by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the Kultaranta talks in Finland
President Niinistö, dear Sauli,
it's really great to be back here and to meet with you. And thank you for inviting me to the Kultaranta talks. This is really a first for me, and it's great to see you again, and a pleasure to also meet you together with so many distinguished guests, including the Prime Minister of Norway, Prime Minister Støre, it's good to be here, together with all of you.
The last time I visited Finland, we - and that was actually last fall - you and I, we discussed how to strengthen the close partnership between NATO and Finland. But I did not imagine that the next time I was going to visit Finland you would have applied for a membership in our Alliance.
What caused this dramatic change was President Putin's war against Ukraine, which has shattered peace in Europe. It is really a game changer. Not just for European security, but also for the global order.
We may have been shocked by Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine.
But we should not be surprised.
NATO shared intelligence and warned about a potential invasion for months.
It is part of a pattern.
The destruction of Grozny.
The attack against Georgia.
The illegal annexation of Crimea.
The bombing of Aleppo.
And now, this cruel war against a peaceful neighbour.
NATO is not part of the war.
In response to the war, NATO has two fundamental tasks.
One is to provide support to our close partner Ukraine.
To uphold its right of self-defence, a right enshrined in the UN Charter.
We have done that actually for many years.
And since the invasion, we have significantly stepped up our support to Ukraine, and so has Finland, including with military, economic and humanitarian aid.
Our aim is to ensure that Ukraine prevails, as a sovereign and democratic state in Europe.
The other task for NATO is to prevent the war from escalating.
NATO’s main responsibility is to protect our people.
That is why we are strengthening our defence, especially in the east of the Alliance, on land, at sea, and in the air.
This is deterrence.
Not to provoke, but to prevent a conflict.
And to preserve peace.
Putin’s ambitions go beyond Ukraine.
The so-called ‘security treaties’ he presented to NATO and the United States last December made demands not only on Ukraine, but also on NATO to refrain from any further enlargement, and remove NATO troops and infrastructure from countries that joined the Alliance after 1997, introducing some sort of first class and second class members of NATO.
These demands amount to the complete re-write of the European security order, enshrined in the Helsinki Final Act.
One of the main principles in the Helsinki Final Act is the right of each nation to choose its own path.
This is exactly what President Putin is openly contesting.
He is trying to establish an alternative world order, where might is right, where big powers decide what smaller nations can or cannot do.
You, as Finns, know only too well the consequences of such a world order.
You defend your rights as a sovereign nation, and you have made your free choice
to apply for NATO membership.
I truly welcome this brave decision.
And if President Putin wanted less NATO on his borders, he is getting the opposite.
The applications by Finland and Sweden to join our Alliance send a clear message.
Aggression does not pay.
Intimidation does not work.
NATO’s door remains open.
Joining the Alliance would make Finland safer.
NATO is a big family of 30 democratic nations across Europe and North America.
We represent half of the world’s economic and military might.
And are committed to protect and defend each other against any threat.
All for one, and one for all.
This is at the heart of Article 5 of our founding treaty.
It is unique and extremely powerful.
In a dangerous and more competitive world, it is more important than ever that we stand together.
Finland’s membership would also make NATO stronger.
You are a strong democracy, with a resilient society, and with advanced military.
Earlier this year, I saw your forces in action
above the Arctic Circle, during our exercise Cold Response in Norway.
Your soldiers impressed me with their professionalism and determination.
Together with Sweden, you have considerable military capabilities.
Including substantial reserves, and advanced aircraft, and naval forces, all able to work together with NATO.
We are now considering the next steps on Finland and Sweden’s path to join our Alliance.
As we do this, we take into account the security interests of all Allies.
When an Ally raises concerns, we address them seriously and we find common ground.
So we are now working through Türkiye’s serious security concerns, including on terrorism.
Türkiye is an important Ally, with a strategic location, playing a key role in the Black Sea, bordering Syria and Iraq, vital for our fight against ISIS.
Türkiye is also the NATO Ally that has suffered more terrorist attacks, including at the hands of the PKK.
We are now working together, in a constructive spirit, to find a united way forward.
I therefore welcome the contacts you, Sauli, have with President Erdoğan.
I also remain in close dialogue you, Sweden, and with our Ally Türkiye.
All Allies agree that NATO's door is open, that enlargement has been an historic success, and that we must continue to stand together as we face the greatest security crisis in a generation.
The security of Finland matters to NATO.
Many Allies have already made clear security assurances to Finland and Sweden.
