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Wednesday's papers: Nato statement, Brexit briefing and US ambassador

The papers on Wednesday include a move to promote Nato membership, a Finnish perspective on Brexit and an interview with the new US Ambassador in Helsinki.

Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II
Finland has invited bids for new fighter jets. Image: Valda Kalnina / EPA

Finland's Lännen Media and Sweden's Svenska Dagbladet on Wednesday take a stand in favour of both countries joining the Nato military alliance. The statement is signed by a host of security experts and politicians from both countries and appears in 12 local Finnish papers including the Tampere daily Aamulehti, which has the second-largest print circulation of any daily newspaper in Finland after Helsingin Sanomat.

The statement says that the security of both countries is best guaranteed by all five Nordic states joining the transatlantic military alliance, in an effort to balance Russia's increasing beligerence.

In an editorial on the move, Lännen Media editor Matti Posio cites the upcoming Swedish election, which could usher in a new pro-Nato coalition, as a catalyst for the statement. If Sweden were to seek Nato membership, pressure would increase on Finland to do the same even if public opinion remained hostile.

Brexit battle

AL also gets an update on Brexit negotiations from Finland's EU Commissioner, Jyrki Katainen. He does not paint a rosy picture.

"The basic questions of principle are still open, like whether Britain wants to be in the single market or not," said Katainen. "The biggest problem in these negotiations is that Britain does not itself know what it wants."

Katainen added that trade with the UK was getting more difficult as uncertainty grows among EU countries.

"We don't know how to trade with Britain," said Katainen. "Finland is an exporting country, so of course all technical, contractual difficulties will also affect Finland. Of course the biggest price will be paid by Britain."

America's man in Helsinki

Helsingin Sanomat has an interview with the new US ambassador in Helsinki, Robert Frank Pence. As a diplomatic posting it's not the easiest, given the current US President's habit of attacking European allies, but Pence puts a little distance between himself and his ultimate boss.

He says he's a traditional Republican who supported Scott Walker and Marco Rubio in the primaries before the last presidential election, and is socially liberal on matters such as gay marriage.

He's also full of warm words for Finland, which escapes any Trumpian wrath for Nato allies who don't spend enough on defence.

"In my opinion Finland does its fair share," said Pence. "Finland isn't a Nato member, but in defence spending it's near the top among EU states, If Finland makes the procurements it's planning to, it will exceed the [Nato members'] required spending of two percent of GDP, which it doesn't need to exceed."

Finland is currently scheduled to purchase new fighter jets in the coming years, with defence firms vying for the contract.

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