Finland says its GPS was disrupted during NATO's biggest war games in years, and it's pointing the finger at Russia

Chris McGrath/Getty ImagesPresident Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin after their summit in Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018.
  • GPS signals in Norway and Finland were disrupted in late October and early November.
  • The disruptions took place as NATO carried out a massive military exercise across the region.
  • Some, including Finland’s prime minister, suspect Russia was up to something.

Finland’s prime minister said on Sunday that GPS signals in the country were intentionally disrupted during NATO military exercise in the region over the past few weeks and the culprit could have been Russia.

Finnish air-navigation services issued a warning for air traffic on November 6 due to a large-scale GPS interruption in the north of the country. Norway posted a similar warning about loss of GPS signals for pilots in its own airspace at the end of the October.

The NATO exercise, called Trident Juncture, ran from October 25 to November 7.

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“It is technically reasonably easy to interfere with the radio signal in the open space,” Prime Minister Juha Sipila told public broadcaster Yle. “It is possible that Russia has been the disrupting party in this. Russia is known to possess such capabilities.”

Sipila, who is a pilot, said the goal of such interference would be to demonstrate the culprit’s ability to do so and that the incident would be treated as a breach of Finland’s airspace.

“We will investigate, and then we will respond,” he said. “This is not a joke. It threatened the air security of ordinary people.”

NATO Finland Sweden Trident JunctureFinnish Defence Force/VIlle MultanenFinnish military personnel in formation at the Älvdalen training grounds in Sweden, October 27, 2018.

Finland is not a NATO member, but it took part in Trident Juncture, which NATO officials said was the alliance’s largest exercise in decades. Forces from 31 countries – all 29 NATO members, Finland, and Sweden – participated in the exercise, which took place close to Russian borders in an area stretching from the Baltic Sea to Iceland.

The exercise involved some 50,000 troops, tens of thousands of vehicles, and dozens of ships and aircraft. While much of the activity was based in central and southern Norway, fighter jets and other military aircraft used airports in northern Norway and Finland.

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Russia dismissed Finland’s suggestion that it intentionally interfered with GPS signals. “We are not aware that there could be something to do with GPS harassment in Russia,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday.

Finland shares an 830-mile border and a fraught history with Russia. In recent years, Helsinki has moved closer to NATO but stopped short of joining the alliance, in keeping with its history of avoiding confrontation with its larger eastern neighbour.

Russia has warned Finland and Sweden, which is also a close NATO partner but not an alliance member, against joining the defence bloc.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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