Finland training with their guns in preparations for war

AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky

Russia invaded Finland once. It was probably the worst military mistake Russia ever made, at least until they invaded Afghanistan.

They got trounced by the Finns who were excellent shots and sneaky bastards, making them a pain for the Soviets.

Now, Russia’s getting all it can handle–and a bit more than that–with Ukraine. Despite that, they’ve done some saber-rattling toward Finland.

The Finns, however, are reacting pretty rationally.

Antti Kettunen pulls out his Glock 17, aiming and shooting at a target on either side of a barrier, before sprinting over to a jagged wall with holes in it and firing again.

It’s another Tuesday night of training for the Vantaa Reserves Association, the local chapter of the Finnish Reservists’ Association. But since Russia invaded Ukraine, these nights at a local range have felt different.

There’s an extra energy in the air, perhaps best shown by anxious chatter over the group’s social media channels or their increased numbers. More than a quarter of its 1,354 members have joined in the past several weeks.

In the weeks since war broke out in Europe, thousands of Finns have signed up with training associations to sharpen their military skills or learn new ones like first aid. The dramatic rise has been fueled by anxiety over Finland’s geographic proximity to Russia. For the first time in Finland’s history, a majority of Finns are in favor of joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a defensive alliance.

“Our president says we are not scared, but we are aware,” said Kettunen, dressed in combat boots, a camouflage vest and shirt, and olive green pants. “That’s quite nice to say, but where else do they (the Russians) go if the plan is to make The Great Russia, from Lisbon to the Japanese sea?”

“We never let our guard down after the Cold War ended, as many European Countries did,” said Janne Kuusela, director general at Finnish Ministry of Defense. “In that sense, we’re well placed to defend ourselves if need be in the future.”

Now, the possibility of a Russian invasion is pretty remote. The great Russian bear appears to wear a red t-shirt, loves honey, and says “Oh, bother!” an awful lot. The Russians know they’re getting their butts handed to them by Ukraine. It’s unlikely they’ll want to tangle with Finland.

Yet the Finns are considering joining NATO now and the Russians don’t like that, hence the saber-rattling.

Of course, the Russians are responsible for Finland even considering it. After all, the Finns had been hesitant to do much of anything to antagonize anyone, remaining neutral during the Cold War.

Finland is preparing itself because the specter of war is real, even if remote. Ukraine did nothing to antagonize Russia and this is the second time Russia has invaded the country under curious pretenses. How long before they turn their sites on the Finns?

They say that the more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war.

Russia should take a moment and recognize that Finland is doing a whole lot of sweating right now.