And NATO remains vigilant.
We have increased our military presence in the region.
And we are holding more exercises.
As we speak, our exercise BALTOPS is underway here in the Baltic region.
With over 45 ships, 75 aircraft, and over 7,000 personnel from 14 different NATO Allies, as well as Finland and Sweden, all training side by side.
In just a few weeks, NATO leaders will meet in Madrid.
We will make important decisions.
To continue to strengthen and adapt our Alliance to a new security reality,
and protect our people and our values.
I look forward to the day when we can welcome both Finland and Sweden into our Alliance.
This will make Finland and Sweden safer.
And the whole Euro-Atlantic area more secure.
MODERATOR: Mr President, please join the Secretary General and your chair is the white one. You have about 30 minutes to discuss and then, I’m sorry, I will be interrupting you because we will be giving our wonderful audience the chance to ask questions and comment. But now, please?
SAULI NIINISTÖ [Finnish President]: I heard you saying that, actually, what Russia is after is kind of a new world order. Well, at least to put order to any smaller nations. But nevertheless, that reminds me of discussions in UN Week, a couple of years ago I was listening to speeches like we all do and suddenly noticed that those who most undermined the international cooperation, multilateral, they were Russia and China. Somehow, well, maybe they had a different idea of multilateralism than we. But nevertheless, if we talk about world order, we see a large scale, and Russia behaving like it does. Do you see that Russia is just by itself? I mean, surely, having a warfare against Ukraine, but in its thinking that the world should somehow be changed. And I think if that would be the case, it must be taken very seriously?
JENS STOLTENBERG [NATO Secretary General]: My answer to that question is fundamentally, yes, they want another world order. They don’t want a world order, which we have agreed to in many different documents, agreements and institutions. And perhaps the starting point of that world order was enshrined in the Helsinki Final Act – the Final Act that is very close to all things, of course, which actually stated some basic rules on how to behave and how to respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of nations, in Europe in particular. We all know that, of course, we can discuss borders and the historic reasons for those different borders in Europe and elsewhere in the world. But we agreed there, and we have agreed again and again that these borders should be the fundament for how we work together and how to find solutions by diplomatic means together. Another key principle in the Helsinki Final Act, and again, repeated again and again in many other documents, was the right for every nation to choose its own path, including what kind of security arrangements they wanted to be part of. So then to say that this is a provocation and a threat that countries like the Baltic countries or now then Finland and Sweden apply for NATO membership is, by itself, contradicting the basic principles in the Helsinki Final Act. And I will always, or often, use an example that if you accept that big powers can say that if small powers or small nations do something they don’t like, that’s a threat, and they can use power to hinder that to happen. Well, I’m very glad that that was not the case back in 1949 when Norway applied for membership, or actually Norway was a founding member, but, actually, the capitals in the major countries like Washington, London, Paris actually said, well – Norway at that time was the only country bordering Russia or the Soviet Union, the Soviet Union didn’t like that – but these capitals US, UK, France and the others, they said, ‘Well, it’s for Norway to decide and accepted our membership of the Alliance. So, yes, when a country like Russia, or President Putin, so clearly contest and violates those principles, not only in words but also in deeds, by using brute military force, because the whole invasion of Ukraine is violating the world order I believe in, where we respect the sovereignty, the integrity and the free decisions of independent countries, then I think the only answer to your question is that, yes, they want a different world order. And I regret that, because I have to be honest that I remember the years after the end of the Cold War, and I also remember working with President Putin as Prime Minister of Norway, that I believed it was possible to actually get Russia on board, to make Russia part of a new order where we actually work together, where we trust each other and we were able to overcome the grievances and hatred from the past. I’m not able to tell exactly when I changed my mind. But of course, after the illegal annexation of Crimea, many things changed. And then it became even worse after the annexation now. So, well, then, our responsibility is to ensure that he doesn’t succeed. But also, as I said, that this war doesn’t escalate and become a full-fledged war. And that is not an easy task. It’s a difficult task, an important task, and we can return to that later on, I guess. But how to reconcile the need to be strong and firm but without ending up in escalating is one of the big challenges we face as NATO, but, of course, also in close partnership with Finland as a future member.
