Ahead of Independence Day

Declined support for armed defense strikes alarm

06 Dec 2018, 02:19

  DF-Xinhua Report

Photo Hanne Salonen / Eduskunta

A parliamentary debate on Finns' attitude on the national defense was arranged at short notice on Wednesday, on the eve of the Independence Day.

Finland observes on Thursday the national independence recollecting the declaration of independence from Russia in 1917.

Continued strong support for national defense has been part of the core message of the Independence Day for decades, but a fresh research report indicating a sudden drop in the pro-defense attitudes created an unexpected framework for 2018.

While last year, 72 percent of the Finns had backed the view that Finland should be "defended militarily even if the outcome looked uncertain", the figure for 2018 was 66 percent. A much larger decline was noted among young people.

Addressing the parliamentary debate on defense attitude Wednesday, Defence Minister Jussi Niinistö said the "result must be taken seriously".

He also made a political remark saying the drop in the national poll was largest among those who support the Green Party.

Matti Pesu, a researcher at the Finnish Institute for International Affairs, told national broadcaster Yle Wednesday that the decline in supporting armed defense would on the long term impair the credibility of the Finnish security policy.

"Credibility does not depend only on the weaponry, but also on the motivation of the people," he added.

Pesu said that the legitimacy of the present conscription based defense is not self-evident. "The willingness to defend the country does not form in a social isolation," he said, noting that the way "young people see the society and their future position in it" matters.

In Finland, military service between six months and a year is compulsory to all men and there is a voluntary service for women. Men can choose a civilian service based on conscience objection grounds.

In the latest poll, some form of selective service gained in support, but 74 percent of the people still supported the current universal male conscription.

Ilkka Kanerva, chairman of the parliamentary defense committee, said that the emergence of new threats may have undermined the image of military defense. Today the climate change, cyber threats and hybrid influencing are also seen as menaces. "The actual military threat may have been forgotten," he said.

Krista Mikkonen, a member of parliament from the Green Party, said the positive vistas of young people should be taken care of. Mikkonen also noted the different treatment of men and women seems odd to young people today as the society is otherwise based on equality.