(Helsinki) In a bid to “avoid tension”, the Finnish President on Saturday briefed his counterpart Vladimir Putin on his country’s upcoming candidacy for NATO, a historic postponement described by the Kremlin master as a “mistake”.
Posted at 7:53 am
Updated at 9:07 am
“The conversation was direct and direct and went smoothly. Avoiding tensions was considered important,” said Finnish leader Sauli Niinistö, a very regular interlocutor with the Russian president in recent years.
According to Moscow, Vladimir Putin told him that it would be a mistake for Finland to end its long policy of military non-alignment “since there is no threat to Finland’s security”.
President Niinistö and Prime Minister Sanna Marin announced on Thursday that they want Finland to join NATO “immediately”, with formalization of the candidacy expected on Sunday, then a vote in parliament likely on Monday.
Helsinki sees the invasion of Ukraine, but also Moscow’s demand not to make any further NATO expansion, as justification for his change of footing.
Sweden, which historically has had no military alliances, is also preparing for the decision to join NATO with an important meeting of the ruling Social Democratic Party in Stockholm on Sunday.
Moscow threatened “technical-military” reprisals.
Have these started? As the subsidiary of a Russian supplier announced on Friday, electricity exports from Russia to Finland, which account for almost 10% of consumption in the Nordic country, were suspended at midnight on Saturday night.
Exports from Russia to Finland “are currently at zero,” Timo Kaukonen, an official at electricity grid operator Fingrid, confirmed to AFP. But the demand is met by significant imports from Sweden.
However, according to the company RAO Nordic, a subsidiary of the Russian concern InterRAO in Helsinki, this suspension is related to unpaid bills noted for a week, the exact causes of which were not specified.
Finland, which shares a 1,300-kilometer border and a painful past with Russia, said it expects measures such as computer attacks or border violations.
“We are prepared for different types of actions […]but there is no information to suggest that Russia would launch military action against Finland,” Prime Minister Sanna Marin said on Saturday.
In addition to Russian hostility, another trap surfaced in Sweden and Finland’s march towards NATO on Friday, when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan showed his hostility towards joining the alliance, which currently has 30 members including Turkey.
The Turkish leader particularly criticized these two Nordic countries for serving as “hostels for the terrorists of the PKK,” the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which is considered a terrorist organization by Ankara, but also by the European Union and the United States.
As unanimity is required, Ankara feels it is able to deadlock the process, while NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has said he expects the two Nordic countries to be welcomed “with open arms”.
Invited to an informal meeting of NATO foreign ministers this weekend in Berlin, Sweden and Finland are due to hold bilateral talks with Turkey on Saturday.
Stockholm and Helsinki admitted they had had no warning signs of Turkish hostility.
“It’s better to take it easy. So far, Turkey’s message to us has been exactly the opposite,” Niinistö emphasized in an interview with Finnish television Yle on Saturday.
However, a new step was taken in Helsinki on Saturday with the green light of the Social Democratic Party led by the prime minister.
According to the result of the party leadership vote, of the 60 members of the party leadership, 53 voted in favor, 5 against and two abstained.
“We hope to be able to send our applications together with Sweden this week. They have their own process, but hopefully we’ll make the decisions at the same time,” said Ms.me Marine.