Finland plans military drill with United States and Sweden

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Finland is planning large-scale military drills with the United States and other allies, its defense minister said on Friday, in a region worried by Russia’s increasing military activity.

Jussi Niinisto said the exercises would help troops prepare for a crisis, without mentioning a specific threat.

The war games will not take place until 2020 at the earliest and will be similar to neighboring Sweden’s “Aurora” drill that involved 19,000 troops in September, he added.

“The exercise is planned to broadly gather conscripts, reservists and soldiers to practice ... together with our main partners like Sweden, the United States and other countries,” Niinisto told broadcaster MTV.

“If there’s a crisis, it will be good for us to practice receiving help.”

Tensions have been rising in the region since Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula. Finland, which borders Russia, has forged closer ties with NATO in recent years, though most Finns oppose actually joining the alliance.

In September, Russia held its own “Zapad” war games in Belarus, the Baltic Sea, western Russia and its Kaliningrad outpost.

Reporting by Jussi Rosendahl; Editing by Andrew Heavens