Finnish Friday

As I’m catching up on my journal article reading I came across this piece from a 2008 issue of the Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence titled:  Finland’s Military Intelligence in War and Peace by Jukka Rislakki.

As I’ve bemoaned often here, there just isn’t much in English about Finnish history generally or military/intelligence history specifically.  Why should we care about Finnish history?  Well, other than the fact that Mr. TwShiloh’s mother-in-law is Finnish, the country found itself in some interesting and complicated positions over the past century.  The author sketches the evolution of Finnish military intelligence from its civil war in 1918 to the 1970s.

While the article isn’t perfect (one gets the sence that he jumps around chronologically but the reader can’t be sure) there are some fascinating pieces of information here.  It’s easy to forget that small countries sandwiched between great powers or coaltions have to try to assess and understand threats with a fraction of the resources available to major powers.

That forces small nations like Finland to innovate and form partnerships.  In the 1920s and 1930s, Finland began working with Lativa and Estonia (what was going on with Lithuania, one wonders) and then, later, with Poland (which must have been awkward once Germany invaded that nation).  Sweden also became a separate partner as well.

Finland made great strides in the field of SIGINT (specifically, radio intercepts) and was able to get to a point where they could intercept and deceipher Soviet transmissions in a few hours.  This led to Finnish battlefield commanders getting intelligence based on those radio intercepts within four hours of their original transmission.

The Finns were so proficient in radio intercepts that they “were able to imitate the Russian signals and have supplies meant for Russians dropped into their own positions.”*

Also interesting was this:

Finnish intelligence financed its operation through trade and gifts.  The largest sums came from the Japanese intelligence agency Kempeitai in return for the breaking of the Russian codes in 1940 and 1944.

As the Continuation War drew to a close, Finnish intelligence agencies (and individual agents) became nervous at the thought of approaching Soviet forces and began Operation Stella Polaris or the effort to transfer the core of the Finnish military intelligence to Sweden.  How official the operation was isn’t discribed by the author but some Finns were returned and others fended for themselves.

The “Stellists” assured themselves of a secure future by selling intelligence secrets in 1944-1945 to the Americans, British, Swedes, French, and Japanese (who passed them on to the Germans and the Soviets)…

Really quite interesting and its biggest flaw is that it leaves the reader knowing that he’s only gotten the most superficial treatment of the subject.

*Which reminds me of one of my favorite ‘war stories’.  In the late 1980s I was a junior enlisted man stationed in West Germany on maneuvers.  My job was in a Brigade Tatical Operations Center (TOC) as an intelligence specialist.  It was my responsiblity to take intelligence information furnished by our infantry and armor battalions, update our situation map (SITMAP), and brief our commander with the enemy situation.  For some unremembered reason I was flipping through the radio frequencies when I stumbled upon an ‘enemy’ platoon (actually another American platoon playing the role of the Soviets) tranmitting information to their higher headquarters.  Taking advantage of being at the right place at the right time, I pretended to be the headquaters unit and directed them to switch to a different radio frequency (to prevent them from talking to their ‘real’ headquarters unit) and then directed them to a part of the battlefield far away from our forces.  They eventually caught on but for a number of hours they were out of the fight.


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