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Niinistö: Biden election signals US 'return to the table' in international community

The Finnish president, who has met with Biden twice, says he does not foresee any major change in bilateral ties.

Presidentti Sauli Niinistö puhuu Yhdysvaltojen presidentinvaalien tulosta käsittelevässä mediatapaamisessa Presidentinlinnassa
The president spoke to reporters on Sunday at the Presidential Palace. Image: Vesa Moilanen / Lehtikuva
Yle News

After congratulating US President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on their election, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö held a press conference on Sunday to present his views on the change in the US administration.

Speaking to reporters at the Presidential Palace, Niinistö predicted that Biden's term would represent Washington's "return to the table" in dealing with global crises such as climate change and the coronavirus pandemic.

Niinistö said he believes that Washington will re-engage in organised international cooperation, beginning with the UN and Nato.

“Biden’s election as US president can be described as the country’s return to the table. We particularly hope to see a return to the Paris table, in other words the Paris climate accord,” Niinistö said.

No shift in bilateral ties likely

Niinistö said he does not believe that Biden’s win will bring any significant change in relations between Finland and the US. Niinistö said bilateral ties began to tighten during the Barack Obama administration, when Biden was vice president.

According to the president, Russia’s moves in relation to Crimea and eastern Ukraine raised US government interest in Finland “as we are in a way experts on Russia,” he told Yle’s Swedish-language news.

"Cooperation between the US and Finland has grown on Arctic issues, too," he said.

There is also American interest in Finnish technological know-how, including 5G networks and icebreakers, he added.

Biden's Finnish birthday video greeting

The president said that the relationship had also been stimulated by US efforts to encourage Finland to replace its ageing fleet of US-built Boeing Hornet fighter jets with new American-made F/A-18 Super Hornets or Lockheed Martin F-35s.

Three European aircraft models are also under consideration in a purchase expected to cost some 10 billion euros.

In 2017, Niinistö publicly denied a statement by President Donald Trump that Finland was buying more Hornets. No decision is expected before 2021.

Niinistö pointed out that Biden has met with many Finnish politicians over the years and visited the country in 2011.

He also recalled that shortly before leaving the White House in 2017, Biden recorded a two-minute video message warmly congratulating Finland on its 100th anniversary of independence.

Niinistö said he has met with Biden twice, in 2011 when he was Finland’s Speaker of Parliament, and at the 2018 Munich Security Conference (siirryt toiseen palveluun).

Under the Finnish constitution, the president is primarily in charge of overseeing foreign policy, although the cabinet is mostly responsible for EU relations.

US-Russian ties difficult to predict

Niinistö said that future relations between the US and Russia are difficult to predict, but that again he does not expect major changes.

“Hopefully the disarmament talks will continue, so that there would be at least one area open in which they can attempt to discuss and build peace,” he said.

Last month Russian and American negotiators met in Helsinki for talks on extending the two countries’ nuclear arms limitation treaty, known as the New Start Treaty, which expires in February. The original Start Treaties of the 1990s grew out of the SALT talks, which began in Helsinki in 1969.

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