Jussi Niinistö: Finland as EU member would aid Estonia in crisis
While not a member of NATO, Finland as a member of the EU would come to Estonia’s aid in case of crisis, said Finnish Minister of Defence Jussi Niinistö.
Finland has been one of Estonia’s biggest supporters in defense, both in terms of training and equipment. Now that Finland and Sweden have signed Host Nation Support Agreements with NATO and the first exercises have begun, the question arises regarding how Finland sees its role in relation to NATO should a crisis hit the Baltic States, reported ETV’s nightly news broadcast “Aktuaalne kaamera.”
“If Finland, Estonia and the other Baltic States were to find themselves in a greater international crisis, then we share the Baltic Sea,” said Niinistö. “It must be understood, however, that NATO is in charge of defending the Baltics; Finland, however, must defend itself. We do not belong to a military alliance, but we are members of the EU — and it is within this framework that we would come to Estonia’s aid.”
A study commissioned by the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs regarding the effects of NATO membership on Finland highlighted the likely deterioration of relations with Russia.
Pauli Järvenpää, former diplomat and senior official and current senior research fellow at the International Centre for Defence Studies, stated that it was this very detail that played a key role in both Finnish and Swedish attitudes toward NATO.
“Finland and Sweden would most likely already be members of NATO if it weren’t for the fact that both countries consider how Russia would react to that,” said Järvenpää.
The Finnish Ministry of Defence’s homepage states that the current Finnish government does not plan on joining NATO. The war in Ukraine has changed Finland’s attitudes regarding both its own defense and cooperation with NATO, however.
Järvenpää stated that if Finland and Sweden did their jobs in protecting the Baltic Sea, that alone will already be of great help to Estonia.
“[Finland] will not allow Russia to use Finland’s southern coast or the Åland Islands, and Sweden will be able to retain control of Gotland,” explained Järvenpää. “This is already such a big deal that one cannot expect any more from these two countries.”
At a meeting between the two countries’ ministers in Saaremaa, Estonian Minister of Defence Hannes Hanso invited Finland to send troops to take part in next year’s Spring Storm exercises, while the Finnish Minister of Defence in turn invited Estonians to take part in international exercises taking place in Finland.