In a bid to “avoid tensions,” the Finnish president on Saturday briefed his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on his country’s upcoming NATO candidacy, a historic postponement the Kremlin lord calls a “mistake.”
• Also read: LIVE | There has been fighting in Ukraine since the 80th day
• Also read: Ukraine will win the war “before the end of the year”.
“The conversation was direct and direct and passed without hassle. It was considered important to avoid tensions,” said Finnish leader Sauli Niinistö, who has been 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 expand NATO any further, as justification for a change of footing.
Sweden, which has had no military alliances so far, is also poised to make the decision to join NATO with a key 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,” confirmed Timo Kaukonen, an official at grid operator Fingrid, 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 various types of actions (…), but there is no information indicating that Russia would launch military action against Finland,” Prime Minister Sanna Marin said on Saturday.
Alongside Russian hostility, another trap surfaced on Friday when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed his hostility towards this expansion of the Atlantic Alliance – which currently has 30 members, including Turkey.
The Turkish head of state particularly criticized the 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.
Invited to a meeting of NATO foreign ministers that started in Berlin on Saturday, Sweden and Finland will hold bilateral talks with Turkey to try and resolve this last-minute hostility.
“I am confident that we will find a solution in the end,” said the head of Finnish diplomacy, Pekka Haavisto, upon his arrival in the German capital
Since unanimity is required, Ankara is able to block the integration process, supported by the other NATO members.
“The overwhelming majority of the Turkish population is against the membership of these countries that support the terrorist organization PKK,” repeated Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Berlin on Saturday.
But he left the door open for a compromise: “These are issues that we obviously have to discuss with our NATO allies and the countries concerned,” he added.
“Finland and Sweden are our closest partners,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in a tweet.
In Helsinki on Saturday, the ruling Social Democratic Party gave the go-ahead for membership in a governing body vote.
“We hope to be able to send our applications together with Sweden this week. They have their own process, but I hope we will make the decisions at the same time,” the prime minister said.