Finnish daily: Finland refused to join NATO for fear of having to defend Estonia (8)
Pauli Juhani Kaskeala, a former Chief of Defense of the Finnish Defense Forces, told Finnish newspaper Iltalehti that despite pressure from the United States, Britain and Germany, Finland refused to join NATO in the mid-1990s, because the country would have been forced to take responsibility for defending Estonia in case of a conflict.
Kaskeala, who was the Chief of Defense from 2001 to 2009, said that Finland did not want this kind of responsibility and this was the main reason why the country did not join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Kaskeala confirmed Iltalehti's claim that Ronald Asmus, the US Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs from 1997-2000 and the man responsible for NATO expansion, had a plan under which NATO would have set up a base in Denmark for the special responsibility to protect the Baltic states. According to the plan, both Finland and Sweden would have taken part and been involved with the base's activities.
“The old members of NATO wanted to ask us [Finland and Sweden] to take responsibility for defending the Baltic states. This expectation had an impact on Finland's decision not to join NATO,” Kaskeala said.
According to Iltalehti, the former British foreign secretary Douglas Hurd asked Finland and Sweden directly to become the guardians of Estonia's independence. But Martti Ahtisaari, Finnish President at the time, told the former US Secretary of State Warren Christopher that it would be unrealistic.
“The Nordic countries cannot guarantee the security of the Baltic states – only the US military deterrence is able to do it,” Ahtisaari said to Christopher, according to Iltalehti.
The decision to include the Baltic states in NATO's expansion were made in 1997, after President Bill Clinton managed to persuade Russian President Boris Yeltsin to accept the fact that NATO's enlargement would include the countries that share borders with Russia.
Iltalehti said that Yeltsin had tried to sign a secret clause with the US that NATO's enlargement would not include the Baltic states, but Clinton refused. “We cannot just go to men's toilet and make a secret deal, everything will ultimately be disclosed,” Clinton reportedly told Yeltsin.