The Lonely Lion
Road to War (1936)
A.I. Aggressive: Aggressive
Chapter I: The European military buildup
It was a new year 1 January 1936 and a national holiday. Most Finnish people suffered the headache from the last night heavy celebration and drinking. Except of the Southern part of the nation, the snow covered the countryside. It was rare that in January there wasn't snow in the whole country. The Finland was a small and young Scandinavian democracy with only 3,5 million people. Her capital was a city of Helsinki, where also President and goverment was located. The next biggest cities were Viipuri, Tampere and Turku. Thursday 2 January goverment announced few changes in cabinet members. Minister of Security was changed from Yrjö W. Puhakka to Richard Lorentz (consumer goods -10%). Defence Minister was changed from K.I. Oesch to Hugo Österman (Manpower +25%, Inf. Construction -5%). Kaarle Voinonmaa was appointed to new Chief of the Army, previously post was held by the Hugo Österman.
Finland's cabinet was helding the first new year's meeting in Helsinki. It was midday and earlier morning Prime Minister had announced new ministers. The Prime Minister Timo Koivumäki started the routine meeting.
Koivumäki: Good day gentlemen and happy new year. I hope you had a pleasant Christmas and a vacation. I want to inform all, that parliament had accepted the request of increasing military budget to 12 percent for the next year. Our new Defence Minister, Lietenant General Hugo Österman will tell more about why this increase was necessary.
Österman: Thank you Prime Minister. As you all know, my mission as Defence Minister is to make sure our nation have a credible defence force to upkeep the peace. Finland is a neutral nation and want to keep her out of any conflicts. Finland have a army of 13 infantry divisions, totally about 300,000 men and women, which we will assemble if there is a threat of war. Now during peace time we have only few thousands Border and Civil Guard units ready. It is unsure could the League of Nations protect small nations like Finland. We have hoped to come closer with other Scandinavian nations to protect our borders and to help each others in arms trades. Unfortunately Germany's military buildup is efecting also other countries, like our neighbour Soviet Union. Soviet Union had announced her worry about Finland's ability to defend our borders. They believe that future enemy, we all know who, could use our land to attack to Leningrad military district. Soviet Foreign Minister had talked with our goverment of possibilty to lease land from Finland to protect Leningrad area. Our Prime Minister of course politely declined this request last year. This is history.
The Finnish conscripts in training. General military service last 350 days and officers served 440 days.
The Defence Minister keep a short pause to get everybody's attention. He continued shortly after.
Österman: Now I plan to increase Finland's defence capability. Only when Finland make serious attempts to keep her Defence Force credibible, pressure from the Soviet Union will decline. Of course we are not doing this only for the sake of the Soviet Union. This is our motherland and we want to defend it against any intruder, in order to keep our independence. You can read my whole report about the state of Finnish Defence Force, but I tell here few critical areas I am going to change. First of all, our airforce is very small, only about 30 obsolete fighters, so our land based anti-air defenses must be improved. I have ordered new static anti-air batteries to be build to Helsinki, Viipuri, Sortavala and Joensuu. We also need to increase wartime supplies, specially field artillery ammunition. Our own war industry is very small and recommend that we improve our existing factories to produce more small arms and ammunition. Before the end of 30's we also need to train more reservist, build more fortifications and also to improve our naval forces. Our Defence Force is still fighting with Great War era weapons and new weapons must be build and bought to replace them.
Few ministers already browsed the Defence Minister Österman's full report. Very few believed there would be war in the near fufure, but all ministers were old enough to remember Finnish Civil War and Independence War too well. It was only 18 years from the end of Great War.
Koivumäki: You talked about improving our navy too. Don't you think our coastal batteries in Hanko and Helsinki are enough for the defence?
Österman: No, they are not enough. The Finnish Navy main goal in the war time is to protect our merchant fleet. Our industry production dependence on foreign trade goods. Our heavy cruisers Ilmarinen and Väinämöinen and six Saukko-class submarines are not enough for that duty. I recommend building more submarines at least. Only navy's existence will make enemy to think twice about landing. But as I said, navy's main duty is to protect our merchant fleet.
Two Finnish Ilmarinen-class heavy cruisers and Saukko-class submarine in the naval exercise.
Koivumäki: I believe you are expert in this. I will read your full report about the state of our defence force. You have your money and I'm sure you know how to use them best. Let's get forward. Foreign Minister, you have news about our trade deals?
The Foreign Minister Antti Hackzell stopped to browse military report.
Hackzell: Yes I have. We have agreed new trade deal with Sweden to import steel for our industries. We have plenty of nickel from Petsamo mine and other rare materials that Sweden needs. Also we have made trade deals to import metals and mainly coal from United Kingdom and Belgium. Unfortunately even after these deals we still needed more coal for our power plants and we had to buy more coals from Germany. Hard cash had to be used to achive trade deal with the Germany. After these deals our industry have all raw materials it need.
Over production of consumer goods was necessary to lower dissent (3.77%).
Koivumäki: You know we don't have big cash reserves, but it is important to keep our industry running. I need to make a visit for the President Svinhufvud soon, so you need to continue this meeting without me. Excuse me.
The Prime Minister rised and leave the meeting room. Ministers continued the meeting and discussed about Finland's internal matters. It was still peaceful in Europe, but military buildup of major nations was alerting enough. But Finland was a neutral nation and everybody believed, that if a war would start, it would be fought somewhere else than in the Scandinavian. Military buildup of Finland was more talk than a reality. Young nation had dozen other more important issues to solve than army's concern. Still military budget had slowly increased during the whole 30's. It was assuring enough for the new Defence Minister.