Sweden dismisses NATO talk, Finland says no Russian threat

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Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven met Finnish President Sauli Niinistö on June 19 in Naantali. (Bengt Östling / Yle)
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven met Finnish President Sauli Niinistö on June 19 in Naantali. (Bengt Östling / Yle)
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven joined Finnish President Sauli Niinistö at his summer residence in southwest Finland on Sunday for a two-day summit on foreign and security policy.

Löfven made it clear that Sweden is prepared to defend Finland if needed in the name of solidarity, but dismissed talk of a potential defence alliance or potential NATO membership as premature.

Swedish premier Stefan Löfven made history on Sunday as the first foreign head of state to attend a summit at the Finnish President’s summer residence in southwest Naantali. This year’s two-day summit explores the topic of foreign and security policy.

Niinistö and Löfven met one-on-one on Sunday, after which they held a joint press conference. Both heads of state emphasized their desire to introduce closer defence cooperation between their countries.

Löfven: Predictability would be ideal

Löfven said applying for full NATO membership is not on the horizon for Sweden.

“Sweden has been able to live in peace for centuries and we intend to continue for at least another 200 years. We seek predictability and long-term development in our immediate vicinity. NATO membership is not timely,” he said.

Niinistö: Russia not a threat

Among other things, Finland’s latest foreign and security appraisal released on Friday said that Finland cannot rule out the possibility of a military use of force. When questioned, President Niinistö said that acknowledging this fact is practising realism. But when it comes to a threat to Finland from the East, Niinistö said squarely that he doesn’t see it.

“Russia presents no concrete, clearly discernible threat to our security,” he said at the press conference.

He wondered if perhaps Finland doesn’t spend too much time worrying about raising Russia’s ire.

“We tend to worry about what might cause an annoyance or wake the bear. I think our concerns in this area might be blown out of proportion, for as president I haven’t observed anything the Finns have done to incur Russian disapproval. They will say something if they are of a different opinion, and that’s a good thing. We certainly aren’t afraid to say something, if we disagree with them,” Finland’s president said.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Canada’s defence review and the Arctic, Eye on the Arctic

Denmark:  Nordics to step up security cooperation on perceived Russian threat, Yle News

Finland:  Finland to plan joint Nordic military uniform, Yle News

Norway:  Norway creates new Army unit on Arctic border with Russia, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia:  New Russian spy ship to keep tabs on Norway, Barents Observer

Sweden:  New security landscape in the Arctic, Radio Sweden

United States: U.S. general says Alaska military cuts not final without Arctic plan, Alaska Public Radio Network

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