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Finnish, Swedish leaders invited into 'inner circle' at NATO summit

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Monday that "it's up to Finland and Sweden to decide whether they want more [than just] dinner."

Jens Stoltenberg
Jens Stoltenberg Image: Olivier Hoslet / EPA

Finnish President Sauli Niinistö and Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven have been invited to take part in a working dinner with the heads of state of NATO countries during the alliance's summit in Warsaw on Friday.

This will be the first time that the leaders of the militarily non-aligned countries will take part in such a high-level closed-door event featuring free discussion among all the leaders of NATO allies.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Monday that the two Nordic EU members are key members of the alliance's Partnership for Peace.

He pointed out that Sweden and Finland are already taking part in many NATO-led operations, for instance in Afghanistan. The countries also play an important role in security and stability in the Baltic Sea region, the former Norwegian prime minister said.

Asked about possible NATO membership, Stoltenberg said it was "up to the Finns to decide," adding that it was "absolutely unjustified if that provokes reaction".

"We invite close friends to dinner"

"We are inviting Finland and Sweden because Finland and Sweden are two of our very few 'enhanced opportunity partners'. So Sweden and Finland are really close friends of NATO, and we invite close friends to dinner. So this is a cooperation that is of benefit to Sweden and Finland and of benefit to NATO and NATO allies. And then it's up to Finland and Sweden to decide whether they want more. This is only dinner."

 At the Warsaw summit, defence minister Jussi Niinistö is to sign a cooperation agreement with his British counterpart Defence Secretary Michael Fallon. Sweden reached a similar deal with the UK at a NATO summit in Wales two years ago and last month approved a letter of intent to be signed with the US. The agreement is described as a technical document that does not obligate action in a crisis situation. Yle has learned that Finland and US are discussing a similar agreement, but that this is still in the preliminary draft stages.

Tighter EU-NATO ties

In Warsaw, NATO and the EU are to sign a pact stepping up their cooperation. Signing for the EU will be European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. NATO wants to work more closely with the EU in areas such as maritime security and hybrid warfare.

Also taking part in the 8-9 July summit will be Finnish Foreign Minister Timo Soini, Defence Minister Jussi Niinistö and Defence Forces Commander Jarmo Lindberg.

Lavrov: "Never yield to temptation"

Also on Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted by TASS as saying: " We believe that our relations with Finland are developing in an optimal way today and we hope our Finnish neighbours never yield to the temptation to join the anti-Russian actions."

Asked about Russia's possible response if Finland joins NATO, he replied: "The matter is purely military, purely technical. Obviously, if infrastructure of an organization, which appoints you its enemy, approaches your borders, you will have to react somehow."

"We have enough experience in this sphere," Lavrov added. "The defence ministry and the general staff are sure to know what to do."

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