Defence Minister says Nordic NATO membership would strengthen cooperation
Minister of Defence Jyri Häkämies (Nat. Coalition Party) says that if Finland and Sweden were to join NATO, it would have a positive impact on both the Nordic Countries and NATO itself. In his view, such a move would also benefit relations between NATO and Russia.
Häkämies said that he believes that NATO would benefit from a Nordic group of members that is willing to take initiatives. Speaking in Helsinki on Tuesday evening, Häkämies added that the Nordic region, with a total of 24 million people, would be no small factor in decision-making.
Of the Nordic Countries, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland are NATO members.
In his speech at the spring general meeting of the Atlantic Council of Finland, Häkämies focused on the impact that he felt NATO membership would have specifically from the point of view of Nordic security cooperation. He said that cooperation among the Nordic Countries in security and defence policy "would not replace or rule out other options, but it should be seen as a complimentary element."
Early in his presentation Häkämies said that under the present government policy programme, Finland is adhering to the possibility of becoming allied. He expressed wonder at those who "are already nailing theses according to which Finland will never, and under no circumstances make that decision to join the alliance".
Häkämies did not mention opposition Social Democratic Party chairman Eero Heinäluoma by name. Heinäluoma said in a speech he made on the First of May holiday that "Finland can easily stay outside the military alliance in the next electoral term as well, if the majority of the Finnish people are in favour of this".
According to Häkämies, "closing the doors in advance is not in the interests of the Finns". Speaking to Helsingin Sanomat he reiterated that he is not linking Finnish and Swedish NATO membership with each other.
"I am not advising them, and I have no expectations of them", Häkämies emphasised.
In the view of Häkämies, it is clear that if all Nordic Countries were members of NATO, the weight of Nordic thinking would increase in the decision-making of the organisation.
"There is no one single NATO. One can say that there is a British, a French, and a German school of thought. Perhaps this Nordic group would represent a Nordic school."
Häkämies pointed out that the Nordic Countries are already working together in peacekeeping activities, for instance, so there certainly would be common ground to be found.
Before his assessment of NATO membership, Häkämies said that during the ongoing preparation of the government's next defence policy report, "all players in politics have the right and the duty to take part in the discussion".
On the ongoing Nordic defence projects Häkämies said that a list drawn up by Norway and Sweden contains cooperation for all branches of defence, which initially interests Finland. If Finland were to join NATO, he sees possibilities for common air surveillance, in addition to existing projects.
Häkämies noted that Finland got useful information from NATO-member Denmark when preparing its decision to join the NATO Response Force. He downplayed the fact that Sweden's NRF decision was delayed.
Häkämies assessed the significance of NATO membership from the starting point that both Sweden and Finland would join the alliance.
He said that the Nordic countries could be a "strong influence" inside NATO in defence planning.
"Materiel acquisition planned and implemented together, cooperation in crisis management, and especially the joint planning of regional defence would tend to increase the influence of the Nordic Countries and support the military security of the Nordic region", Häkämies said.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Vanhanen: NATO statements by Russia no cause for concern (8.4.2006)
EVA survey: Finns critical of EU, oppose joining NATO (12.3.2008)
Report says NATO membership would stabilise Finnish relations with alliance (21.12.2007)
On the road to NATO: a guide for travellers (18.11.2007)
Atlantic Council of Finland