Helsinki Daily: Clear Split on NATO Role Between Ilves, Niinistö ({{commentsTotal}})

The Finnish daily Helsingin Sanomat said between the presidential press services' official lines on close relations, President Toomas Hendrik Ilves displayed impatience with reasoning employed by NATO-skeptic Finnish politicians and that his view on the alliance's role clashed with that of his host, Finnish head of state Sauli Niinistö. 

"NATO is a difficult topic in the discussions between the presidents," wrote Anna-Liina Kauhanen, "not least because Finland doesn't want to join NATO right now, no matter how Ilves might try. And he is urging hard. He really wants NATO units in Estonia and NATO states around Estonia."

"Ilves, the president of a NATO country, is among those for whom the solution is NATO: he wants to see Finland and Sweden in NATO and NATO units permanently in Estonia. That was clear from his speeches." 

Niinistö maintains that FInland and Sweden are no security vacuum, and that the EU should be included in defense. Ilves doesn't put much stock in EU joint defense, as it would be non-binding, no matter what the Lisbon Treaty says.

At one point, Ilves retorted that it was unclear to him what aircraft Finland would use to send its Pasi armored transporters to assist those in need. He said he did not understand how NATO membership would hurt the conscript-based army, arguing that it would help save on costs. Kauhanen wrote that the irritation was mutual: Niinistö was also less than pleased with the friction.