Warships, F-35s, Drones: Finland Prepares To Become Russia's NATO Neighbor

Finland is bolstering its military with warships, F-35s and drones, in preparation for becoming Russia's NATO neighbor.

Finland and fellow Nordic nation Sweden are seeking to join the military alliance imminently, in what would mark a major policy shift for the countries following Russia's decision to invade Ukraine in February.

Amid Russian warnings of "serious political consequences" should the countries join NATO, Finland's armed forces chief General Timo Kivinen told Reuters that the country is prepared to fight Russia if attacked. Finland and Russia share an 800-mile border.

Finnish President Sauli Niinistö
Finnish President Sauli Niinistö (front L) and Chief of Defence Timo Pekka Kivinen (front R) review soldiers and other military personnel who stand lined up as they arrive during a national parade at Senate Square (Senaatintori) in Helsinki on June 4, 2022 as the country celebrates the Flag Day of the Finnish Defence Forces. ALESSANDRO RAMPAZZO/AFP/Getty Images

The nation has ordered four new warships and 64 F-35 fighter jets from U.S. aerospace, arms, defense, information security, and technology company Lockheed Martin. Finland also plans to purchase as many as 2,000 drones and a high altitude anti-aircraft equipment, according to Reuters.

Kivinen has said Finns would be motivated to fight should Russia attack.

"The most important line of defense is between one's ears, as the war in Ukraine proves at the moment," he said.

On April 5, Finland announced that it would increase its defense spending by €2.2 billion ($2.4bn) over the next four years—including by €788 million next year, and then by €408 million a year until 2026. The figure marks a roughly a 70 percent increase to the previous defense budget, Newsweek previously reported.

Global Fire Power, a military analysis website, estimates that Finland currently has 23,000 active military personnel, 900,000 reserves and 200 tanks.

"We have systematically developed our military defense precisely for this type of warfare that is being waged there [in Ukraine], with a massive use of firepower, armored forces and also airforces," Kivinen said.

"Ukraine has been a tough bite to chew [for Russia] and so would be Finland," he added.

The Kremlin has said it will respond to Finland's NATO bid.

"Russia will be forced to take retaliatory steps, both of a military-technical and other nature, in order to stop threats to its national security arising," Russia's foreign ministry said.

Finland began discussions over applying for NATO membership after Putin's invasion of Ukraine began in February. Joining the military alliance after decades of military non-alignment would mark a major change in Finland's security policy and a dramatic shift in Europe's security landscape.

NATO leaders are set to meet later this month in Madrid, where Sweden and Finland's NATO applications are expected to be discussed.

Newsweek has contacted Russia's foreign ministry for comment.