Stubb to Lavrov: “Finland is not neutral”
Finnish and Russian foreign ministers to meet in Moscow Tuesday
Finnish Minister for Foreign Affairs Alexander Stubb (Nat. Coalition Party) supports the idea put forward by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov for discussion on the future and architecture of European security policy, which Lavrov made in an interview published in Helsingin Sanomat on Sunday.
Stubb feels that the best place for such a discussion would be the Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe, and that European security structures should be one of the themes in the foreign ministers’ meeting of the OSCE to be held in Helsinki in early December.
However, Stubb did not promise on Sunday that Finland would actively promote a Russian proposal for a new European security treaty.
Stubb told Helsingin Sanomat that as the Chairman of the OSCE, he will “listen with a sensitive ear” to Russia’s proposals, and to those of the other OSCE countries.
In his interview with Helsingin Sanomat, Lavrov said that as a “respected European neutral country”, Finland could help in the launch of discussion on such a treaty act as an expert, and make constructive proposals on the implementation of the treaty.
In response to Lavrov, Stubb observed that Finland is not a neutral country. “We have been politically aligned with the EU as of January 1st, 1995, and we work in close military cooperation with NATO, among others.”
Stubb stated diplomatically, that Lavrov’s answers, revealed that there was a “misconception”, or “some kind of conceptual misunderstanding”.
“I have not noticed that Lavrov would have previously made references to neutrality”, Stubb noted.
“Finland’s foreign policy doctrine is clearly defined in the government’s policy programme, and neutrality is not a part of it.”
“As OSCE Chairman, I am neutral, but Finland’s foreign policy is not a policy of neutrality”, Stubb said.
The Finnish Foreign Minister and OSCE Chairman agreed with the view put forward by Lavrov that the OSCE needs to change, but he disagrees with Lavrov’s criticism that the OSCE is inefficient, or that it has made erroneous situational assessments in the Georgia crisis.
He feels that the OSCE worked excellently in South Ossetia in the summer.
“We must keep in mind that the OSCE is not a military alliance. It does not have soldiers, and it cannot prevent war from taking place. Its only instrument is diplomacy. I admit that the means of diplomacy have not been sufficient".
Stubb is scheduled to meet Lavrov in Moscow on Tuesday, and the agenda will include the Georgian crisis, reforming the OSCE, as well as broader international questions. Bilateral issues between Finland and Russia will be put aside at this point.
Lavrov will come to Helsinki for the OSCE foreign ministers’ meeting on December 4th and 5th. Stubb hopes that after a gap of eight years, the Secretary of State of the United States would also take part in the OSCE meeting. The British Foreign Secretary is also planning to come this time.
OSCE reform, the war in Georgia, and Russia’s proposal for a new security treaty will at least be on the agenda of the meeting.
Some OSCE countries are taking a clearly negative view of the Russian proposal for an agreement. There is a suspicion that the aim would be to replace NATO. For now, Finland’s attitude has been one of cautious curiosity.
The idea of visa-free travel between the EU and Russia was put forward in Lavrov’s interview with Helsingin Sanomat.
Stubb says that it is not quite “a matter for tomorrow”, and he expects that it will come about in a few years.
The full interview with Foreign Minister Lavrov, given in advance of Foreign Minister Stubb’s visit to Moscow on Tuesday this week, will appear in our weeklies section on Tuesday.
Previously in HS International Edition:
OSCE Chairmanship keeps Finland busy to very end (1.11.2008)
Finnish-Russian relations under strain during OSCE Chairmanship (7.10.2008)
Parliament fails to snare Foreign Minister Stubb over NATO comments (11.9.2008)