Jarmo Lindberg, commander of the Finnish defense forces, contradicted western skepticism on Tuesday about the alleged aggressive nature of the Zapad-2107 military exercises jointly conducted by Russia and Belarus in September this year.
Interviewed by Finnish national radio on Tuesday, Lindberg said there were no offensive elements in the exercise. "The scenario was defensive," Lindberg said.
Despite Moscow's repeated claim of the defensive character of the exercise, the week-long drills drew anxious speculations from western countries.
Zapad has been arranged every four years since the end of the Cold War. Lindberg said the size of Zapad-2017 was about the same as that in 2013.
Lindberg noted that military activity in areas close to Finland had been lively of late. The comments came a week after Finnish defense minister Jussi Niinistö spoke publicly about the need to arrange a major exercise in Finland in 2020 with the envisioned participation of Nordic and NATO countries.
Both Finnish President Sauli Niinistö and Prime Minister Juha Sipilä distanced themselves from the claim, and said later that no decision had been taken yet about the exercise.
In the Finnish military structure, the commander reports to the president, who is the commander-in-chief of the Finnish defense forces. The ministry of defense has a planning and budgeting role.