We do not think in the same way when the threat is border. Five months before his departure from the Finnish presidency after two consecutive terms, Sauli Niinisto spoke bluntly about the war in Ukraine in a long interview with the New York Times. In this interview published Sunday, the outgoing president, who had a major role in his country's accession to NATO last April, considers that the outbreak of the conflict by Moscow in February 2022 sounded like an "alarm signal" for the West.
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The alarm sounded loudly in February 2022, but do you still hear it? So clearly?" the head of state asked. "This could be a good question: whether all Europeans are aware that this is a European problem," the Finnish president continued.
Call for de-escalation
Sauli Niinisto urged caution as the conflict, he believes, is here to stay. The risk of escalation to nuclear war is "enormous," he warned, justifying the caution of the Americans and Germans in delivering weapons demanded by Kiev. The F-16s promised by Washington, promised for 2023, have not yet been the subject of any official delivery schedule. As for Berlin, its hesitations before delivering Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine in early 2023 had been strongly criticized.
In Finland, we hear voices that America should do this or that," Niinisto said. And I just wanted to point out that if there is an escalation to a big war ... thenthe nuclear risk clearly becomes greater." According to the Finn, "there is a difference between those who have responsibilities and those who do not".
For the Scandinavian head of state, whose country shares 1340 kilometers of border with neighboring Russia, the right position vis-à-vis Moscow is the defensive attitude, maintaining a deterrent force. Sauli Niinisto advocated the Finnish model, while his country uses compulsory conscription and maintains a regularly trained active reserve. "After the Cold War, we Europeans learned to live an ever better life. Decade after decade, it reinforced the feeling that it was a bit old-fashioned to talk about defense forces or even defend oneself, because it was an impossible thing in a modern world," he said. Finland, for its part, has the wars with Russia inscribed "in (its) backbone", declared the Finnish president, who is pleased to see today "a massive awakening" of consciences in the face of the threat of war.
According to the New York Times, President Niinisto, who is completing 12 years at the helm of Finland, regularly advises US President Joe Biden on Vladimir Putin. A month before the invasion of Ukraine, in January 2022, Joe Biden asked his counterpart to urge the master of the Kremlin not to invade Ukraine. While some voices consider any dialogue with Vladimir Putin useless or impossible, the Finnish head of state, who has met many times with the master of the Kremlin, believes in the possibility of a relationship with Moscow. "I'm not talking about a great friendship," said Sauli Niinisto, "but about the ability to tolerate each other, even understand each other a little."