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Niinistö to call Putin on Friday

Finland's political leadership are reconsidering security policy in the wake of Russia's attack on Ukraine. 

President Sauli Niinistö has maintained contact with Vladimir Putin even as other western leaders have not. Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle

Finland's President Sauli Niinistö said on Thursday that Parliament must consider the risks and advantages of various security arrangements before reaching a decision on whether to seek Nato membership.

Speaking at a press conference after meeting with a group of party leaders and parliamentarians, Niinistö said that all options included risks and that they must be weighed against each other in a forthcoming report on Nato membership — but that Parliament would decide in the end.

"The options include risks as well, and these risks should be examined carefully," said Niinistö. "That is the purpose of the report."

He also said he would speak to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Friday, as part of Finland's policy of keeping channels of communication open.

"We have seen that despite everything it has been important that communication with Russia is maintained," said Niinistö. "Europeans including President [Emmanuel] Macron and Chancellor [Olaf] Scholz have done so. I have heard from both of them about the duty of maintaining contact, if such contact exists."

Niinistö's last reported phone call with Putin was on 21 January.

Nato process ongoing

Since Russia invaded Ukraine, there has been intense speculation about a possible application from Finland to join Nato, with a historic public opinion poll showing majority support for an application for the first time. MPs, however, have been slower to change their minds.

Niinistö declined to give his own opinion on a possible Nato membership application.

"Personally I've tried to approach the issue in an analytical way," said Niinistö. "Considering the good and bad sides. And now the decision-makers, that is Parliament, would do well to do the same. If I now start giving my opinion, it could hinder that analytical and objective mindset."

Niinistö said the report authors were now going through different scenarios, and the pros and cons of each. The report would not recommend a course of action — it would be up to MPs to draw their conclusions from it.

US co-operation

Thursday's meeting was attended by the speaker and deputy Speakers of Parliament, members of the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Defence Committee, along with the leaders of all parties in the legislature.

The agenda was focused on Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the security situation's impact on Finnish security and foreign policy, along with future steps that need to be taken.

It was a continuation of the meeting he held remotely last Wednesday, before he went to Washington DC to meet President Joe Biden, and Defence Minister Antti Kaikkonen (Cen) went to Washington for bilateral talks.

Those visits strengthened defence ties between Finland and the US, and were seen as an exploration of the possibilities and timetable of any Nato application.