Finland's President Sauli Niinistö and Minister of Foreign Affairs Erkki Tuomioja gave an interview to the Washington Post where Niinistö admitted that joining NATO would have been easier 20 years ago.
Niinistö and Tuomioja discussed the tense security situation in Europe in light of the Ukraine crisis, continuous recent Russian incursions into Finnish airspace, and Finland joining NATO.
"We have a long history with Russia - not that peaceful all the time. So everything Russians are doing, surely the Finns notice and think very carefully what that might mean," said Niinistö in the interview.
Niinistö reiterated that Finland is not planning to join NATO now, and conceded that it would have been an easier 20 years ago, when Russia was weak.
"No one so far made a clear proposal. It hasn't been discussed, surely not decided. The question is: When? I think our Prime Minister has expressed, like many other NATO supporters here in Finland, that now is not the correct time,“ the President said.
Tuomioja echoed the President's words.
"We have a 1,300-kilometer border between Russia and Finland. From our point of view, but also from a Russian point of view, it’s the most stable and least problematic frontier they have, and I believe they want to keep it that way as long as they have no reason to believe that the Finnish territory would be used for hostile action. That’s the basis of our position since the second World War," he said.
However, both politicians stressed the importance of military cooperation with Sweden and NATO. Niinistö said that Finland is a strong military power in its own terms.
"We are not part of NATO. But we are part of the European Union and part of the West. We still have conscription. We have a strong army. It’s 250,000 men. 250,000 men is something you have to at least take notice of,“ he said.