Finnish FM Elina Valtonen says Helsinki doesn’t expect Moscow to attack, but still seeks to maintain a strong defensive posture
Russia poses no imminent military threat to Finland, the Nordic country’s foreign minister, Elina Valtonen, has said. The diplomat, however, insisted that Helsinki’s decision to join NATO in 2022 was justified, accusing Moscow of using hybrid warfare tactics to “make life more difficult for us.”
Finland, which had for decades been neutral, announced its plans to join the US-led military bloc a few months after Russia launched its military operation against Ukraine in February 2022. After complying with Türkiye’s preconditions, Ankara lifted its initial veto, with Finland becoming a member state in April 2023. Russia has described its neighbor’s move as misguided, arguing that the two countries had previously enjoyed good relations.
In an interview with SRF broadcaster on Wednesday, Valtonen stated that Helsinki does not believe that a “direct military threat to Finland emanates from Russia.” Nevertheless, the Nordic nation must be prepared for any scenario, the diplomat stressed, adding that the country is “working with our allies on a credible deterrence.”
According to the minister, Finland has traditionally placed a great deal of emphasis on national defense, citing the Soviet-Finnish wars of the 20th century. Regarding the benefits NATO membership has brought to Finland, Valtonen replied by saying: “we will never again stand there alone.”
The diplomat went on to accuse the Russian government of allowing illegal migrants from third countries to cross into Finland. She also claimed that her country has for years been subjected to Russian cyberattacks.
Last month, Finland and the US signed a Defense Cooperation Agreement that allows Washington to station troops, and store weapons and ammunition in the Nordic country. Under the accord, Washington was granted “unimpeded access and use” of 15 zones and facilities.
Finnish Defense Minister Antti Hakkanen said at the time that the agreement represented a “pretty tough pre-emption for our neighbor,” as quoted by Yle.
Commenting on the latest developments along Russia’s northern border, President Vladimir Putin announced that the country “will now create the Leningrad Military District and concentrate certain military units there.”
“There was no trouble. Now there will be,” he warned.
He called Helsinki’s decision to join NATO “nonsense,” insisting that the two countries have no territorial disputes.
The new force will be stationed in Leningrad Region in the northwestern part of Russia, where the city of St. Petersburg – known as Leningrad during Soviet times – is located.
January 18, 2024 at 03:03PM