“Nothing taboo” in upcoming talks with Russia’s Putin, Finnish President Niinistö says

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Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö during their meeting at the Bocharov Ruchei state residence in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia on August 22, 2018. Niinistö and Putin are set to meet within the coming weeks. A date or place for the meeting has yet to be announced. (Pavel Golovkin/Pool via Reuters)
Finnish President Sauli Niinistö said on Tuesday that no issue or subject will be considered off the table when he meets with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin within the next few weeks.

The President’s office has yet to announce a date or place for the meeting.

“In addition to our official sit-down we will also speak privately in greater length over the course of the evening,” Niinistö said. “Now that we’ve met a number of times already, no subject is taboo.”

The President did not comment on the likelihood of recent anti-Putin demonstrations and subsequent arrests in Moscow coming up in their talks.

“We will be speaking quite freely on a number of topics. I don’t consider it polite to reveal them beforehand.”

Niinistö responded to questions about the coming meeting while on a visit to Mariehamn, where he toured the Pommern museum ship and a microbrewery in the village of Godby.

Niinistö dismisses Hungarian president’s comments

As for the criticism leveled against democracy in Finland by Hungarian President Viktor Orbán in late July, Niinistö urged people not to react too strongly to the foreign leader’s comments.

Niinistö said he has followed Orbán’s career since the 1990s.

“In those days he was very conciliatory; he has changed tack since then. I wouldn’t pay much mind to what he says. Perhaps he wants people to react. Many across Europe are aware of his manner and his style; I don’t think anyone has taken the bait.”

Orbán’s comments were themselves a reaction to Finland’s announcement that it would use its EU presidency period to move toward tying EU funding to each country’s efficacy in rule of law.

Orbán pointed to Finland’s lack of a separate court for dealing with constitutional law matters, for instance, implying that Hungarians find it ridiculous when Finland calls attention to Hungary’s enforcement of the rule of law.

Anti-immigration party sides with Orbán

Meanwhile chair Jussi Halla-aho of the anti-immigration Finns Party said that Orbán’s comments were legitimate.

“It’s understandable that Hungary has criticised Finland in light of the fact that almost all of Finland’s political parties as well as the government have been very aggressive about Hungary,” Halla-aho said in early August.

Niinistö said that contradictory opinions on foreign policy exist in Finland’s Parliament, just as in parliaments elsewhere in Europe.

“It seems that Finns Party supporters see something they like in Orbán’s politics, and they are expressing that,” Niinistö said.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Canada, U.S. must do more to check Russian military in the Arctic, says NORAD chief, CBC News

Finland: Finland’s new defence chief says country likely to reduce participation in international drills, Yle News

Iceland: Iceland & UK sign agreement to boost security, defence cooperation, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: Russian warplanes drill submarine hunt in Norwegian Sea, Norway on edge, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Nordic leaders stand united as they sit with Putin in Russia, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Sweden wants to rebuild its “total defence” system, Radio Sweden

United States: U.S. ups rhetoric in Arctic, but not its game, Cryopolitics Blog

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