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As Finland joins NATO, recall Russia’s military expansion in anticipation

In the news –

On 4 April 2023, Finland formally joined NATO. Its flag was unfurled outside the military bloc’s Brussels headquarters, in a historic policy shift brought on by the Ukraine conflict. Finland’s accession, ending seven decades of military non-alignment, roughly doubles the length of the border the North Atlantic Treaty Organization shares with Russia and bolsters its eastern flank.

The Kremlin said Russia would be forced to take “counter-measures.” Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said Finland’s accession raised the risk of the Ukraine conflict escalating further.

In dropping non-alignment, Shoigu said, Finland was committing a dangerous historical mistake that would fray relations with Moscow and undo its status as a confidence-building presence in the Baltic Sea and Europe at large. “This is now a thing of the past. Finland has become one of the small members of (NATO) that doesn’t decide anything, losing its special voice in international affairs. We are sure that history will judge this hasty step,” a ministry statement said.

Russia said on Monday it would strengthen its military capacity in its west and northwest in response to Finland joining NATO.

Russia’s Plan to Build Up Troops in Anticipation

In December 2022, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu proposed a number of measures to strengthen the security of the Russian Federation, including creating a special grouping of troops on the country’s northwestern border and expanding Russia’s armed forces to amount to 1.5 million servicemen in total, with some 695,000 of them being contract soldiers.

In January 2023, Shoigu hosted a session with the deputy defence ministers, branch commanders-in-chief, and commanders on the implementation of the Russian President’s decision to build up the Armed Forces to 1.5 million troops. Shoigu added Putin decided to build up the Armed Forces for the provision of military security of the country, the protection of the new regions and crucial facilities of the Russian Federation…”

Large-scale changes of the Armed Forces structure, increase in their strength, amendment of military administrative structure of the Russian Federation to be introduced in 2023¬2026 will require all the deputy defence ministers, branch commanders-in-chief, commanders of military districts, the Northern Fleet, and arms to take relevant appropriate decisions.

The main emphasis is to be placed on manning troops (forces) with contracted personnel. It is also necessary to organise timely provision of units and formations with armament, military and special hardware, as well as other materiel, raise the number of training grounds in the military districts and new regions of the Russian Federation.

The expansion will see “two new inter-branch strategic territorial formations” in the Moscow and Leningrad military districts, “as well as self-contained groups of forces in the new regions of the Russian Federation,” Shoigu said, referring to the Ukrainian territories of Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhya.

Additionally, Russia will reorganize seven motorized rifle brigades in the western, central, and eastern military districts, the northern fleet, and include “three motorized rifle divisions as part of the land forces, and two airborne assault divisions as part of the airborne troops.”

Russia Won’t Sit Idly by after Finland and Sweden Join NATO

New Corps for Border With Finland Russia announced large scale changes to it’s military, including creation of an army corps for the border with Finland. Shoigu said that Moscow would “form an army corps in the Republic of Karelia”.

Excerpts by Nicholas Lokker and Heli Hautala, from War on The Rocks:

When Finland and Sweden applied for NATO membership last spring, Russia’s reaction was negative. The Kremlin made its position clear years ago: there will be consequences from Finnish and Swedish NATO membership. Finnish president Sauli Niinistö offered one illustration of Russia’s approach in an interview in February 2022, recalling Vladimir Putin’s warning from 2016:

“When we look across the border now, we see a Finn on the other side. If Finland joins NATO, we will see an enemy.

With Finland and Sweden in NATO, Russia’s northwestern flank becomes more vulnerable. Its border with the alliance will then extend from the Arctic Ocean to the Baltic Sea, which will become almost entirely ringed by NATO countries. Concerningly for Moscow, alliance territory will expand near the strategically important Kola Peninsula in the north and move closer to Russia’s second-largest city of St. Petersburg, located on the Baltic Sea coast. Russia may suspect that the alliance will concentrate more military resources along the lengthy Finnish-Russian border.

The increased exposure of Russia’s military assets on the Kola Peninsulais particularly relevant to Russia’s threat perception. Lying just east of northern Norway and Finland, the Kola Peninsula is of central importance to Russia’s national security.

Already, we are seeing signs of a Russian response. Russian politicians and senior officials have long threatened to take “appropriate military-technical measures” if Finland and Sweden tried to join NATO. In December 2022, and again in mid-January, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu indicated the types of changes that may be underway. Reforms planned for 2023-2026 will include the creation of an army corps in the Republic of Karelia near the border with Finland as well as the re-establishment of the Moscow and Leningrad military districts through the dissolution of the current Western military district.

Ezekiel 38 (extract)
Thus says the Lord God; behold I AM against you Gog the prince of Rosh (Russia) Meshech (Moscow) and Tubal (Tobolsk) – the Western and Eastern Capitols of the U.S.S.R. (now called the C.I.S.): I will turn you back (from seeking peace) and put hooks into your jaws (hunger), and I will bring you forth, with all your armed forces and Persia, Ethiopia, Libya, Gomer, Togarmah and ALL the earth with them against My people Israel (Britain and the British Commonwealth; America; Scandinavia; the Netherlands; the Baltic States; Northern France; Northern Spain and the Jews) to the lands of unwalled villages (walls of untempered mortar) without bars or gates (no defences because of defence cuts after the “so-called” peace dividend), when they (the politicians – foolish prophets) say peace, peace and there was NO peace.