Even with artificial islands cropping up in the South China Sea, it's not just Chinese isles that are worrying Western militaries: reportssuggest that the Russian government has increasingly gobbled up tiny islands in Finland in recent years as secret staging areas for Russian military assets.
- In September, Finish law enforcement and military personnel conducted simultaneous raids on 17 properties in the Western part of the country "linked to Russia" through the "mysterious" Russian businessman Pavel Melnikov and his associates, the New York Times reports.
- The raids included an assault on the island of Sakkiluoto involving heavily-armed police and at least 100 members of Finland’s Keskusrikospoliisi (KRP), the country's equivalent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
- The Times account of Melnikov's business dealings is extremely comprehensive, but perhaps more interesting is his Sakkiluoto property, with "nine piers, a helipad, a swimming pool draped in camouflage netting and enough housing — all of it equipped with satellite dishes — to accommodate a small army," as the Times described it.
- "The seafront sauna, stacked with fresh towels, looked ready for use, as did the barbecue pits and other amenities on an island that seemed like the luxurious lair of Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the fictional villain of James Bond’s creator, Ian Fleming."
- According to local media, Finnish military and intelligence agencies had been monitoring Melnikov's tourism company Airiston Helmi for years. As the War Zone reports, a state broadcaster alleged that the Russian government had made suspicious real estate purchases that "raised suspicions within the Finnish government and suggested that the Kremlin could be engaged in a 'hybrid warfare' campaign."
- Indeed, Russian special forces staged a mock invasion of an island in the Gulf of Finland just ahead of U.S. President Donald Trump's sit-down with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. Although the target island of Gogland is technically part of Russia, its facilities mimic those uncovered on islands like Sakkiluoto.