President Sauli Niinistö interview: Trump and Putin, Europe’s week of fate, NATO and EU defence

Ilta-Sanomat has interviewed President Sauli Niinistö on the meeting between Presidents Trump and Putin in Helsinki. Mr Niinistö said the United States and Russia must have a dialogue, but they cannot make decisions concerning Europe between the two of them and without Europe.

There is an increased risk of this happening, as the European Union is not united and strong enough in international politics, he assessed. He says it is necessary and inevitable that the Presidents meet, and hopefully the meeting will ease tensions in the world.

The spirit of the upcoming NATO summit will reveal how the transatlantic relationship between Europe and the United States works in practice. According to Niinistö, the transatlantic relationship is important to Europe, not just the NATO countries.

Working on transatlantic relations is also important for Finland. The Finnish security policy is based on independent defence, but Finland is practicing with NATO and with the United States in bilateral terms. Any cracks in NATO will inevitably also be reflected in North Europe and the Baltic region.

In Europe, the construction of the EU’s own defense system is underway. France is establishing an intervention team, which many EU countries have already joined.

Mr Niinistö noted the ongoing defence cooperation debate in Europe, and said that he had started the same debate in Finland 15 years ago, mainly on his own. In France, it has been discussed for decades.

Mr Niinistö was pleased that the EU has become more active in defence issues. The security debate was silent a few years ago. It did not interest the EU because it was easy to say that NATO is taking care of the security.

Yle has emphasized that Mr Niinistö thought that the EU was at this stage not sufficiently strong and united in international politics. This increased the risk that Russia and the United States may try to agree on European issues in bilateral negotiations.

« The US and Russia must hold a bilateral debate, but they cannot intervene in European affairs without Europe. This risk may arise because the EU is not coherent and strong enough a player in international politics, » said Mr Niinistö.

Media:  Ilta-Sanomat, YLE Uutiset
Date: 7.7.2018
Journalist: Timo Paunonen
Main source: President Sauli Niinistö

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