Finland: NATO membership no substitute for strong national defence

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Finnish President Sauli Niinistö (pictured here in 2012) says NATO's free ride arrangement cannot ensure national security. (Heikki Saukkomaa / Lehtikuva / AFP)
Finnish President Sauli Niinistö (pictured here in 2012) says NATO’s free ride arrangement cannot ensure national security. (Heikki Saukkomaa / Lehtikuva / AFP)

Cooperation with the military alliance NATO has helped Finland develop its defence capabilities, said Finnish President Sauli Niinistö.

Speaking to Finnish ambassadors gathered in Helsinki, Niinistö warned however that national security cannot be secured by a free ride.

President Sauli Niinistö told Finland’s diplomatic corps that the country’s current relationship with NATO had served its interests.

“The NATO-led surveillance of Icelandic air space to be conducted next year is an example of this,” Niinistö said.

According to the president, Finland’s NATO cooperation has provided freedom of action and choice and room to see and act independently.

However according to Niinistö, national security cannot be secured by a free-ride arrangement.

“It can be cold on that ride, especially at the stage when the conductor appears. So we have to look after ourselves, whether or not we’re in an alliance,” he noted.

Niinistö said that a foreign and security conference that he hosted at his summer home Kultaranta in June, helped clarify ideas about NATO membership, adding that “some bubbles burst”.

“One of them was the idea that NATO membership could replace a strong national defence capability,” he declared.

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