September 9, 2016

Security in the Baltic Region. Finland's Vision


Yesterday, September 7, 2016, at the invitation of Director of the Danish Foreign Policy Society Charlotte Pedersen, in the building of the Danish Parliament in Copenhagen I met with the Foreign Minister of Finland Timo Soini. By the way, can imagine a meeting of Ukrainian NGOs in the building of the Ukrainian Parliament, with let's say Foreign Minister of Ukraine to discuss burning issues of today? I think even if the answer were yes, it would be with so to speak a stretch... That's the difference between the mature Danish civil society and the newly emerging Ukrainian one. In Denmark politicians and officials are constantly monitored by the society. And it does not work  for the official, but vice versa. Hence today this country ranks first in the world by living standards, and Ukraine holds different “records”.

As for the Finnish Foreign Minister's speech “Security in the Baltic region. Finland's vision”,  I'd  like to highlight the following points. Thus, Timo Soini said that today his country faces two major challenges. If you think that one of them is Russia's aggressive policy, events in Ukraine or Syria,  you are mistaken. The Minister gave the first place simultaneously to two - the fight against terrorism and illegal migration. He believes that the promotion of a mass flow of African migrants to the European Union does not help Africa. While it will create problems for the European Union, — it is exactly what is happening today. Therefore, this issue needs a comprehensive solution involving all the major global players and international organizations. Moreover, he believes that this mass migration of the poor population will be used to their advantage by terrorist infiltrations in the European Union and in the Baltic region.

Finland's Foreign Minister Timo Soini and Charlotte Pederson, Director of the Danish Foreign Policy Society

The second question concerned Russia's aggressive policy. In this context, Ukraine was mentioned several times. The main attention was focused on the dangerous actions of the Russian military in the waters of the Baltic and North Seas and in the airspace of the Baltic region. He openly stated that by such actions the Russian Federation threatens the security of civil aviation and freedom of navigation and violates basic international rules and international law (can't help mentioning here the destruction by the Russian terrorist troops of the Malaysian “Boeing”). I pointed out  that this problem is not just Finland's, Sweden's or of Denmark's. This problem  should be resolved on the international level, especially making changes in the legislation regulating these issues, and strictly monitoring their execution.

The next point is the question of Finland's and Sweden's joining NATO. In fact, these countries are prepared to become members of NATO. They are closely cooperating  with NATO, and are going to continue this cooperation in the future. But he mentioned an interesting fact. The Russian Federation actually considers NATO a hostile organization. Russia's main argument to explain its aggressive behavior is  NATO's expansion to the East, especially to the territories that had historically been under Russia's influence. This, it believes, threatens its security. To date, the length of the border between Russia and Finland is about 1270 km. This is more than the Finnish border with other EU countries. And with Finland's joining NATO, this boundary will actually become a line of confrontation between NATO and Russia, and Finland again comes to the front line of the confrontation, which does not add to its  security. He reminded that Finland already has a bad experience of getting help from other countries during the war with the Soviet Union, when apart from “chocolates and sweets”, they had got nothing (does this not call the ring? — Ed.).


The Baltic Region

The Russians have long expanded their military presence in the Baltic Sea region. One of the reasons for the increasing tension between Russia and NATO is  the illegal annexation of the Crimea and the war in Ukraine. In this difficult situation it is very important to maintain stability in the Baltic Sea region. And NATO clearly stands ready to strongly defend all its partners. Finland is also interested in this. At the same time it is important that NATO's response was defensive. And the task is precisely to demonstrate firmness and not to provoke or escalate the situation, says the Minister.

As for Russia, the position here is also clear, and it was great to hear the Minister starting with the annexation of the Crimea and the Russian aggression in the East of Ukraine, and promising  to lift  the  sanctions only after the Minsk Agreements have been implemented, and supporting the use of  the Normandy format. But at the same time, he pointed out that Ukraine and Russia should jointly seek early exit from this situation. How long it takes to solve this problem? I wish, he said, it could happen tomorrow, but “it will happen when it will happen”.  The EU won't give up this position. For it is imperative to observe the basic European values, international law, human rights, to remember the indivisibility of the borders after World War II.


Discussion with  Charlotte Pedersen and Michael Lyngby,
a member of the Danish Helsinki Committee for Human Rights

Although it is very difficult to stand on such positions. The sanctions imposed on Russia first of all have a negative impact on the EU, in the first place — in economic terms. Representatives of individual countries have repeatedly raised the question of lifting those sanctions. And as you know, decisions in the EU are adopted by all Member States, and if one of them opposes, the decision is not taken. It is difficult to explain the situation to our citizens, such as farmers who suffer large losses from the sanctions. But, said the Minister, we still try to persuade them that European and human values ​​are above those losses, and point out that if we let Russia act as it pleases, there will be threat over other countries, including the Baltic region, where there is a large Russian diaspora.

...Our meeting was held in a pleasant and constructive atmosphere. Many questions asked showed that everything associated with Russia's aggressive behavior, is a genuine concern in the Baltic States. I would also like to point out  that in Europe they expect that we will constantly move through reforms and show real results. Only then we can rely on their support. On the sidelines of the meeting, during a conversation with Danish politicians, experts and NGOs, repeatedly were voiced different interpretations of the events in the East of  Ukraine and reforms in our country. Interestingly, they are very well aware of the situation in our country, and, so to speak, highlight the key points in their own ways. Not least due to Russia's perseverance, which is trying to actively influence the expert community here. So the Foreign Ministry of Ukraine and our embassy — in particular, have a whole front of active work here. 



At the end of our meeting, I passed over the analytical materials prepared by experts of “Borysfen Intel”, “RUSSIA'S” HYBRID WAR “AGAINST UKRAINE: THE MAIN POLITICAL AND MILITARY ASPECTS AND POSSIBLE CONSEQUENCES FOR EUROPE” to Finland's  Foreign Minister and other participants in these hearings.