December 5, 2019:
Russia has turned Gogland Island in the Baltic Sea into a forward operating base for special operations troops. Gogland is a small (21 square kilometers/8.1 square miles) island in the Gulf of Finland. It is 35 kilometers from Finland to the north, 55 kilometers from Estonia and Russia to the south and 180 kilometers from St Petersburg to the east. Gogland has changed owners several times over the last few centuries with Finland, Sweden and Russia alternately taking possession after various wars. Originally, many centuries ago, the island was occupied by Finnish fishermen who eventually established two villages. Since World War II it has been Russian and more of a tourist attraction than a military base.
In early 2019 Russia began building five helipads, each large enough to handle the largest Russian military helicopter (the Mi-26). By mid-2019 Russia was using those helipads regularly to train special operations troops who would, presumably, stage raids against Finland or Estonia from Gogland. Anti-submarine helicopters can also operate from the Gogland heliport as well as search and rescue operations.
The main objective of the Gogland heliport appears to be psychological; an inexpensive way to intimidate Finland and Estonia as well as providing a training facility for special operations troops who would be used for raids on Finland or Estonia in wartime. Russia also can use Gogland to train troops who could be used to take some of the smaller islands owned by Finland and Estonia as well as the largest island in the Baltic; Gotland. This island is 900 kilometers west of Gogland and has a Swedish military garrison because of its key location in the Baltic. Sweden maintains troops on Gotland mainly to deter a rapid invasion by Russian special operations troops.
Establishing small military bases in out-of-the-way locations is a favorite Russian tactic and has been for centuries. The Russians know that foreign governments and mass media make a lot more of these bases than the local military professionals. For example, Gogland is within range of Finnish artillery, especially their GPS/INS guided GMLRS rockets. Russia has not installed anti-aircraft or anti-missile systems on Gogland but there is a lot of electronic monitoring and jamming gear on the island. While that could interfere with GPS guidance it has no effect on the INS system which is less accurate than GPS but independent of any external signals. INS guidance is sufficient for a few GMLRS rockets to destroy the heliport and EW (Electronic Warfare) facilities. The Russians know from experience that reality has little to do with “threats” like Gogland, which will be used to generate scary media coverage whenever the Russians see a need for it.