Two hybrid warfare-themed emergency preparedness exercises are being held simultaneously in swaths of Finland imitating a sharp international situation, where the risk of war is imminent.
The exercises Häme 17 and Pirkka 17, held from November 7-9 in Southern, Western and Inland Finland, involve 42 municipalities with a total of 800,000 inhabitants. In addition to administrations in Pirkanmaa, Tavastia Proper and Päijänne Tavastia, the exercises also involve the Armored Brigade stationed in Hämeenlinna and other armed forces staff, public servants, church officials, as well as representatives of the business community and the civic sector.
The scenario of the exercises is based on a fictitious worsening of the international situation with the prospect of war looming over Finland. The main theme of the exercise is hybrid warfare with special emphasis on foreign indoctrination and psy-ops. The goal is to learn to distinguish enemy propaganda, create a realistic picture of its extent and practice the correct responses to it, the Hufvudstadsbladet daily reported.
The exercises mostly happen indoors and are largely invisible to the public.
In October, Finland and its neighbor Sweden participated in CMX 17, a similarly-themed NATO crisis management exercise which involved no deployed forces, yet featured cooperation between the NATO headquarters, strategic military centers of operations, civil and military personnel and general staffs in the participating countries.
Earlier this year, the European Center of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats was opened in Helsinki and was reported to have reached its initial operation capability in September. With an annual budget of $2.1 million, the Helsinki Center features twelve participating countries (including the US) and is regarded as a supplement to Stratcom’s similar outposts in Tallinn, Estonia and Riga, Latvia.
Earlier this week, US Defense Secretary James Mattis praised the Helsinki Center as an “institution fit for our times.”
Hybrid warfare is a vague, yet increasingly often used term, implying unconventional methods such as targeting computer networks or manipulating people through propaganda, rather than traditional military tactics.
Military Professor Mika Hyytiäinen of the National Defense College says that it is clear from ordinary media literacy. According to him, information retrieval is long-lasting and often recognizes that strange things happen.
“There is and has always been some kind of influence. It can be applied to advertising, Hollywood and so on. Just be careful,” military professor Mika Hyytiäinen of the National Defense University told Finnish national broadcaster Yle.