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Haavisto: Finland would receive support from Nato partners in case of direct threat, even before full membership

With its membership ratified by all but two member states, Finland is taking part in this week's Nato conference in Brussels as an observer.

Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto (Green) expects that Finland would receive support from its partners in case of a direct threat, even while it is still in Nato's "waiting room". Image: Silja Viitala / Yle

Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto (Green) told Yle on Wednesday morning that Finland would still receive help from its Nato partners if it faced a direct threat, even before full membership.

"We're in a situation now where although we're still in the Nato 'waiting room' or almost a Nato member, we have nevertheless received promises of support from many key actors, including the United States, Britain and key European countries. I would believe that any direct threat to Finland would also get help from these partners, even though we are not yet members of Nato," he said on the morning talk show Ylen aamu.

Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Tuesday that Nato would strengthen the security of its critical infrastructure.

The former Norwegian prime minister said that hybrid and cyber-attacks could trigger Nato's Article 5, which enshrines the principle of collective defence. However, Finland does not yet fall under the scope of Article 5, because not all member countries have ratified Finland's Nato membership, which requires unanimous consent.

The lone holdouts among the 30 Nato members Hungary and Turkey, which have both maintained close ties to Russia despite its attack on Ukraine.

Risk of further underwater explosions

According to Haavisto, the explosions that destroyed two gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea in late September showed that the war in Ukraine may expand into international maritime areas.

The minister said that the countries around the Baltic Sea are taking the threat seriously, and that surveillance in the crucial waterway has been stepped up. However, despite such monitoring, attacks on gas and telecommunication links are still possible, Haavisto added.

"Of course, those with bad intentions may have already been able to act, to place various kinds of explosive charges on such key points. Or [one can] try to work secretly in order to wreak havoc. This is a real threat," he said.

Hybrid attacks have also been witnessed elsewhere, such as the suspected disruption of rail traffic in Germany, and cyber-attacks on information networks, he noted.

"This is a new repertoire of war and conflict that has not been seen before," Haavisto said.

Nato talks continue with Hungary and Turkey

Hungary and Turkey have yet to ratify Finland's and Sweden's Nato bids. The Hungarian Parliament is now considering the applications, Haavisto said, citing discussions with his Hungarian counterpart Péter Szijjártó.

"According to the foreign minister, this will take a while. But he said that they are dealing with Finland and Sweden together, and that they don't foresee any obstacles," said Haavisto.

As far as Turkey is concerned, the "tripartite process" launched at the Nato summit in Madrid in June is ongoing, with discussions being held between Turkey, Finland and Sweden. Bilateral discussions at civil service level have also continued, Haavisto said.

"The meetings have gone well. There is a good atmosphere, at the official level. But then there is this political side. Of course, it depends very much on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his views, and now his most recent comments have been related to the fact that he sees Finland and Sweden differently," Haavisto said.

"This is bad news, because it is very important that Finland and Sweden join Nato at the same time, including with regard to Nato's defence planning," he added.

Finland and Sweden, which have both long held "enhanced membership" in Nato's Partnership for Peace, applied simultaneously to become full members less than three months after Russia attacked Ukraine.

The two Nordic neighbours are taking part as observers at the Nato conference that begins on Wednesday. Defence Minister Antti Kaikkonen (Cen) is representing Finland at the two-day meeting in Brussels.

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