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Defence Minister Stands by Thorny Russia Comment

Defence Minister Jyri Häkämies has refused to backpedal on a controversial comment he made last week about the security challenge posed by Russia. His statement sparked a chorus of opposition from high-level politicians all eager to separate the comment from official policy. During an official visit to Washington D.C, Häkämies told an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies that "The three most important security challenges from Finland's point of view are Russia, Russia and Russia."

On Sunday, he told YLE that he does not believe that his speech contained anything contrary to Finland’s official position on its relations with Russia. He clarified that he never said Russia posed a threat, rather, that the country's increasing wealth and emphasis on military development will affect international politics.

Häkämies also noted that his speech underlined the importance of engaging Russia in a number of international negotiations.

President Tarja Halonen and Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen were both quick to publicly distance themselves from Häkämies's comment, while former Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja said the statement showed a lack of judgement.

Häkämies insists that he does not see where his views differ from those held by the President and the Prime Minister.