Sauli Niinistö says he will talk to Russian leader to discuss change of situation after decision to join NATO
Finnish President Sauli Niinistö reportedly plans to call his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to discuss the changing security situation in the region now that leaders in Helsinki have decided to join NATO.
Niinistö commented on his planned rapprochement with Putin in an interview with Sweden’s TT news agency on Friday, a day after issuing a statement that Finland “must apply for NATO membership without delay.” The Kremlin has said Finland’s NATO membership would be a threat to Russia and that the US-led military bloc’s eastward expansion is undermining security in the region.
“I’m not the kind of person who just slips around the corner,” Niinistö said of his effort to discuss the issue with Putin. “I’m going to call him and tell him that the situation has changed, as we both know.”
Finland shares a 1,340-kilometre (832-mile) land border with Russia and fought a war with the Soviet Union in 1939. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, Niinistö and Putin used to meet in person twice a year. The Finnish leader traveled to Moscow to meet Putin last October, and the two men spoke by phone in March, when Niinistö raised concerns about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine two weeks after the military offensive against kyiv began.
Finland has maintained its military neutrality since the end of World War II, and the Finns have historically opposed joining NATO. Public opinion changed dramatically after Russian forces entered Ukraine on February 24. A poll by news outlet YLE found that a record 62% of Finns were in favor of NATO membership. Sweden, which has a history of military neutrality dating back more than two centuries, is also considering joining the bloc.
Niinistö and Swedish Prime Minister Magdelana Andersson spoke by phone with US President Joe Biden on Friday morning, days after the two Nordic leaders met British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. “We share deep concern about Russia’s war against Ukraine,” niinisto said from Friday’s call with Biden. “I reviewed Finland’s next steps towards NATO membership. Finland deeply appreciates all the necessary support from the United States.”
UK signs new ‘pre-NATO’ security deals
Although Finnish and Swedish leaders have said the Russian invasion of Ukraine forced them to rethink their security posture, they now seek to do one of the things that supposedly triggered the current conflict: seek NATO membership. Instead of reaping the expected peace dividend after the cold war ended in 1989, NATO extended its reach to Russia’s borders, breaking promises against eastward expansion. The bloc has added 14 new members since 1999, and Ukraine and another former Soviet republic, Georgia, have applied to be part of NATO’s next wave of expansion.
Russian leaders have argued that having NATO members and strategic weapons deployed on their country’s doorstep violates the principle of “indivisible security,” meaning that neither the Western bloc nor Moscow should strengthen its own security at the expense of the other. part.
Russia attacked Ukraine after the neighboring state failed to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The Minsk Protocol, negotiated by Germany and France, was designed to give breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.
Since then, the Kremlin has demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. kyiv insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it planned to retake the two republics by force.