Juha Sipilä: New Food For Thought Regarding Foreign Policy

juha sipiläA private opinion expressed recently by Prime Minister Juha Sipilä on his blog.

(Translated by Timo Willman)

An evaluation compiled by four foreign and security policy experts regarding the effects of Finland’s possible joining of NATO was published today. The report is good. And I would like to thank Mats Bergquist, François Heisbourg, René Nyberg and Teija Tiilikainen for their excellent work done on such a tight schedule.

We noted down a year ago in our government programme that the government would compile a report regarding our foreign and security policy, which would also give insight into what consequences joining NATO would have for Finland.

This report has been completed as a work by a group of independent experts. The government has in no way influenced the contents of it or the conclusions it has drawn. It is therefore an evaluation based on the experts’ opinions. It does not change the government’s current NATO policy in any way: Finland is not a member state of the military alliance, continuing a practical partnership with NATO and maintaining the possibility of requesting membership. Nor does the evaluation change my own views, which are in line with the government policy – Finland should not join.

It is, however, very valuable that we now have a clear and well thought out analysis of the repercussions of a hypothetical joining of NATO. One could say that, in terms of its contents, it is first of its kind. I myself hope that it will function as foundation for a comprehensive deliberation on this topic, with its pros and cons. Until now, discussions about the NATO issue have been obscured by biases rooted in our history as well as today’s conversational culture based so much on talking over one another.

We will also be making use of the work completed in this NATO assessment in our foreign and security policy report, due to be completed in the next weeks, which will form a base for the direction of Finland’s foreign and security policy for the next years.

It is, however, clear that the ongoing deliberation into our foreign and security policies does not change the government’s alliance decisions in any way – Finland is not being taken to the NATO behind anyone’s back. Such big decisions would require a wide and public discussion, careful political deliberation and in the opinion of most of the parties – including the Centre Party – a national vote.

As the expert analysis states, small nations do not often change the general directions of their foreign policies. Continuity is more significant to us than it is for superpowers.

It is clear from the NATO report that a varied western cooperation is of great importance in our foreign and security policy. For example, a mutual cooperation with NATO has existed for over 20 years already. In relation to this, I hope that the new round of NATO discussions likely to begin now will not focus solely on the question of joining NATO but will also take into consideration this varied mutual cooperation which we have had with NATO for such a long time already and which has proven useful to us in regard to our national security.

The NATO report also makes it clear how important a cooperation with Sweden is for us. We face similar challenges with regards to our national securities, and our interests in the Baltic area are the same. We both belong to NATO’s developed partners and work together tightly, both with each other as well as in our relationships with NATO. We both of course will continue to make our own, independent decisions regarding our foreign, security and defence policies, but we both find a close dialogue and informing of one another regarding these topics very important. This will continue.

The report also deals well with Russia’s development. Pre-empting any possible reactions from Russia towards Finland perhaps joining NATO is naturally to a great extent mere speculation. But we need to still be able to talk about them. And at the same time remember what I stated above: Finland makes its own foreign, security and defence policies based on its own premises; these decisions are no one else’s business.

The NATO report reminds us that during our independence, with its many different stages, we have learned to master our foreign political landscape by being attentive to its different shades and dimensions. This has required wisdom, acumen and adaptability from us. These will remain our guidelines in the future as well. Peace and stability in Northern Europe and the Baltic are of paramount importance to Finland.

I hope this newly completed NATO report will be the base for an analytical and unprejudiced discussion about Finland’s relationship with NATO. There is both support and opposition in Finland to the thought of joining, as well as many who have yet to form an opinion on the issue. There is room for all of these opinions now and in the future – a constructive discussion is key.

Categories: Defence, Government, Security, Uncategorized

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