In the weeks leading up to February 24th, 2014, Russia conducted large-scale military exercises on the border with Ukraine.
While NATO focused on that diversion, Russian intelligence services assembled a collective designed for hybrid warfare to facilitate an invasion of Crimea: ethnic Russians in the Crimea, Serbian militias, Chechen soldiers, the Night Wolves motorcycle club, Russian private military companies, and Russian regulars.
This ragtag force was later dubbed the “Little Green Men”—perhaps a reference to their green fatigues without any markings—or as Putin interestingly called them, “Polite People.” Crimea was practically overtaken by little green men, without firing a shot.
After the conflict, the Finnish Defence Forces, which have a rather unpleasant past with Russia, decided they needed to prepare for a hybrid war.
In a scenario where green men show up, nearly all countries would employ its special operations forces (SOF) elements. However, in most Northern European countries, the numbers just aren’t there. Even in Finland, home of the SOF Utti Jaeger Regiment—also referred to as Erikoisjääkarit, or “Special Jaeger”—doesn’t have those numbers. Finland can mobilize around 280,000 soldiers, including reserves, creating Northern Europe’s largest army, bar Russia. But it takes approximately four weeks to do so.
However, according to Finnish military blogger Robin Häggblom, aka Corporal Frisk, the number Finland can assemble in total lies at a dizzying 900,000—from a population of only five million. This is because of “readiness units”, or Valmiusyksitöt. Largely consisting of conscripts and led by professional soldiers, readiness units can mobilize within minutes of an alert in several places around the country.
Readiness units training consist of the following disciplines:
- Several weapon systems, including anti-tank weapons
- Communication and electronic warfare equipment
- Nighttime operations
- Field medicine
- Close quarter combat
- Close protection
- Helicopter infiltration and exfiltration
While the airborne capability of these readiness units is hailed by experts, it’s the adaptation of armored elements from other units that showcase potent capability. In a North 2018 exercise, the public caught the first glimpse of this capability. The video shows CV90s, APCs, Leopard tanks, and combined arms fire.
Finland also changed its laws in 2017 to better combat the little green men. Häggblom states in his blog that: “Finnish law does allow for the use of serving conscripts for live missions, provided that they have adequate training for the mission at hand (this in itself constitutes a reinterpretation of earlier laws which took place post-Crimea).”
Since most conscripts only serve the minimum required six months, and training starts in January and July, gaps exist when there aren’t enough conscripts. Readiness units have a required combat training time of 347 days.
While the readiness units sit at the top end of the counter hybrid spectrum, the low end is filled by the local defence forces: Maakuntajoukot and Paikallisjoukot. Häggblam argues that:
“While the local forces take a longer time to mobilize than the readiness units and feature older and lighter equipment, they provide geographical coverage throughout the country (with the exception of the Åland Islands) and enough firepower to be able to quickly take up the fight with any enemy forces suddenly appearing behind the lines, and thus buy time until the cavalry arrives (which could very well be a readiness unit).”
This gives Finland exceptional coverage in an event of a hybrid attack. While its Nordic neighbors Sweden and Norway focus on smaller peacekeeping structures, Finland adapted to the threat of its neighbor to the east.”
They demonstrated this earlier in 2019, when NEWSREP reported about the creation of “drone militias” and the paramilitary Finish Border Guard, which in peacetime comes under the Interior Ministry, but in wartime reports to the Defence Ministry. Finland also surpassed most nations on earth, including the United States, by implementing a national artificial intelligence strategy.
Last year’s opening of The European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats was unsurprisingly headquartered in Helsinki, Finland. Its history and culture make citizens of this nation truly the Kings of the North when countering what was known as a “quickly escalating crisis” in hybrid warfare.