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President Niinistö: Nato membership is between applicant and Nato — not Putin

Finland retains 'the option' to join Nato.

Finland's President Sauli Niinistö photographed on 17 November. Image: Benjamin Suomela / Yle

President Sauli Niinistö has rejected a move (siirryt toiseen palveluun)from Russian President Vladimir Putin to try and limit Nato expansion.

News agency STT asked the president's view on Putin's suggestion that Russia gets 'legal guarantees' that the alliance would not expand eastwards. Replying by email, Niinistö said he saw no possibility for a deal like that.

"Decisions on new members joining will be taken by the applicant country and Nato's thirty member states, and decisions on membership are for the applicant and Nato countries to decide," wrote Niinistö.

Putin's proposal was firmly rejected by Nato and the US, and Nato emphasised to STT that Finland's foreign and security policies are founded on retaining the flexibility to join the western alliance.

"An important part of this picture is Nato's so-called open doors policy, which preserves the possibility of membership for countries that fulfil the membership criteria. This principle was most recently reaffirmed during the Nato leadership's visit to Helsinki in October," said Niinistö.

Niinistö also said that Nato is a force for stability in Europe, and that membership is between applicant countries and the alliance itself. Finland has joined several Nato partnership programmes to ease co-operation with western military powers.

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