Finland is no military nor economic powerhouse

In an opinion piece for the Globe and Mail newspaper in Canada, a prominent academic claimed that "Finland doesn't fear the growling Russian bear next door":

Despite their proximity to Russia, most Finns do not actually fear it. With a population of only 5.5 million, Finland has 350,00 [sic] army reservists and one of the highest levels of military spending in Europe.

Finland has "one of the highest levels of military spending in Europe"?  This appears to be terribly wrong.

According to the benchmark SIPRI Military Expenditure Database, here are current levels of military spending by country in Europe (2013 is the latest year available):

In fact, among the major countries in Europe, Finland has one of the lowest levels of military spending.  Denmark, Portugal, Switzerland, and Belgium each outspend Finland by wide margins.

In 2013, Russia's military budget was 2,600 percent larger than Finland's.  In constant dollar terms, Finland's military expenditures are currently lower than they were a decade ago, while Russia's have more than doubled over the same time frame.

Over the past two decades, Russia has spent US $1.05 trillion (2011 constant dollars) on its military.  Finland?  Just US $66 billion.

As for claims that Finland has a "vibrant, democratic, and functional economy," real GDP growth was negative in Finland during 2012, 2013, and 2014 (Russia outperformed it by a substantial margin).  Finland's unemployment rate and level of government debt remain much higher than Russia's.  Per capita GDP in Finland is going backwards – down almost four percent in inflation-adjusted terms since 2011, eight percent lower than it was in 2008, and effectively unchanged from where it stood a decade ago in 2005.

Russia already had a powerful military legacy that survived the end of the Cold War, and despite any claims to the contrary, it has been engaged in a massive military rebuilding effort since the late 1990s.  While Russia's economy is certainly hurting, the Finnish economy is nothing to be proud of – as evidenced by its recent credit downgrade, causing it to be labeled as "one of northern Europe's weakest economies."  If the Finns aren't afraid of the Russian military bear, they should be.

In an opinion piece for the Globe and Mail newspaper in Canada, a prominent academic claimed that "Finland doesn't fear the growling Russian bear next door":

Despite their proximity to Russia, most Finns do not actually fear it. With a population of only 5.5 million, Finland has 350,00 [sic] army reservists and one of the highest levels of military spending in Europe.

Finland has "one of the highest levels of military spending in Europe"?  This appears to be terribly wrong.

According to the benchmark SIPRI Military Expenditure Database, here are current levels of military spending by country in Europe (2013 is the latest year available):

In fact, among the major countries in Europe, Finland has one of the lowest levels of military spending.  Denmark, Portugal, Switzerland, and Belgium each outspend Finland by wide margins.

In 2013, Russia's military budget was 2,600 percent larger than Finland's.  In constant dollar terms, Finland's military expenditures are currently lower than they were a decade ago, while Russia's have more than doubled over the same time frame.

Over the past two decades, Russia has spent US $1.05 trillion (2011 constant dollars) on its military.  Finland?  Just US $66 billion.

As for claims that Finland has a "vibrant, democratic, and functional economy," real GDP growth was negative in Finland during 2012, 2013, and 2014 (Russia outperformed it by a substantial margin).  Finland's unemployment rate and level of government debt remain much higher than Russia's.  Per capita GDP in Finland is going backwards – down almost four percent in inflation-adjusted terms since 2011, eight percent lower than it was in 2008, and effectively unchanged from where it stood a decade ago in 2005.

Russia already had a powerful military legacy that survived the end of the Cold War, and despite any claims to the contrary, it has been engaged in a massive military rebuilding effort since the late 1990s.  While Russia's economy is certainly hurting, the Finnish economy is nothing to be proud of – as evidenced by its recent credit downgrade, causing it to be labeled as "one of northern Europe's weakest economies."  If the Finns aren't afraid of the Russian military bear, they should be.