HELSINKI — Finland’s 2024 defense budget is primed to include funds meant to strengthen the country’s 830-mile-long border with Russia as well as replenish military equipment and weapons supplied to Ukraine over the last two years.
The budget, which is on course to be ratified by the end of October, puts defense spending at about €6.2 billion (U.S. $6.6 billion) — a nearly 5% rise from 2023. The Defence Ministry approved the draft budget with amendments in September.
The expected budget increases Finland’s defense spending to 2.3% of its gross domestic product, lifting it above NATO’s 2% goal for member states.
A border-reinforcement plan embedded in the 2024 budget includes the construction of 125 miles of so-called smart fencing supported by advanced sensors and drones operated by the Finnish Border Guard. The smart fence, erected at strategic points along the Finnish-Russian border, costs between $400 million and $500 million.
The budget also includes a $272 million reimbursement to the ministry to cover the cost of replacing military equipment and weapons donated to Ukraine. The formalized budget will provide the Finnish military with $1.6 billion to spend on materiel procurement in 2024.
Finnish Defence Minister Antti Häkkänen described the budget increase as “fundamental to national security and enhancing defense capability.”
“We cannot ignore how the war instigated by Russia has changed the security landscape in our Nordic region and in the wider neighborhood. The world around Finland is becoming an increasingly dangerous place. Despite Finland’s economic challenges, we are now part of NATO and with membership comes added costs and responsibilities,” Häkkänen said.
Although Russia’s defense-industrial base is in overdrive and the country is expanding its military bases along Finland’s border, Häkkänen said the government does not feel under threat.
Russia’s Alakurtti base, which is east of the Finnish border region of Lapland, houses the Russian Army’s arctic motor rifle brigade. And construction efforts at the Petrozavodsk base, south of Alakurtti, include work on a large military storage site and new buildings to house tanks, armored transport vehicles and mobile artillery pieces.
Based on Finnish Army intelligence, movements to and from Petrozavodsk suggest the base is being used as a regional depot to deliver equipment to Russian front-line motorized brigade forces attacking Ukraine.
“Russia repeatedly warned us that it would strengthen its near-border bases if Finland joined NATO. We are not surprised by these activities. Our intelligence is that these new structural works at military bases are part of normal Russian operations. We do not believe they pose a threat,” Häkkänen said.
Finland spent about $3.87 billion on defense in 2020, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which cites the figures in current prices, converted at the exchange rate for the given year.
The next year, Finland spent about $3.8 billion on defense, followed by $4.8 in 2022, the Swedish think tank reported. Its 2023 defense budget was about $6.3 billion.
Gerard O’Dwyer is the Scandinavian affairs correspondent for Defense News.