SAULI NIINISTÖ: Thank you. Let’s stay in Ukraine for a moment. There are three very crucial questions, actually, which I believe we all would like to hear your opinion. First, do you see any possibilities of gaining peace? Second, what are the risks of the warfare escalating if it continues and continues? I just want to underline that even during these months, we have seen changes in behaviour. I mean, Russia has started to use more aggressive armament, more destroying armament. And on the other hand, we, the West, whatever we want to call us, the aid to Ukraine has widened, especially on armament. In the very beginning, it was very, very thoroughly thought whether you can aid . . . give something to Ukraine, now it’s, in a way, enlarging all the time, which I don’t mean to criticise that, they need it. But nevertheless, if we see, in a way that, no escalation but the limits of escalation are tested further and further, and if the war . . . warfare continues, continues, continues, that might create a risk. And the third question. Well, we must ask, maybe ourselves too, at least when a couple of months continue with warfare, we are helping Ukraine, but we are facing, like I said, normal people are facing different kind of circumstances in their own, economic maybe, and that might eat up a bit resilience, to support Ukraine, which might be also the risk. So far, we have been expecting that Russia is, and Russians, would be losing their resilience. Is the question that, where it is lost more most or more?
JENS STOLTENBERG: So first to the question of whether peace is possible. Yes, peace is possible. The question is what kind of peace? Because if Ukraine withdraw its forces and stop fighting, then Ukraine will cease to exist as an independent, sovereign nation in Europe. If President Putin stops fighting, then we’ll have peace. So the dilemma is, of course, that peace is always possible. Surrender can provide peace. But as we have seen, the Ukrainians, they don’t accept peace at any price. They are actually willing to pay a very high price for their independence. And again, Finland is a country that really knows the price for peace and also the price for independence and being a sovereign nation. And it’s not for me to judge how high price the Ukrainians should be willing to pay. I mean, we pay a price because we provide support, we see the economic effects of the economic sanctions. But there is no doubt, as you said Sauli, that the highest price is paid by Ukrainians every day. And therefore it’s for them to judge, not for me, what is the price they are willing to pay, for peace and for independence? So, that’s, in a way, the moral dilemma. Peace is possible, but the question, how much are you willing to forsake to pay for getting that peace? The absolute best way to achieve peace in Ukraine is for President Putin to end this senseless war. We have to remember, every morning, every day, every hour during the day, there is one man, one nation that is responsible for that – and that is President Putin. Then we have difficult dilemmas, difficult choices, but it is President Putin’s brutal invasion of Ukraine that has created those dilemmas. And they can be solved by . . . from his side by ending the war. Then, one more thing on this, is that as President Zelensky has stated many times, this war will end at the negotiating table. The question is what kind of position will the Ukrainians have when they negotiate a solution? Our responsibility is to make that position as strong as possible. We know that there is a very close link between what you can achieve at the negotiating table and your position at the battlefield. So our military support to them is a way to strengthen their hand at the negotiating table when they, hopefully soon, will sit there and negotiate the peace agreement. So that was ‘peace is possible’ – that’s not the question anyway, the question is: what price are you willing to pay for peace? How much territory? How much independence? How much sovereignty? How much freedom? How much democracy are you willing to sacrifice for peace? And that’s a very difficult moral dilemma. And it’s for those who are paying the highest price to make that judgement. Our responsibility is to support them. Then, on escalation, I think it’s extremely important that we remember there is a danger of escalation. Also, as you said this morning, a horizontal escalation, we always see a kind of vertical escalation – more fighting, more suffering, heavier weapons in Ukraine – but escalation beyond Ukraine. And NATO has been very aware of this risk since the beginning, actually before the invasion, because we have to remember that when the invasion came, we were very prepared. In one way, we have been prepared for this eventuality since 2014, with the biggest reinforcement of our collective defence since the Cold War, with the battlegroups in the eastern part of the Alliance, more defence spending, higher readiness, new command structure and all that. And then it was, actually, when we met, I remember we met, we discussed the possibility of an invasion of Ukraine. We had very precise intelligence on the nation. Russia absolutely denied. We had the meeting in the NATO-Russia Council in January, I think it was, where that was the last serious effort from our side to find a negotiated way out of this. Russia said, ‘We have no plans whatsoever to invade.’ They actually sent out pictures, days beforehand, showing some battle tanks moving over this bridge […] the strait between Azov and the Black Sea, saying that they were actually withdrawing their forces. Then they invaded. And then, that morning, we activated NATO’s defence plans and deployed significant additional troops, because we were prepared, and now we have 40,000 NATO troops in the eastern part of the Alliance. Why did we do that? To prevent escalation. Because we have this increased presence to send an absolutely clear message to President Putin, to remove any room for miscalculation, misunderstanding in Moscow about our readiness to protect and defend every Ally. And as long as that’s clear, there will be no attack. So our deterrence is to prevent escalation. I’m sad that we are in such a situation, because it would have been better for all of us if we could spend all that money we now are spending on deterrence, more weapons, more artillery, more missiles, more troops, more ships, more planes – on education, health, infrastructure. But in a more dangerous world, we have to invest in security and that’s exactly what we’ll do to prevent escalation. So, I know I’m being a bit long, but we are . . . NATO is actually doing two things to prevent escalation. One is deterrence. As we do – and we’ll also make new decisions at the Madrid summit to strengthen further our posture: investing more, more troops, more readiness. But the only thing we do, is that we don’t move into Ukraine. And that’s not an easy decision. In my conversations, my talks, with the Ukrainian leaders, including President Zelensky, it’s not easy to tell them that we are not going to impose a no-fly zone. They asked for a no-fly zone, we said no. They wanted us to – and some Allies as well – there has been some proposals that we should move with creating a humanitarian corridor. We’re not doing that. There have also been discussions about NATO reinforcing a naval corridor to get food out. To not do that, it’s not easy, because it has a cost for the Ukrainians. But we . . . but the reason why we don’t move in with NATO troops in Ukraine is to prevent escalation. So we are always, since the beginning of this war, been very mindful about the need, the moral obligation, to support a country fighting for their freedom, for democracy, for their independence. But at the same time, preventing escalation by not being directly involved in the conflict. Then the last question was about resilience?
SAULI NIINISTÖ: Resilience, yes.
JENS STOLTENBERG: Yes. I think what we have learnt is that, of course, the strength of a nation is not about capabilities – number of battle tanks, number of planes or armoured vehicles and so on – but it’s very much about will. And I think that the will of the Ukrainian people to stand has been extremely impressive. The political courage of their leadership, the professional armed forces, has impressed the whole world. That’s first and foremost their responsibility, their courage. But I’m also glad that NATO has helped to train them. We have to remember that we have been there, NATO Allies and NATO have been there since 2014, training tens of thousands of Ukrainian soldiers, which are now on the frontline in the fight, and that has proven extremely effective. For instance, I know, I visited Yavoriv, the base they bombed quite earlier, west near Poland, that was one of the centres where they had significant NATO and NATO Allies training Ukrainian soldiers, which are now playing a key – and officers – which are now playing a key role, and actually help them to maintain and keep up the resilience of their armed forces.
SAULI NIINISTÖ: Okay. Yes. Making peace is not an easy task. I think that we, like I reminded you, told you about, the Second World War and the Finnish position when we had to make the peace. But nevertheless, losing Karelia, Petsamo too, but specifically Karelia, well Finns actually, I guess, never have forgotten it, and it took decades that people had in their minds all the time that a very, very wrong thing was done to Finland and Finnish people. So from that basis, I guess we understand that it is very difficult for Ukraine after all these victims, after all this fighting, to give up their land, not even partly. So that makes it difficult. But seeing that Russia would lose all its holdings is not maybe at all, at this point, foreseeable, who knows? But all this tells that gaining peace is absolutely difficult. I would go now to NATO membership and us, Finns, Finland. During the years past, let’s say, especially past ten years, when we have been enhanced partner in NATO, we have increased, developed all the time, the cooperation. And it was said that, actually, Finland and Sweden are, well, at least fitting well other each member country of NATO. The question is only that the official nomination is not there. That was kind of the discussion spirit. And that surely led us also thinking in a way that we are, well, meeting all the criteria’s and still have the feeling. So I just want you to understand that the Turkish intervention here was kind of surprising, because according to our studies, our legislation, our position with Turkey’s terrorism, or being against that, is on average NATO-country level. So I just want to point this out so that we know why it has amazed a bit, Finnish people – understanding very well that we that we have to continue, like I said, discussions with Turkey and trying to find answers – but somehow we have a feeling that it’s not only Finland, it’s not only Sweden, but they want to somehow to point out to all NATO, and maybe even outside NATO countries, their own problem like they . . . they have it, like they tell. Just . . . yeah.
