Finland had decided to acquire 64 fifth-generation F-35 fighter jets for its national air force from the United States before tensions escalate with Russia over Ukraine, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said on Thursday.
“Geographically, Finland is a big country. We need a fleet of aircraft that guarantees security in all our airspace. We are going to upgrade old US fighters that we had, and this decision was made before the recent escalation with Russia,” Marin said in an interview with Spanish newspaper El Pais.
Asked whether Helsinki feels threatened by Russia, the prime minister said that “it is important for Finland to have the means to protect itself.”
In December 2021, the Finnish government concluded the largest defense contract in its history with US company Lockheed Martin for the delivery of 64 F-35 fighters, adapted to the needs and weapons of Finland.
In October 2020, the US Congress was notified about a possible deal with Finland on F-35s and related weapons and equipment. Apart from the F-35s, the Finnish Defense Ministry also considered four other options, including the Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet, Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon, and Saab Gripen.
“The Government of Finland has 10 December 2021 authorized the Finnish Defence Forces Logistics Command to sign a procurement contract with the Government of the United States on Finland’s next multi-role fighter. The fighter replacing the Hornet fleet’s capability is the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II,” the cabinet said in a statement.
The deal entails the procurement of 64 F-35 fighters, various tailored weaponry, training and servicing solutions, and other related systems and maintenance services until the end of 2030.
The Finnish Defence Ministry intends to allocate about 10 billion euros ($11.2 billion) toward the contract. The fighters are expected to be delivered in the period from 2025-2030.
Later, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto emphasized that Europe should not be merely listening to Russia and NATO discussing a new security architecture for Europe, which he said was in conflict with the current order.
“We must… be careful about what is being talked about and with whom. Many Europeans have asked, and not for the first time: are we being discussed without us being included?” he said in a message on New Year’s Day.
He argued proposals that Russia gave to the United States and NATO in December to ensure that the alliance did not expand eastward or place mid-range nuclear weapons on its border were “in conflict with the European security order” and challenged Finland’s sovereignty. Finland is not part of NATO but has been one of its most active partners.
“The sovereignty of several Member States, also Sweden and Finland, has been challenged from outside the Union. This makes the EU an involved party. The EU must not settle merely with the role of a technical coordinator of sanctions,” Niinisto said.
In the past few months, the West and Ukraine have accused Russia of amassing troops near the Ukrainian border in alleged preparation for an invasion. Russia has repeatedly said that it has no intention of invading Ukraine while stressing that it has the right to move forces within its own territory.
Russia has also expressed concerns over NATO’s military activity near its borders and the ongoing military support of Ukraine, including an increase in the number of Western instructors in the breakaway Donbas region.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Moscow does not exclude that the “hysteria” around Ukraine fueled by the West is aimed at covering Kiev’s plans to sabotage the Minsk Agreements on Donbas.
- Via Sputnik News Agency
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