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The Finnish Model - Foreign Affairs

Each year, several of Finland's top athletes join the Finnish Defence Forces as conscripts. So do music stars, who could similarly try to be exempted. Though the FDF--like most armed forces--exempts would-be conscripts only for health-related reasons, in many countries young men fake illnesses in order to avoid service. And young star athletes and artists would, one might think, have a good reason to avoid the draft, as their careers could suffer irreparably from a year away from the limelight. (Next year's cohort of conscripts will include one of the country's biggest pop stars, Robin, who will enter the navy.)

Indeed, as Granlund's and Robin's enlistments show, the FDF has managed a feat that other armed forces could learn from: it has made itself an attractive destination for conscripts and professional troops alike. This helps explain why the armed forces routinely have more applicants than openings for noncommissioned officer positions. According to a May Eurobarometer poll, 95 percent of Finns trust their army, a higher rate than anywhere else in the European Union. (In Germany, 66 percent trust the army; across the EU, the average is 75 percent.)

Granlund and many other Finns may consider conscription a patriotic duty, but militaries cannot count on citizens' love of country to fill their ranks. Consider the case of Russia: even though a June poll found that 87 percent of the country's citizens support President Vladimir Putin's handling of foreign affairs, only around 37 percent of its young men perform military service, which in theory is mandatory for everyone.

The appeal of Finland's military extends beyond patriotism and depends partly on its willingness to listen to its soldiers. In 2002, the FDF introduced a system that tracks and evaluates soldiers' and officers' experiences. "It has changed how we treat our soldiers and how soldiers view the FDF," said Brigadier General Jukka Sonninen, the FDF's head of training.

by Bjinse on Sat Oct 14th, 2017 at 08:06:40 PM EST
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