JENS STOLTENBERG: So I will comment on Finland and their NATO membership in a moment. But I would just, first, have a very brief reflection on what you said about losing territories and you made a kind of historical reference to, that you lost Karelia and Petsamo after the Second World War. It’s always very dangerous to make historical parallels or to draw to precise historical lessons. But I have read articles by very, I should say, recognised scholars saying that one of the reasons why actually Finland was able to come out of the Second World War as an independent, sovereign nation with most of your territory intact, was that you fought so hard during the Winter War. So you demonstrated a willingness to actually impose a high cost on a potential adversary trying to take your territory. I’m not saying that that’s necessarily the right historical analysis, but I’m saying that at least it demonstrated that Finland is willing to pay a price for independence and freedom. And that’s exactly what we see that Ukraine is willing to pay now, which is extremely harmful, or extremely hard, because it actually means that you see sacrifices of lives every day, because they believe in something which is extremely important: your own independence, democracy and freedom. And this is also not only about territorial integrity, but it’s also about believing in a free, democratic society. And that’s what the Ukrainians are fighting for today. Then you made a compromise and it’s not for me to comment on that. But that enabled . . . that at least created the historic foundations for the independent and modern Finland we see today. Then on Finland, membership of NATO. First of all, I think it’s important that we step up and actually recognise the magnitude of the decision. I always said that Norway will become a member of EU much before Finland becomes a member of NATO. I was wrong. And, of course, we could all speculate about the possibility of Finland joining NATO. But, if you just looked at the opinion polls, polls back then, as late as in this fall, it was not very likely that this would happen in the near future. Now you have applied and you will become a member, and that will be good for Finland, it will be good for NATO and it will be good for the whole transatlantic area. And, actually, you bring to NATO something which is of great importance: a stable democracy, a strong, resilient society and very advanced military capabilities. I mean, the whole world is impressed by what you have been able to uphold, and also the fact that you have actually seen the value of military strength, of resilient societies, in a way that many other European countries and most NATO Allies have not been, after the end of the Cold War. And I also think that NATO will be good for you. Then, of course, we need to take seriously the concerns expressed by Turkey. And Turkey is an important NATO Ally for different reasons, not least for its geographic location. As I mentioned, they are a Black Sea nation bordering Russia and the Black Sea. They played and play a key role in our fight against terrorism. Infrastructure bases in Turkey has been, is key, in the fight against ISIS and similar terrorist groups. And then I think also being in a Nordic country and in Western Europe, it’s important to remember that sometimes maybe we don’t recognise how much Turkey suffers – Turkey, yeah – suffers from terrorist attacks. No other . . . the magnitude of the number of terrorist attacks they suffer is far much more than any of us suffer. I remember, I went to . . . first of all, I remember after Charlie Hebdo, many European leaders, including myself, we went out to Paris and we marched through the streets of Paris in solidarity with France. That was a great thing to do. A few weeks after, I went to Ankara and President Erdoğan said, ‘So why didn’t you come here? We had many more casualties, many more people killed, a kind of youth camp, where a terrorist attack killed a lot of young people. No one came.’ The same after the coup attempt, I went to Ankara and I saw they had actually bombed the parliament. So, sometimes I think we need to recognise that Turkey faces threats, terrorist threats at a scale none of us faces. And of course, then they have the right to defend themselves. I mean, speak about groups which we all recognise as terrorists. PKK is not something they have invented as a terrorist group – it’s agreed by Finland, Sweden, EU, NATO Allies. So then, I think, we just have to realise how to fight this terrorism, which is causing so much pain, suffering for them, it matters for them. And then when they raise concerns about that, we need to sit down and find out how to address it. And that’s exactly the way we do when there are different views in NATO and that’s what we do now, in close, of course . . . so, I welcome the close dialogue between you, Ankara. Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto was here, so there are many levels of engagement now. And we work also, from the NATO side, we work actively to find a solution and I’m very much looking forward to when we do that, because I really look forward to welcoming Finland and also Sweden as a full member of NATO as soon as possible.
SAULI NIINISTÖ: Well, we have to keep in mind that it’s ‘Türkiye’ . . .
JENS STOLTENBERG: Yeah, I try . . .
SAULI NIINISTÖ: . . . from now on. Very good. Yes, I made an official visit to Ankara in 2015 and just a couple of days earlier there was a huge terrorist act. I don’t remember, tens of people died. So it is a real threat to Turkish people, actually. So actually, I have made my questions. But one promise: we have got a lot of support from Norway, from our Nordic friends, and from many others during this process. What about if we promise to support Norway to become a member of EU as strongly as they’re supporting us.
