Ukraine War, Friday the 13th edition: Putin gets Finland to apply for NATO membership, Sweden likely to follow; “negativity is only good in PCR tests”

(A) I need to start a Wile E. Coyote award for the most spectacularly backfiring plan.

One of the “justifications” Put[a]in and his puttanescas have put forward for the invasion of Ukraine was the threat of NATO expansion into the latter, too close to Russia’s heartland and in territory that Russia used to rule.

Now the same invasion has caused hitherto anxiously neutral Finland to apply for NATO membership, “almost certainly to be followed by Sweden”. Yes, the same Finland that used to be the Archduchy of Finland in the Tsarist Empire until 1918 independence. And the border of which is just 90 minutes by train to the heart of Russia’s 2nd city and former capital, St. Petersburg.

Screenshot from

Finland’s military does not just meet NATO standards, but in many ways exceeds them [paywalled; cached copy].

Finland might have been neutral for decades, but it owes its existence as an independent nation to its mastery of asymmetric warfare and, in particular, arctic combat.

Independent since 1917, Finland and its modern attitude to war were forged during the Soviet invasion of 1939, dubbed the Winter War.

Some 400,000 Soviet troops poured across the border into a country of just 3.5 million people. The Red Army brought with it 2,500 tanks, while the Finns had just 32 obsolete Renault FTs.

Yet rather than succumbing to the red tide, the Finnish Army made use of the advantage of fighting on home turf and turned the Soviet’s lack of experience in winter warfare to its advantage.

[…] As in Ukraine, long Soviet columns were restricted to roads and unable to disperse when Finnish troops emerged from the woods to strike them.

The road-bound Soviet forces were encircled and chopped into manageable chunks, which could be taken out systematically. The Finns dubbed this motti, the Finnish for a block of wood.

Armed with Molotov cocktails (first coined by the Finns during this war) and explosives, these highly mobile troops targeted weak spots in Russian tanks and armoured vehicles to disable or destroy them, taking out more than 350 tanks.

[…] Finland paid a high price for its survival, losing nine per cent of its national territory, including the Karelian Isthmus, as well as 70,000 casualties. It would also face a renewed Soviet invasion in 1941 […]

The country learnt a vital lesson, however. […W]ith the Soviet threat ever-present, Finland would make itself so difficult to digest as to be not worth invading at all.

Almost a third of the Finnish population is a reservist, giving it nearly a million trained people to draw on. Its air force can scatter and operate from remote roads, while plans are in place to blow up bridges and mine shipping lanes.

Civilian society is also prepared to survive a crisis, with everything from banks to the media having a plan and thousands of bomb shelters scattered among civilian buildings.

Moreover, the country learnt from Russia’s use of “hybrid” warfare in Crimea and eastern Ukraine in 2014. In response, it set up special “readiness units” in which newly trained conscripts serve for six months.

They have additional training in advanced small unit tactics, helicopter insertion/extraction, urban combat and anti-tank warfare and operating alongside armour, making them able to respond to any incursion at speed and buy time for a full mobilisation.

While Finland may be turning to Nato for added protection, it brings with it decades of experience standing up to the Russian threat.

If this were just a high-stakes massive online strategy game in which nobody gets killed or wounded in realspace, I would be egging on Putin to try and invade Finland, just to watch him get clown-slapped by the Finns — and for the latter to take back Karelia and Viipuri/Vyborg. But this is a real, grim war, and I can only hope for the sake of Finns and Russians alike that not even Putin is crazy enough to try and refight the Winter War.

(B) One of Mrs. Arbel’s aphorisms/“one-liners”:

”Negativity is only good in PCR tests”.

4 thoughts on “Ukraine War, Friday the 13th edition: Putin gets Finland to apply for NATO membership, Sweden likely to follow; “negativity is only good in PCR tests”

  1. There are, apparently, a significant number of Finish volunteers fighting in Ukraine.

    Although (according to a twitter thread I read but have now lost) they were initially critical of some of the Ukrainian military practices I imagine they are busily learning the drone warfare ones and thinking about how to apply that at home.

    I really cannot see an invasion of Finland going well for the Russians and, at least when I was in Finland 30+ years ago, there were significant numbers who wanted to retrieve Karelia from (then) Soviet rule. So if the Russians did invade I cannot imagine Finland stopping just at the border

    • In the hypothetical event, one might expect Finland as in 1941 to advance to the pre-1940 border, then having reclaimed the land Stalin extracted by force, stop.

      Practically speaking, Russia’s conventional forces are already grossly overstretched by their Ukraine folly. This is probably about as safe a moment for Finland and Sweden to declare intent to join NATO as they’ll get.

      And kudos to Britain for recognizing and addressing with immediate bilateral alliances the gap of non-conventional vulnerability between declaration and formal approval. (Britain notably being a nuclear power.)

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