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President Niinistö: We can’t stand by while common values are threatened

Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö has made a strong defence of EU sanctions on Russia, despite the cost to the Finnish economy. Addressing Finnish ambassadors in Helsinki, Niinistö also touched on Finland’s defence alliances and possible Nato membership.

Tasavallan presidentti Sauli Niinistö suurlähettiläspäivillä tiistaina.
President Sauli Niinistö. Image: Ulkoministeriö

Finnish president met key Finnish diplomats in Helsinki on Tuesday, giving a speech that laid out his assessments of the diplomatic and security challenges facing the country.

High on the agenda were the sanctions and counter-sanctions on Russia that have cost Finnish companies dearly in recent weeks. Niinistö said that Finland’s view on the Ukraine crisis has been clear right from the start, and that the country had to take a stand.

“We cannot disqualify ourselves from our responsibilities with regard to the principles on which European conflicts are resolved,” said Niinistö. “We can’t just look after our own practical interests when our common values are violated.”

Fresh from visits to both Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, Niinistö also emphasised the importance of keeping lines of communication open.

"Of course we have not done this work alone, but as part of a bigger effort," said Niinistö. "Our work supports a broader international effort to resolve the conflict."

"Finland can't outsource security"

In a wide-ranging speech the president then moved on to Finland’s current security needs.

“Finland does not face a military threat,” said Niinistö. “The situation in our neighbourhood is stable.”

Despite that, Niinistö lauded the evolving alliances that now shore up Finnish defence policy while maintaining that the responsibility for defending the country rests with Finns.

Finland currently co-operates with Nato but is militarily non-aligned, while also participating in Nordic defence arrangements, the EU’s security and defence policy and bilateral agreements with several countries including the United States and Sweden.

”Finnish defence cannot be outsourced,” said Niinistö. “If we don’t want to take responsibility ourselves, I doubt volunteers from elsewhere will be found. On the other hand there is no credible ‘hermit defence’ model. Technology already dictates that. International co-operation and the support networks around that are the natural, modern defence solution.”

Niinistö’s thoughts on the sanctions regime were echoed by Prime Minister Alexander Stubb.

“It’s a kind of soft power,” said Stubb. “It’s the only instrument we have. We don’t use military force so we use economic measures.”

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