JENS STOLTENBERG: Yes, but first of all, Norway has to a certain decision, yes, because you remember when we met to discuss this issue last fall? My message has been to Finland and Sweden all the time that NATO will never push, never in any way try to influence a domestic debate on whether to apply or not. Because I think it will not be helpful if NATO came to Helsinki and said, ‘You should apply for membership.’ Now, when you have decided through your own democratic process to apply, that changes everything, then we can welcome that. But I will not speak on behalf of Norway, but Jonas Gahr Støre is there, and he is a very experienced politician, he knows both NATO issues, EU issues, and he knows the people of Norway, so I think it’s for him to speak about the issue of EU membership. I actually tried, as part of the government I was part of then in ’94.
SAULI NIINISTÖ: I know.
JENS STOLTENBERG: We lost and, yeah, I will not be the leader of the next campaign.
SAULI NIINISTÖ: But if I remember, if I remember correctly, nevertheless, you said that, ‘If you decide, we will support,’ and this is for Norway, ‘If you decide, we will support.’ Okay. Thank you.
MODERATOR: Luckily, we have the Prime Minister of Norway here. I don’t know if you want to comment on this, or maybe ask a question? This is now time for questions. There’s a microphone on the table. Please grab it.
JONAS GAHR STØRE [Prime Minister of Norway]: Thank you. Mr President, dear audience, thank you for inviting me. Let’s avoid that last topic, we should not dive into the two big complexities. But let me say, there are so many dimensions to the issues you are discussing today. And I think they were two enlightening interventions. Let me, on behalf of Norway, say a few things directly, since the president of Finland is our host. Now that you have applied, Norway strongly supports that application. In Parliament, on Thursday, Parliament will vote with an overwhelming majority the accession of Finland into NATO. Now, knowing, one may then ask, ‘Should there not be that protocol and all the signatories and all that process in between?’ But we make our decisions, because we believe in the Nordic region. We should be clean on this, direct on this. And I agree with the Secretary General, we have awaited this until you have made your decision, and then we are very firm. It is historic that there will be five Nordic countries on the horizon working on security inside NATO. Now, I . . . I have many interests into what you discussed on Ukraine. I agree with the Secretary General, any conflict, be it as horrendous as it may be, ends at the negotiating table sometime. And when we see the immense destruction going on of human life, property and infrastructure in Ukraine, one should hope that that day comes sooner rather than later. And I agree with the President that we should also reflect on that dimension. But my comment will be on the Nordic region. Since January, Mr President, we have been in touch pretty regularly, I think almost weekly. I have appreciated it to share analysis with you and your insight. And perhaps we have been able to share some of our experience, being a bordering country with Russia. Now, my message has always been the Nordic region threatens none. And when we join in NATO, we will be five countries who would like to take care of our sovereignty and our integrity and be active participants in the peaceful development of Europe and in our neighbouring relations. Some have said that with Finland in NATO, NATO will move to Russia’s border. And my view has been that that is not what is happening, because Finland is on Russia’s border and Norway is on Russia’s border, and we make decisions on how we look after our security with our allies. And we have 70 years of experience with Russia being a neighbour. And most of the cold winds that have influenced negatively on that relationship have not emerged on our border, it has come from other geopolitical settings. So I believe that when we welcome Finland and Sweden into NATO, we will have important contributions to make: what it means to be a neighbour in a peaceful way, deciding on our own security. And that’s where I would like to perhaps challenge the President to reflect on that, because no country can choose its geography. We are happy to have the geography we have. Norway, for its part, has been at peace with Russia for a thousand years. We are probably the only neighbour of Russia that has not been at war with Russia. So when I meet my Estonian colleague or my Finnish colleagues, I acknowledge that we have different histories of being neighbours. And my view, in my view, Russia does not have a neighbour policy, but it has policy with neighbours. And it differs. But now, if the Nordic group comes into NATO, I think we should be a voice of wisdom, a voice of looking at the long lines. There will come a day after this conflict. And the day after, Russia will still be there and we will be there and we will be neighbouring Russia. Norway with its maritime outlook and Finland with its long land border. So, Mr President, I welcome that we now, from today and onwards, will work together on reflecting how we can use the Nordic experience being medium, small-sized nations, peaceful, prosperous, to contribute to Europe. And I appreciate highly the dialogue we’ve had up until today. And it’s the ambition of my government to deepen and continue that relationship. Thank you.
