On Monday, US Air Force fighters began to take part in Finnish Air Force aviation exercises. These Cross Border Training exercises will last until the 20th of May.
According to the Finnish TV and radio company, Yle, eight US fighters from Oregon arrived at the Rissala airbase on Friday. US Air Force planes had previously participated in aircraft exercises in Finland’s airspace. This will however be the first time that US fighters will depart from the Finnish airport.
The participation of the US Air Force in these exercises has drawn mixed reactions from the public. Activists of the Friends of the World movement have said that they plan to protest at the Rissala airbase in support of the preservation of Finland’s neutrality.
“We are aware of the possible protest and are preparing for this event. We are cooperating with the police and we hope that the demonstration will be a peaceful one,” the Chief of Staff of the airbase, Joni Mahonen, reported.
The Chairman of the Finnish Parliamentary Defense Committee, Ilkka Kanerva, had previously said that the exercises will be implemented based on an agreement with NATO, even though Finland is not a member of the Alliance. The decision to proceed with these exercises was made by the Commission on Foreign and Security Policy under the guidance of the Finnish President, Sauli Niinistö.
According to the chairman of this commission, the participation of America in these exercises suggests that they are interested in the activities of Europe. “This interest may be caused by the increased activities of Russia,” Kanerva said.
US troops are also taking part in the ground force exercises which began on the 2nd of May in the Finnish town of Niinisalo. These exercises, which will last until the 13th of May, involve 2300 Finnish soldiers, 185 Americans as well as hundreds of units of military equipment. These units include Stryker armored vehicles used by the American units.
Colonel Pekka Purtonen, second-in-command of the operation, had previously said that America’s participation is an important part of the training of the soldiers, the reservists and the service personnel of the Armed Forces of Finland. He also assured local citizens that they are unlikely to see US troops on the streets. “We have a very tight schedule and the troops’ actions are limited to the training area,” Purtonen said.