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Finnish FM Valtonen discusses Russia's future, Sweden's Nato bid in Washington Post interview

Finland's foreign minister sat down for an interview with the Washington Post during her visit to New York City for the UN General Assembly last week.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Elina Valtonen.
Foreign Minister Elina Valtonen (NCP) touched on Finland's Nato membership, Russia's future and Finland's decision to ban the entry of Russian-registered cars in an interview with the Washington Post. Image: Jorge González / Yle
Yle News

Foreign Minister Elina Valtonen (NCP) spoke about Russia's war in Ukraine as well as Sweden's stalled bid to join Nato in a wide-ranging interview with US newspaper The Washington Post.

Valtonen spoke to the newspaper last week in New York, when she attended the UN General Assembly as part of the Finnish delegation.

Russia's future

In the interview, Valtonen talked about Finland's experience as a neighbour of Russia and its relationship with the Kremlin.

In response to a question about what Russia would look like after the war, Valtonen responded that it is important to remember that the responsibility for the war in Ukraine does not solely rest on Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"And I think what many haven’t perhaps realised is that this is not just Putin’s war. It seems that the Russian machinery, so to speak, has been preparing for this for a very long time. They have been actively waging war since [the 2008 invasion of] Georgia and 2014 against Ukraine, with the illegal annexation of Crimea.," Valtonen said.

During that time, she added, many Russians have had the opportunity to tell Putin that his actions are unacceptable.

"So if Putin goes, it’s very unlikely that somehow Russia will become a peaceful normal democracy," Valtonen said, adding that, "But while hoping for that, we have to prepare for the worst and the worst is that Russia remains like it is and perhaps even worse in the future."

Sweden in Nato

The interview also touched on Sweden's stalled bid to become a full Nato member. Valtonen was asked whether it was possible that Sweden would not become a member of Nato "for a while".

"Turkey is a sovereign country and they are free to decide as they wish, but I’m pretty confident that they will move soon," Valtonen said, further noting that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan promised a green light in July and the Turkish parliament will return from its recess in October.

"So I would wish that in October, they are ready to go ahead," Valtonen said.

The Finnish foreign minister also defended Finland's decision to ban the entry of Russian-registered cars.

Valtonen said that the decision may seem unfair to ordinary Russians, who do not live in a free democracy where people have a choice. Nevertheless, she said it was important to show Russia that an unjust and illegal war comes at a price.

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