Which council table is President Niinistö getting Finland into?
[TUE JAN 24 2017; B4; ’Mihin pöytään presidentti Suomea istuttaa?’ Reino Laajaniemi]
International crises and EU’s troubles have reinforced President Sauli Niinistö’s status as a leader in foreign politics and as commander in chief of the Finnish Defence Forces. Do the President’s careful comments about NATO mean he’s going to run for another term?
In his 2016 New Year’s speech President Niinistö said Finland will only join NATO if the people decide so. In spring, a reporter asked him whether it would be possible for Finland to still join NATO in the event of an unexpected crisis. Niinistö answered that fire insurances are also given out even during emergencies.
At the talks in Kultaranta, the President stated that Finland could apply to join NATO if its sense of security were to severely decline. He added that, to be able to join it, NATO requires the approval of the people of the applicant country. Therefore, a public vote would be in order.
In this year’s New Year’s speech, Niinistö said Finland will have to attend those council tables that decide matters of security.
In 2015, as his ”parting gesture,” minister of defence Carl Haglund denied the option to join NATO. Niinistö understands that the NATO ship has sailed, but he won’t be venturing towards NATO running for his next term. He already came close to burning his wings the last time he brought up ”the European NATO” in an election forum.
Without the cover of NATO, it’s logical for Finland to prepare to deflect a surprise attack. That is why parts of conscript troops are trained into rapid deployment forces, and part of the reserve is prepared to be called into service on shorter notice. This preparation for sudden extreme situations does, however, contradict the apparent leisurely steps to join NATO.
In Niinistö’s mind, what are these ”council tables that dicide matters of security?”
The advanced NATO companionship of Sweden and Finland, and the memorandum of understanding between Finland and European allies, as well as Nordefco, and the letter of intent with the United States about increased co-operation in defence – all fall into the ”hope for the best” category. The solidarity debt owed for our participation in crisis management could easily go unrealized.
The law process about giving and receiving military aid carries historical baggage because of Finland’s deal with Germany during the wars of independence and continuation. Without NATO membership, Finland could still be viewed as the one in debt.
In the current degradation of the UN and the EU, security is primarily NATO and OSCE’s concern. As NATO is now concentrating its forces in Baltic states and Poland, and temporarily in Norway, it demonstrates the hot trend of fortifying its eastern members. The relative security of Finland suffers as a consequence. The OSCE is mostly involved in all this with an apologetic, hushed voice.
Professor emeritus Alpo Juntunen says (Iltalehti Dec 20 2016) that Finland would be on its own, were a conflict between Russia and the West to break out.
Former President Martti Ahtisaari told of his affirmative stance on joining NATO only after his presidency.
Would one want such an opinion from Niinistö, one would have to wait for a long time. Maybe after his first term in 2018, or after his second in 2024. In the meantime, Cossacks could just come on in and take everything that’s not nailed down.
Sweden and Finland are still far from getting into those council tables deciding matters of security. The invitation of both countries’ ministers of defence to dine at the NATO summit in Warsaw last summer was a praise of NATO relations. But those tables didn’t talk security, so it was pointless after all.