The Foreign Affairs Committee of the Finnish Parliament on Wednesday called attention to the increase of Russian military surveillance and movements in the Gulf of Finland and the Baltic Sea. The Russians are using new submarines and other equipment. The increase in energy transport in the Baltic is seen as a key factor in the setup.
The Baltic Sea and the eastern end of the Gulf of Finland are attaining an increasingly strategic position in the view of the committee.
The main reason is that Russia is increasing the use of its oil terminals on the far end of the Gulf of Finland, and plans to build a gas pipeline from the end of the Gulf of Finland through the Baltic Sea all the way to Germany.
The Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE) reported on Wednesday that Russia plans to nearly double its exports of oil through the Primorsk oil terminal at the eastern end of the Gulf of Finland. YLE attributes the move to disputes that Russia has with Belarus on the price and transport of oil. Increased use of the Primorsk oil terminal would make Russian exports to the west less dependent on a pipeline running through Belarus.
The committee's cautionary observations are part of a statement approved on Wednesday on the government's report of activities.
Similar observations on military movements were made by the Future Committee in an extensive Russia report completed a couple of weeks ago.
The conclusion drawn by the Future Committee was that the Finnish Border Guard and police should be prepared for a proposal from Russia for common exercises in case of a possible terror threat.
The Foreign Affairs Committee does not put forward any clear conclusions on what Finland should do because of the increased military movements. It simply observes that it has previously emphasised that it is important to prepare for "repulsing new threats" in the Baltic.
Concrete proposals include better teaching of the Russian language at Finnish schools, and upgrading knowledge about Russia and increased cooperation.
In the view of the committee, Finland needs to have a "clear and realistic" bilateral Russia policy, in addition to a common EU policy.
A resolute Russia strategy would "sharpen policy and clarify a positive attitude toward the neighbour", the committee feels. It proposes that the Russia strategy should be taken into the programme of the government that takes office after the next elections. The Future Committee wants to see the same, calling its proposal a Russia policy programme.