President Niinistö meets with President Putin in St Petersburg

Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö will have a private meeting with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in St Petersburg on 9 April. The meeting takes place in connection with the Arctic: Territory of Dialogue forum, where President Niinistö speaks at the main session. The forum is organised on 9-10 April. 

The goal of the forum is to promote collaboration and sustainable development in the arctic region. This year’s theme is the arctic region as a region of opportunities. Finland is the chair of the Arctic Council until May. Iceland succeeds Finland as the chair.

Media:  IltalehtiMaaseudun TulevaisuusMTV UutisetYLE Uutiset
Date: 1.4.2019
Main source: 

Sauli Niinistö hopes that foreign and security policy would be discussed ahead of elections

Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö commented in Twitter on Finland’s political discussion ahead of the Parliamentary elections. The President retweeted a message, which stated that foreign and security policy has not been discussed ahead of the elections, even though the Parliament decides, for example, on Finland’s NATO membership. 

The President agreed with this tweet. He pointed out that the Finnish Parliament sets the guidelines for Finland’s foreign and security policy, and these guidelines are followed. Therefore, he hoped that political parties would discuss their foreign and security policy views in their election campaigns.

Media:  DemokraattiMTV UutisetSavon
Date: 30.3.2019
Main source: Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö 

MTV: Comment: Finland wants to compete for UN top positions – and cuts its UN funding sharply year after year

Mirja Kivimäki’s comment in MTV discusses Finland’s chances of becoming a member of the UN Security Council and getting other top UN seats. The author notes that Finland has cut its funding for various UN Programmes during the last five years and says that the trend can be seen in a number of major programmes such as UN Women, UNDP, the Environment Programme and Unicef. 

According to the author, the cuts reflect on Finland’s position in the UN in two ways. As the programmes and funding shrink, the number of Finnish experts working in these will decrease and Finland will gradually simply not be offering suitable people for top positions. In addition, the author raises the question of how the drop in funding affects Finland’s stature and the willingness of organizations to invest specifically in Finns in key positions. The answer to this is so political that no one can provide a direct one.

More peacekeepers to Afghanistan – task becoming more dangerous

Media report that the previous training tasks for Finnish peacekeepers deployed in Afghanistan have changed to more dangerous security tasks. Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee Matti Vanhanen and Chairman of the Defence Committee Ilkka Kanerva say that the withdrawal of Finnish peacekeepers has not been discussed, even though the United States is planning to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan.

« The main task of the division is to protect the senior military leaders and advisers moving in the country, » says Brigadier General Rami Saari of the Finnish Defence Forces. In practice, protection means, for example, arranging convoys and preventing threats in areas where advisors move. In 2015, the Afghanistan crisis management operation became a support operation where Finnish troops trained the country’s security authorities.

At the turn of February-March, 20 new Finnish peacekeepers started in Afghanistan’s peacekeeping troops. In total, 60 Finns now serve in the country. The majority of the new peacekeepers are reservists, while a few are permanent personnel of the Defence Forces. Parliament decided to increase the number of peacekeepers in Afghanistan last June.

Russia lives in its own reality

An editorial in Ilta-Sanomat addressed the current foreign policy issues involving Russia and stated that Russia lives in its own reality, despite the economic sanctions. Russian Ambassador Pavel Kuznetsov spoke at the Paasikivi Society in Finland on December 11 and maintained that Russia had no involvement in the GPS jamming at the NATO exercise in Lapland.

Kuznetsov accused the European Union, NATO and the US together and separately. According to him, the West is guilty of scrapping international agreements, the escalation of the situation in Ukraine and NATO’s enlargement projects at the Russian border. Kuznetsov accused Ukraine of « provocation » at the Kerch Strait.

Finland itself was not mentioned in the speech, but a familiar message emerged between the lines: Russia does not view favourably Finland’s possible NATO membership. The Finland-Russia relations have endured i.a. Finland’s participation in the EU’s sanctions against Russia. Applying for NATO membership could be the threshold after which Russia would re-evaluate its stance towards Finland.

Finland has a good dialogue with Russia, but it is still difficult to agree with Kuznetsov’s view that relations between the countries could return to the pre-Crimean crisis level. The confrontation between Russia and the West seems to be cemented in its current state with no relief in sight; especially given that the US Congress is awaiting new economic sanctions against Russia. Decisions on this will be made after the turn of the year.

According to Ilkka, The EU countries have condemned Russia’s aggression in the Kerch Strait, but the issue of the tightening of sanctions would not be raised during the Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Brussels. The assessment of Ukraine’s situation was set to be a major topic and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin attended the meeting.

An exceptional and expensive military exercise to be organized in Finland next year

According to Ilta-Sanomat, the Bold Quest military exercise has been puzzling the Finnish Parliament’s Defence Committee. Mika Kari, vice chairman of the Defensc Committee, would like to know more about the exercise, which is to be held next year in Finland, and will be attended by dozens of countries and the Nato, according to preliminary information. Mr Kari has been wondering about the fact that Finland is the host country, but the United States is the leader of the exercise

The subject of Russia came up in many ways in Minister Soini’s Washington visit

Yle has reported on the visit of the Minister for Foreign Affairs Timo Soini to Washington. He discussed current global political issues with the US State Secretary Mike Pompeo. Many of the issues discussed were related to Russia.

Due to the crisis in Ukraine, sanctions have been imposed on Russia for almost five years behind, but they are still no changes in sight by the EU or the United States. Mr Soini noted that the fact that the Minsk agreement has not been implemented means that sanctions still remain in place.

GPS jamming in Finland

According to an editorial in Ilkka, the details of the case of GPS jamming during NATO exercise in Finland have not been opened, but the Ministry for Foreign Afffairs said that Russia was involved. The latter denied involvement and demanded concrete proofs, which is unlikely to come, as both Norway and Finland would reveal to Russia the accuracy of their own technology.

According to the editorial, the matter has shifted to the diplomatic level, but details of the debate between the State Secretary and the Ambassador of Russia are not reaching the public. However, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs has informed that air safety is of interest to both parties. The Ministry demands more information and responsible action from Russia, but it is unknown what has been Russia’s response to Finland’s request.