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Expert: Nordic ministers’ article unwisely provoked Russia

Markku Kivinen, Director of the Aleksanteri Institute, the expert academic body in Finland on all things Russian, says the five Nordic ministers that wrote the article on increased Nordic defence cooperation should have chosen their words more carefully. The article said joint defence among the Nordics had to be stepped up due to a "Russian threat", causing the Russian Foreign Ministry to say that it too is concerned that joint Nordic defence is growing more antagonistic towards Russia.

Puolustusministeri Carl Haglund.
Finland's Defence Minister Carl Haglund was one of the five Nordic ministers that penned the newspaper article that Russia's Foreign Ministry said raised their concerns. Image: Roni Rekomaa / Lehtikuva

Aleksanteri Institute Director Markku Kivinen says the Nordic ministers behind Thursday’s newspaper article in Norway should own up to acting “unwisely in provocation”. He says Russia’s reaction is hardly surprising.

“One could infer that Russia is still holding onto its same position, namely that Finland and Sweden need to keep their distance from NATO. The only element of concern here is that the Nordic defence ministers have themselves given rise to the Russian statement. It is perhaps the most worrying aspect, that this may draw Finland and the other Nordics closer to the Ukraine crisis,” says Kivinen.  

He says in this case, it wasn't the Russians that aggravated the situation.

“The Russians are simply responding to provocation that stemmed from the Nordic defence ministers. Is it really a smart option to start saying that Russia is a threat and pull together as a Nordic block? In our situation, it would be much wiser to make overtures in the other direction - make it a point to demonstrate how the Nordic countries differ from parts of the world like Ukraine,” he continues.

“The whole problem is very troublesome for Finland, because there are forces in Russia that would love to put countries like Finland and Ukraine in the same category. But it goes without saying that we should avoid this course of thinking to the very last.”

Kivinen says the Russian Foreign Ministry’s statement will likely lead to many calming statements from Finnish foreign policy leadership in the next few days, designed to restore balance.  

Haglund lays low

Defence Minister Carl Haglund kept a low profile after the news of the Russian statement broke on Sunday, saying he preferred not to comment. He did however relay a message via his assistant that he agreed with Prime Minister Alexander Stubb’s call for Finns “not be startled by the Russian sable-rattling”.

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