206. Telegram From the Embassy in Finland to the Department of State1

555. Joint State-Defense Message. Your 388 received only May 20 due to servicing as missing.2 AIRA sources have provided further information on Finnish interest in Drakens as follows: (1) Ministry of Defense had included 10 Drakens in preliminary 1965 budget estimates; (2) on this basis and on own initiative, Maj. Gen. Artola discussed purchase possibilities with Swedes, which precipitated contact with Hughes Aircraft concerning availability Falcon Missile System; (3) Artola’s superiors considered this action premature, and Artola was told to take no further action; (4) subsequently, National Defense Council approved inclusion 10 Drakens in budget which will be before Parliament in September, this decision of course being contingent upon availability and acceptable terms, including credit element; (5) Lt. Gen. Maunula, when in Sweden beginning May 25 on return of Swedish Chief of Gen. Staff earlier visit to Finland, will visit Saab Plant and discuss Draken possibilities (confirms Stockholm’s 1398);3 (6) if discussions with Swedes go well, Max Jakobson, Dir. Foreign Office Pol Dept., while in US later this year, possibly in August, will explore availability of Falcon system with US authorities; (7) while 1965 budgetary provision for Drakens not directly involved in 5-year (1966–70) military procurement proposal, rejection of this proposal might require replanning of which Drakens might conceivably be victim; (8) 5-year program now being vetted from standpoint of financial feasibility (this confirmed to me by Jakobson).

AIRA primary source states that 1965 budgetary provision for 10 Drakens to replace Gnats now has concurrence of highest Finnish political authority. Embassy satisfied with this information, but continues to doubt that this authority’s concurrence in Finnish military’s long-range objective of total replacement of Migs has been given or even sought. Our impression is that Finnish military considers acquisition of initial ten as opening wedge, with fulfillment of long-range objective being contingent upon performance Drakens and salutary political environment.

An AIRA source also reports his colleagues concerned that, if Drakens with Falcon system denied them, they may be forced turn to improved Mig-21D. Embassy considers this an understandable fear in light ease of obtaining Soviet credit. In this connection, present Finnish [Page 546] procurement team now in Moscow (see Embassy telegram 531)4 has shopping list which includes ammunition, artillery, and other hardware but from which aircraft have been studiously excluded. Relatively small size of credit arising from sale to USSR of agricultural surpluses has made this exclusion not too difficult to accomplish.

With regard Deptel 388 suggestion that DOD team visit Finland, Embassy firmly of the view that such a move would be unfortunate. Any determination to press for acceptance F–5s as alternative to Drakens should be pursued through more shaded avenues. Furthermore, given decided preference for Drakens on part Finns, believe it best to let Finns explore whether they can both have and afford them on own time schedule. We are convinced that pressure from us now would not be welcome.

If Finns decide they can afford Drakens and US must make judgment as to whether Finns may have Falcon system, hope following considerations will be weighed:

While fact F–5 less sophisticated than Draken might make it less provocative sui generis, any US aircraft is a priori more provocative than one from Finland’s neutral neighbor.
While the possibility of a full drive-out of Migs with the Drakens is a long-shot, it is at least that. It is much less conceivable that American aircraft would ever replace the Migs.
Drakens with the Falcon system would give both Sweden and the US a valuable hold on the Finnish military posture. Commitments which we both might extract as to security and utilization would give the Finns a useful bulwark against any Soviet pressure for Finnish-Soviet Air Force collaboration.
We have not had reason to date to question Finnish military security or faithfulness to commitments US.
A denial of the Falcon system would run the risk of interpretation as crude pressure to force acceptance of the F–5, and inflate the chances of the Mig-21D.

If, as is quite possible, Finns find Drakens to be beyond their means, would hope US would then have attractive F–5 offer to make which would meet the Mig-21D competition.

AIRA and [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] concur in these recommendations.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, DEF 12–5 FIN–SWE. Secret. Repeated to Stockholm.
  2. Document 205.
  3. See footnote 2, Document 205.
  4. Telegram 531, May 6, reported on the makeup of the Finnish negotiating team. (Department of State, Central Files, AGR 12–5 FIN)