The Finnish military is conducting a three-day inspection of Russia’s new Arctic special forces unit based just 50 kilometers (31 miles) from its border in the town of Alakurtti, according to a Finnish Defense Forces press release Tuesday. The inspection is permitted under an international treaty designed to allow neighboring countries to inspect military units and exchange certain information.
“The purpose of the evaluation is to evaluate the accuracy of the provided annual information regarding the main armament and equipment of the evaluated unit,” the press release stated. "The unit to be evaluated is the 80th Motorized Rifle Brigade in Alakurtti. The unit was established in 2014, and it has not been previously evaluated by Finland.”
Finland’s fears regarding Russia have been magnified over the past few years as a result of Moscow’s attempt to militarize the Arctic region and its more hostile attitude toward Europe. In addition to claiming the sea shelf in the Arctic, which would give Russia access to potential energy reserves believed to be on the sea floor, Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014 and has flown jets into European and NATO airspace multiple times since early 2014.
The inspection will be carried out by Col. Marko Ekstrom and two other defense officials, according to the press release. It will be conducted as part of the Vienna Document of 2011, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe agreement aimed at providing confidence and security building through inspections with militaries in Europe. Russia used the provisions inside the document in April 2015 to inspect British warships that were conducting training exercises off the west coast of Scotland, according to a Telegraph report.
The inspection is the first opportunity Finnish officials have had to inspect the new military brigade, as the soldiers have been training in the deep Arctic for much of the year.
Alakurtti was part of Finland until 1940 but was ceded to the Soviet Union to help bring an end to the four-month Winter War between the two countries that saw more than 190,000 people killed.