Teppo Tauriainen, a diplomat with a long history, is the Swedish ambassador to Spain. He was born in Kuusamo (Finland, 1961). To inaugurate the consulate in northern Spain, he visits Bilbao. He says that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has changed the security environment. He also said that his country would not host "installations or base" of NATO in the short- or medium-term, in reference to the country's Tuesday signed accession protocol to NATO. He will meet the Lehendakari Inigo Ukullu on Thursday to discuss "cooperation opportunities" between Euskadi and Sweden.
- The last NATO accession lasted for twelve months. What length of time do you anticipate being official members the Alliance?
We hope that it happens as soon as we can. It doesn't depend on us. It depends on the parliaments in the 30 allied countries.
- Can you guarantee that Turkey won't block the process?
- A memorandum has been reached with Turkey regarding certain matters that we expect Turkey will respect. We must also pay more attention to the concerns of other members of the Alliance if we are part.
- Are you referring to Kurdish refugees from Turkey that Turkey considers terrorists?
We are aware of your concerns regarding terrorism and will take them seriously. However, we will adhere to international conventions and Swedish law in the area of extraditions. The government also stated that they are not planning to extradite any Swedish citizens. Our courts will ultimately decide.
- The Alliance will bring an end to 200 years of military nonalignment. What will this mean for your foreign policy?
- It is not necessary to alter the core lines of our foreign policies. This is not a sudden change. It has always been our policy not to be a member of any alliance. We have also had defense cooperation. We are NATO partners and have bilateral agreements with England and the United States.
However, things have changed.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has caused a shift in our security environment. Our society is feeling insecure. The Government, along with all political parties, began an assessment in March to assess where we stand with regard to the new situation. The most important conclusion was that there wasn't any security guarantee as per NATO Article 5. This is the key.
- Are you afraid of Russian retaliation?
- We are ready. We haven't seen much so far, but we never know. Since your harsh first comments, I believe Russia has changed its tone. I was told a few weeks back that Russian activity could be triggered by NATO troops or facilities in Finland or Sweden. This is unlikely to happen in the near and medium-term. It is not possible to make any significant changes to our defense system right now.
- The Swedish public has been opposed to NATO membership since its inception. What happens if NATO becomes less favorable in the future?
- I don't think it will happen. In practice, Sweden is not going to feel the benefits of being a NATO member.
- What contribution will your country make to NATO?
- Sweden and Finland will both contribute to collective security. It will improve the Alliance's operations within Northern Europe and in the Baltic Sea region. Modern, high-tech armies make up our army. It will also have a deterrent impact: Attacking an ally country will be more expensive if Sweden or Finland are partners.
- How does your government's denuclearization effort fit with the fact that you are joining a club which has three nuclear power members?
- We will continue to defend the same values that we have up until now, and we will continue to work for nuclear disarmament.
- That's possible?
- Yes. Norway and Germany are both active in the nuclear disarmament campaign. We will continue to fight for the same democratic values as human rights.
Do you see the end near for the war?
Experts say that the outlook can be complicated and last up to years. We hope that we can find a solution.
- Would you be open to a Russian negotiation?
- We are always in favor of dialogue. The problem with Russia's actions in this instance is that they are unacceptable and must act before there can be dialogue or cooperation. They have broken international law as well as the European security order.
Spain's decision to increase defense spending in order to meet NATO commitments has led to a conflict between its government partners.
- While it is difficult for me not to comment on the internal debate, we have a similar situation here in Sweden. Our leftist party, which is not in the Executive, has reservations about NATO and the Defense budget. However, I believe that the majority of parties in Spain, like in Sweden, support the government's policies.
- How do you feel about the Spanish Executive?
- Excellent. Your support during the NATO entry process is greatly appreciated. We work well together in the European Union, and we are in very similar places. It is very common to have dialogue.
What do you think of the Madrid Summit?
- Everything went perfectly. Spain deserves a big thank you for organizing an event like this.
What is Euskadi's commercial relationship?
- There are many possibilities for exchanges and contacts. Particularly with the Basque Country. There are projects in place for renewable energy, for example. To discuss cooperation possibilities, I met with the Chamber of Commerce and tomorrow with the Lehendakari. We can do more, I believe. It doesn't depend on us. It depends on whether there is real interest. I believe there is.