President dismisses paper’s claim of ‘going it alone’

Finnish President Sauli Niinistö spoke to Yle on Saturday about what he felt were unfair claims of ‘going it alone’ from the country’s leading newspaper Helsingin Sanomat. The paper reported earlier this week that the President’s initiative to require transponder use over the Baltic Sea allegedly created undue confusion and broke with Finland’s foreign policy line.

Niinistö onnitteli nyrkkeilijä Mira Potkosta pronssimitalista.
Finnish President Sauli Niinistö congratulated Finnish bronze medal winner Mira Potkonen in Rio de Janeiro Saturday. Image: Heidi Lipsanen / Yle

President Sauli Niinistö put the record straight on Saturday when he said that everyone in the Ministerial Committee on Foreign and Security Policy had been informed ahead of time of his intentions to bring up the mandatory use of airplane transponders at his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in early July. Speaking to Yle from Rio de Janeiro, Niinistö said he found talk of him “going solo” and causing confusion inconceivable.

“Apparently when these things aren’t widely discussed, people can come up with their own versions of the truth that aren’t true,” he said. 

He explained that two separate Russian proposals for talks have apparently been mixed up. The first was presented by Russia at the NATO Summit in July.

“In this case, it was suggested that Russia, NATO, Finland and Sweden could continue a dialogue on air safety over the Baltic Sea, which included the principle of transponder use. They referred to my proposal in this area. No one was surprised by this,” Niinistö said on Saturday.

The president says Russia’s August proposal to hold talks was something else entirely. In this second proposal, Russia invited the countries bordering the Baltic Sea to bilateral negotiations on a much broader subject: security on the Baltic Sea. 

“No reference to my initiative was made in this instance. I have received a copy of the invitation that was sent to Finland and it is clear that the bilateral talks concern a completely different matter. It is a presentation on general security. This was never made clear, so some people quickly came to the conclusion that Russia is demanding a consultation because of Niinistö's proposal. This is a lie.”

Foreign Minister Timo Soini told the news agency Lännen Media on Saturday that he supported the idea of increased bilateral defence cooperation with the USA. President Niinistö says this issue too has been presented before.

“These are quite technical agreements. We just signed one with Britain a short time ago. They are rather general in nature – nothing dramatic,” the president said.

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