|www.helsinginsanomat.fi/english||print | close window|
Parliament unwilling to downsize armed forces
Political parties want to hold on to large reserve of 350,000 troops
The extensive cost-saving measures to Finland’s conscription system suggested by the defence administration are likely to meet with stiff resistance from Parliament. These changes will not be decided on until after next April’s parliamentary elections, but already they are being lobbied over with some vigour.
The proposed reduction of the number of national servicemen and therefore also the size of the wartime military reserves is being objected to at least by the Centre Party within the government parties and the Social Democrats from the opposition camp.
The parties would prefer to hold on to the present size of the reserves with around 350,000 soldiers, even if in a wartime situation the actual number of deployable troops would be closer to 250,000.
Keeping the size of the reserves formally at its present level could postpone the plans to close down further garrisons.
According to most estimates, after four years for example the Northern Karelia Brigade in Kontiolahti would be one of the garrisons to be discontinued and wound up.
The defence administration aspires to cut significantly the expenses of the peace-time national service system and command structures in order to have more money spared for crisis capacity, in other words for weapons purchases.
The Minister of Defence will take delivery tomorrow, Tuesday, of a report by a working group led by Risto Siilasmaa on the future of the liability to military service system.
According to preliminary information, the report is not going to contain suggestions of radical changes of any kind.
While Finland is busy fine-tuning its national conscription system, elsewhere within the EU heavy-handed cost-cutting measures are being introduced to the budgets of professional armies.
It seems that in the rest of Europe the economic crisis more or less emptied the government’s purses. Nearly all of the EU countries have implemented cuts to their defence budgets or have at least informed about forthcoming cost-saving measures.
Still, even in Finland, Parliament’s unwillingness to start fiddling with the number of national servicemen or garrisons yields a false image that things would have remained unchanged for a long time.
The present strength of 350,000 troops and 11 garrisons is from this decade. Until the 1990s Finland still had more than half a million soldiers in the reserves.