Ilves finds northern neighbors' preference for bilateral agreements with US over NATO membership puzzling ({{commentsTotal}})

President Toomas Hendrik Ilves. Source: (Hanna Samoson/ERR)

President Toomas Hendrik Ilves does not see the logic behind Finland and Sweden preferring to sign bilateral agreements with the US over simply joining NATO themselves.

Speaking in a longer interview to Vikerraadio, Ilves said that the signing of bilateral agreements was better than nothing, although he cannot full understand the logic behind it.

The president stressed that Russia's displeasure with regard to NATO does not stem from the fact that NATO itself would be very dangerous, but rather the fact that the US's role within it is so great.

"I don't know if it's politically ingenious to sign bilateral agreements with the US, who in Russia's eyes is the root of all this evil," said the Estonian head of state. "Whether this has the effect they are probably hoping for, that indeed they won't join NATO, but let's enter into bilateral agreements with the US. I don't know how this will be reacted to."

Ilves said that Estonia has refrained from lecturing its northern neighbors, recognizing how sensitive an issue this is.

"We have not lectured [them] and we have been very careful," explained Ilves. "When I have spoken about NATO in various speeches in Finland and Sweden, nobody has been able to identify a single suggestion to join NATO. I have been that careful, as the issue is such a sensitive one."

Asked about what caused such a spirited respnse when Ilves said that NATO's door may remain closed once the situation is already very serious, the Estonian president asked in turn if he had said something wrong.

"That began with the question of whether we would be accepted into NATO now, if we hadn't been in 2004," explained Ilves. "I believe that most people in NATO would say that we wouldn't. We already know that it is said à la the situation is currently so delicate."

Editor: Editor: Aili Sarapik

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