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The Finnish president would like Westerners and Russians to be able to “tolerate” each other, “even understand each other a little”

We do not think in the same way when the threat is border-based.

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The Finnish president would like Westerners and Russians to be able to “tolerate” each other, “even understand each other a little”

We do not think in the same way when the threat is border-based. Five months before his departure from the Finnish presidency after two consecutive terms, Sauli Niinisto spoke bluntly about the war in Ukraine in a long interview with the New York Times. In this interview published on Sunday, the outgoing president, who had a major role in his country's accession to NATO last April, considers that the outbreak of the conflict by Moscow in February 2022 sounded like a “signal of alarm” for Westerners.

“The alarm sounded loud in February 2022, but can you still hear it? As clearly?” asked the Head of State. “That could be a good question: whether all Europeans realize that this is a European problem,” the Finnish president continued.

Sauli Niinisto urged caution as the conflict, he believes, looks set to last. The risk of escalation to a nuclear war is “enormous”, he warned, thus justifying the caution of the Americans and the Germans in the delivery of weapons requested by kyiv. The F-16s promised by Washington, promised for 2023, have not yet been the subject of any official delivery schedule. As for Berlin, its hesitations before delivering Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine in early 2023 had been strongly criticized.

“In Finland we hear voices that America should do this or that,” Sauli Niinisto said. And I just wanted to emphasize that if there is an escalation towards a big war (...), then the nuclear risk clearly becomes greater.” According to the Finn, “there is a difference between those who have responsibilities and those who do not.”

For the head of state, whose country shares 1,340 kilometers of border with neighboring Russia, the right position vis-à-vis Moscow is a defensive attitude, maintaining a dissuasive force. Sauli Niinisto advocated the Finnish model in this sense, while his country uses compulsory conscription and maintains a regularly trained active reserve. “After the Cold War, we Europeans learned to live an ever better life. Decade after decade, this reinforced the feeling that it was a bit old-fashioned to talk about defense forces or even to defend oneself, because it was something impossible in a modern world,” he lamented. Finland, for its part, has wars with Russia written “in (its) spine,” declared the Finnish president, who is pleased to see today “a massive awakening” of consciences in the face of the threat of war .

According to the New York Times, President Niinisto, who is completing 12 years at the head of Finland, regularly advises American President Joe Biden on the subject of Vladimir Putin. A month before the invasion of Ukraine, in January 2022, Joe Biden asked his counterpart to urge the master of the Kremlin not to invade Ukraine. While some voices consider any dialogue with Vladimir Putin useless or impossible, the Finnish head of state, who has met the master of the Kremlin on numerous occasions, believes in the possibility of a relationship with Moscow. “I am not talking about a great friendship,” said Sauli Niinisto, “but about the ability to tolerate each other, even to understand each other a little.”

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