President Niinistö spoke to the press following a meeting on Finland's foreign and security policy with parliamentary political party leaders Wednesday morning. According to Niinistö, upcoming joint military exercises with US forces which have aroused a heated debate of late are purely military in nature.
"The exercises now discussed are technical and tactical exercises. They do not create a line of security policy," he said.
He pointed out that over the last 15 years Finland has taken part in at least five joint so-called map exercises that have had a security policy role. Decisions on participation in these as being in line with national defense policy have always been made within the Foreign Ministry.
Niinistö stressed that other exercises do not have security policy significance in terms of Finland's relationship with NATO. Decisions to take part in these exercises can be taken by the Ministry of Defense because they are technical and tactical in nature. They are aimed at keeping up the preparedness and capabilities of Finland's national defense forces.
According to the President Finland's policy has remained unchanged for some time.
"As a NATO partner we secure Finland's territorial inviolability," he stated.
A sharp debate has arisen between the Cabinet and Parliament over the availability of information concerning exercises in which Finland participates.
According to Niinistö, availability and access to this information should be improved.
The Defense Ministry's near-term schedule of military exercises has close to 90 points, including NATO exercises that will include Finnish participation. Parliament has not been well informed about the details of the exercises.
The Defense Ministry is to draw up criteria to identify new types and differing practices for these exercises.
"With these criteria some of this rather muddled discussion could be avoided," Niinistö told the press.