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HS: High level discord over US-Finnish air force exercises

Helsingin Sanomat reports on Sunday that President Sauli Niinistö and Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja both opposed joint exercises to be held between Finnish, Estonian and US air forces in March. Their intervention was unexpected and exceptional during what is normally a routine committee meeting handling defence and security matters.

Tasavallan presidentti Sauli Niinistö.
Tasavallan presidentti Sauli Niinistö. Image: Yle

Splits have emerged in Finland’s political elite over the thorny issue of joint exercises with Estonian and American air forces, according to a report by Helsingin Sanomat on Sunday.

Prime Minister Alexander Stubb and Defence Minister Carl Haglund support the joint exercises scheduled for March and April, but President Sauli Niinistö and Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja oppose the move.

The divide emerged during a routine ministerial meeting on security and defence policy, and HS says that the difference of opinion was a surprise to officials present.

A final decision on Finnish participation is due next month at the latest.

The news comes on the heels of a mini-scandal last week during which Estonia’s government took exception to comments from Tuomioja in which he appeared to criticize Baltic countries’ “nationalist politics”.

Tuomioja said in an interview with Hufvudstadsbladet that a comment by EU Foreign Policy chief Federica Mogherini criticizing Russian propaganda in the European Union was motivated by Baltic countries “nationalist politics”, and said they should provide more news in Russian.

Those comments led to Finland’s ambassador in Tallinn being called in to the Estonian Foreign Ministry for discussions, and the Estonian ambassador in Helsinki meeting Tuomioja.

Sources: Yle, HBL

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