SAULI NIINISTÖ: Excellent. Yes. We really have been discussing quite a lot and it all has been very useful to me. I want to thank you for all the support you have given and to your Parliament for its decision, it has been very valuable. And I want to add that you haven’t been working just for Norway to support us, but you have brought quite a lot of other supporters with you. So, I have always found very interesting the relation Norway-Russia, because you are a neighbour. And in Finland, we tend to speak about the Norwegian model. I think it’s totally misunderstood, if one thinks that it's only with nuclear armament or permanent basements in question, I see the Norwegian model in a very different way. You described it, actually. And I would like to see us Nordics thinking like I have said, that the fact that Finland is joining NATO, it will surely increase our security, but it’s not away from anybody, it’s not a zero-sum game. If somebody increases security, it’s not away from anybody, not away from Russia. So I’m most pleased and I’m sure that we all are very pleased to go on discussing and thinking with you. It’s very valuable.
MODERATOR: Okay. Next question. I have Erkki Tuomioja a Member of Parliament, please?
Erkki Tuomioja [Finnish Member of Parliament]: Thank you. I want to address the wider implications of the crisis in Ukraine, because it’s not the only conflict and war, or crisis, which is ongoing in the world today. And it is creating, actually, a new crisis, a global food crisis on top of all the other issues that we have to address. But it is unique, of course, that we have not seen this in the heart of Europe for over . . . since the Second World War. And obviously, we have not seen a state attacking, unprovokedly, another state. But we have seen states engage in proxy wars, and they are doing that in other parts of the world. Our response has been unique to the Russian attack, and make no mistake, it has been the right response. We have responded with unprecedented sanctions, with unprecedented support for Ukrainian defence and unprecedented welcome to all the refugees that have had to leave the country. But the question is, what is raised in other parts of the world, so if this is the right response, why have we not responded in the same way to other crises? Because, say, Yemen, or other illegal occupations, we have illegal occupations in Cyprus, we have it in Palestine, we have it in other parts of the world. So it raises the question of double standards. And while we have to continue supporting Ukraine in the way we do, but I think there is a lesson to be learnt from this crisis and the global response to it. And it is, and I would hope, that this is a co-joined Nordic view, a Nordic response, that we must, in the future, react to all illegal use of force, military operations and the human rights violations in the same manner, no matter who is behind them. But there is a legacy in the world that comes from the 30s, when President Roosevelt was said to have remarked on Somoza that, ‘He may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch.’ And that is a too-common attitude towards authoritarian regimes who are engaged in human rights violations. So can we, in the future, react in the same manner, a consistent manner, to all human rights violations and illegal use of force, irrespective of where and by whom they are committed? Thank you.
MODERATOR: Who wants to go first? Please.
JENS STOLTENBERG: So, ideally, yes. Then I think we . . . and, actually, we have some institutions that are supposed to do exactly that, not least the United Nations. But the problem is, of course, that to be able to react in the way we have against the invasion of Ukraine, we need to be united at the level we are going to react. So, for instance, on some of the conflicts you mentioned, we are far away from the same level of unity. Then we can discuss that, why we have not been able to unite on other conflicts, but that should not reduce the importance of our commitment to stay united in the way we react to the brutal invasion of Ukraine. And I think that President Putin underestimated both the courage and the strength of the Ukrainian people and armed forces, but also the unity and the strength of the reaction from NATO Allies, partners and countries all over the world. If I can add one more reflection it’s that, from a NATO perspective, we are working hard to strengthen our partnership with other likeminded countries around the world. So, for instance, at the upcoming NATO summit now, later on this month in Madrid, we will for the first time, have our leaders, the presidents and the prime ministers of Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea at a NATO summit to further strengthen our partnership, because we see that China – with its authoritarian rule, the lack of support for the rules-based international order – working more closely with Russia, that’s about also standing up for our values, our democratic institutions, and also working more closely with countries, beyond NATO, including the Asia-Pacific partners. So, I don’t have a very easy answer to your question. I think it party reflects the lack . . . that the UN is not able to deliver what it should do, because it is run the way it is run. NATO tries to work more closely with partners, also, outside NATO, and the closer partnership with democratic nations in other parts of the world is one step in that direction.
SAULI NIINISTÖ: I think, basically, you raised quite a correct question, which we should all ask ourselves. But how to solve it? I link it to this world order or new world order talks. If we can’t universally have a world order, which surely the UN should be constructing, I do not believe that we can very much avoid situations where . . . what you described. So, working on that level and from that point of view, I see that it is most important to, now, to very, very carefully and closely follow which kind of reactions Russian behaviour raises elsewhere. We know the NATO countries, we know the European opinion, but what about elsewhere? And it would be very worrying if such behaviour would – even if it wouldn’t be supported directly – but, being forgotten. So we just have to believe that we can somehow come together in multilateral cooperation […] in UN.
