importance of allied military exercises in Lapland.

“What determines the success of defending the northern region is the experience and regional knowledge of the troops operating there. Naturally, this is achieved only by regularly training in these challenging conditions.” Häkkänen said.

Lapin Kansa reports that Defence Minister Häkkänen said nearly 300 million euros will be invested in the defense in Lapland during the current electoral term. For instance there will be investments in enhancing the operational capability of garrisons, in increased training exercises, as well as the concentration of F-35 fighters and the air force to Rovaniemi.

Häkkänen also mentioned ongoing plans of transportation and logistics routes in Lapland, which are carried out in collaboration with the Ministry of Transport. Critical initiatives mentioned are Highway 21 and major rail projects.

Highway 21 is 459 kilometers long and runs parallel to the border of Sweden and Finland between Tornio, located at the northern end of the Gulf of Bothnia, and Kilpisjärvi, located in the far northwestern part of Finland close to the border of Norway and Sweden.

The NATO Military Committee, including Chair of the Committee Admiral Rob Bauer, also had the opportunity to participate in the visit to Rovajärvi on Wednesday, to observe the operations of the Finnish Defence Forces in practice.

The NATO Military Committee gathered for the first time in Finland from May 27–29, 2024. During the meeting in Lapland topics such as Finland’s geostrategic position, defence strategy, the model of comprehensive security and defence, and Finland’s role as a member of the Alliance, were covered.

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