Thursday

6th Oct 2022

Finland rushes to finalise US defence pact

  • Finland has an unspoken pact with Sweden that neither country would join Nato alone (Photo: Finnish army)

Finland’s defence minister has said it aimed to conclude a defence pact with America before US president Barack Obama leaves office, amid concern over Russian aggression.

The minister, Jussi Niinisto, told the Reuters news agency on Monday (22 August): “We want to get the agreement ready during the autumn. However, I am convinced that our cooperation with the USA will continue regardless of which candidate is elected president”.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Soini: "We do not want to turn our back on Russia. At the same time one has to be honest ... Russia has broken European rules" (Photo: European Parliament)

He said that the pact would not include a Nato-type mutual defence promise.

“It would cover areas where we already work together, like military training, information sharing and research," he said.

His comments came ahead of US elections in November.

The Republican candidate, Donald Trump, has taken a pro-Russia line in his campaign and has cast doubt on the future of Nato.

The Finnish foreign minister, Timo Soini, also on Monday, told a meeting of Finnish ambassadors in Helsinki that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had changed the security situation in Europe.

"We cannot, we do not want to turn our back on Russia. At the same time one has to be honest: With its action in Crimea, Russia has broken European rules," he said, referring to Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

He noted that Finland was also building closer defence ties with Sweden and with Nato.

He described Sweden as Finland’s “closest and most natural partner”.

He said Finland was not planning to join Nato, but he noted that “keeping the door [to Nato membership] open serves Finland's security”.

He added that “the European Union is also a security community, the significance of which should not be underestimated”.

Finland spelled out its thinking in a foreign policy review paper drafted by the prime minister’s office in June.

Russian challenge

The review said that “during the past 10 years or so Russia, through its actions and interpretations, has challenged the essence of the security regime to an extent, and has destabilised it … A vicious circle has evolved, resulting in increased tension and military activity in the Baltic Sea region”.

It said Finland was already a “target” of “hybrid influencing”, referring to Russian propaganda and political and economic pressure.

“The use or threat of military force against Finland cannot be excluded”, it added.

It said that “Russia’s isolation does not serve anyone’s interests”, but it forecast a difficult period inside Russia in which its leaders would “try to avert internal disorder”, but would struggle with “energy price fluctuations and, in the long term, from different structural problems”.

The paper noted that the US deal would focus on “interoperability, materiel cooperation as well as training and exercise cooperation”.

It warned that Nato membership would be “a fundamental and far-reaching decision” that would “require wide-ranging debate and careful consideration”.

A Nato official, speaking to EUobserver ahead of the Nato summit in Warsaw in July, said that if Finland or Sweden wanted to join “this would not be too difficult for two such capable and committed countries.”

But a recent poll by public broadcaster Yle noted that just 22 percent of Finnish people, who share a long border with Russia, support Nato entry, while 55 percent oppose it.

For his part, Russian leader Vladimir Putin on a visit to Helsinki in July threatened to move troops closer to the border if it went ahead.

EU clause

The Finnish security review in June described EU defence cooperation primarily in terms of joint arms procurement and overseas crisis missions.

But it noted that the EU treaty, in its article 42.7, contained a “binding” Nato-style “mutual assistance clause”. The clause was invoked by France after last November's attacks in Paris.

With some EU states, such as the Czech Republic, calling for the creation of an EU army in the wake of Brexit, the defence paper added: “The European Union must continue to further develop its common preparedness and arrangements for closer defence cooperation”.

US backs Europe on Russia deterrent

US defence chief James Mattis has praised European efforts to jointly deter Russian aggression, amid talks on EU military integration.

Finnish border guards will allow fleeing Russians to enter

Finland says there has not yet been a dramatic increase in Russian nationals trying to enter Finland from Russia, noting just over 4,800 Russian nationals crossed the land border on the day of Vladimir Putin's announcement of the draft.

Column

Give Russians more visas — not fewer

It would be unwise to stop letting Russians in. Europe's aim is to stop the war in Ukraine and for Russia to withdraw completely from Ukraine. And that can only happen if Russian citizens start resisting the war.

Supported by

News in Brief

  1. Thousands of Hungarian students and teachers protest
  2. Swedish MEP cuts hair mid-speech to support Iran women
  3. Danish general election called for 1 November
  4. Slovenia legalises gay marriage, adoption
  5. Russia's stand-in EU ambassador reprimanded on Ukraine
  6. France warns over incoming eighth Covid wave
  7. EU adds Anguilla, Bahamas and Turks and Caicos to tax-haven blacklist
  8. Czechs warn joint-nationality citizens in Russia on mobilisation

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  2. The European Association for Storage of EnergyRegister for the Energy Storage Global Conference, held in Brussels on 11-13 Oct.
  3. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  4. European Committee of the RegionsThe 20th edition of EURegionsWeek is ready to take off. Save your spot in Brussels.
  5. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”

Latest News

  1. EU wants to see US list on Russia financing of politicians
  2. Putin's twin aim: to break Ukraine and West's consensus
  3. Putin's diamond firm off the hook in EU sanctions
  4. The Iranian regime's expiration date
  5. Let's end Bulgaria and Romania's 11-year Schengen purgatory
  6. EU debates new pandemic-type loans to deal with crisis
  7. MEPs condemn EU Commission 'leniency' on Hungary
  8. Czech EU presidency wants asylum pledges to be secret

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  3. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  6. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us