MODERATOR: Next we have Anna Laurila, President of the Finnish National Youth Council. And we are running out of time, so if everybody can make their questions precise.
ANNA LAURILA [President of Finnish National Youth Council]: Yes. Thank you. And thank you for the important discussion. The principal of the Action Programme on Youth, Peace and Security is the inclusion of young people in peace work. Finland is the only Nordic country that has drawn up a national action programme based on the UN 2250 resolution. How do we ensure that the youth are involved as active actors in building a safe and peaceful environment and society in the changed security situation? And this is because the effects on the crisis, such as climate, Corona, and now Ukraine, cause the deepest impacts for young people. And the key solution should be to consult youth in the decision making. Thank you.
SAULI NIINISTÖ: Well, I have nothing else to say that you have said there. It’s very natural because the future is not necessarily for me, but it’s for you, and listening to you. I would say that the discussion we have had, or security policy, which I described, that it’s more lively, more wide than ever before, maybe that’s a good model to continue on other issues too.
MODERATOR: Do you wish to comment?
JENS STOLTENBERG: Well, the problem is not the questions, the problem is too-long answers and especially from me. So therefore, I tried to refrain, but now I can say some words. And to be honest, first of all, I think that governments, grown-up politicians like me and Sauli, we can invite young people to participate in all kinds of important international meetings, and that’s good that we should try to do that. But to be honest, the most important thing is to be active yourself, as young people. My experience from politics over many years is that young people have a lot of power when they organise and are active, either in different organisations – be it against nuclear weapons or in favour of peace, or yes or no to the European Union, whatever it is – they have a lot of say, they really make a difference. And not least when young people are active in political parties, they have a lot to say. So my main message is really to say, just use the power you have, be active in political processes, political parties, and then the grown-up elderly men like me and Sauli that’s the problem . . . that’s not a problem, but the challenge.
MODERATOR: Minister for Foreign Affairs, Pekka Haavisto, please?
PEKKA HAAVISTO [Minister for Foreign Affairs, Finland]: Thank you. Thanks for the interesting discussion. And, actually, my question goes back to the first part of the discussion about the European security architecture, which has failed or collapsed because we couldn’t prevent a war in Europe. And we have the OSCE as an organisation, Finland will chair it 2025, and my question to you is that what . . . how can we bring the things back to the track and, particularly, what kind of security guarantees we can give to Ukraine, a country like Ukraine, who has lost the trust to its neighbours and so forth? What can European countries or European organisations or NATO provide in this context? Thank you.
JENS STOLTENBERG: So, first of all, I remember I discussed with both of you, actually, the kind of beautiful idea that Finland is going to share The OSCE – the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe – in 2025, and then hosting a new summit, most likely in Helsinki, 50 years after we agreed to the Helsinki Final Act. It’s not for me to decide what you will do, but of course, the likelihood of having that as a kind of peaceful demonstration of how we can work together in Europe is significantly reduced by the brutal invasion of Ukraine that we all have seen over the last months. Then, I don’t disagree with you, but I think we have to be mindful about the following. It’s that, in one way, the European security architecture has failed, because the idea of the European security architecture is to protect all countries being part of it, and of course, Ukraine is part of that. So in that sense, you are absolutely right. But from a NATO perspective, NATO’s also part of the European security perspective. But only . . . we are not the whole . . . we are not the European security architecture, but we are an important pillar of it, for those Allies, for those countries that have chosen to be part of NATO – and that’s now 30, soon 32. And of course for those, I think it only underlines the importance of security organisations as NATO, where we share some common values, where we have some common goals, but not only that, we will have some common structures to enforce those values and goals. Because I’m a strong believer in the OSCE. I’m a strong believer in the United Nations. But the problem is, that they don’t have the power to reinforce the principles. NATO has power, because we have Article 5 commitment. We have the command structure. We have the military capabilities. And we have, of course, the transatlantic unity. There’s no doubt that what makes NATO the most successful alliance in history is that we bring Europe and North America together. So the failure of the big European security architecture makes only the more limited, but also still very important, architecture in NATO even more important – and even more important now that you have decided to apply and become a member of this part. Then, to try and answer on what kinds of guarantees, what we can do to Ukraine is to provide support, and that’s . . . to provide them with weapons is perhaps now the most important thing we can do to help them protect their security. But as we all know, that comes with a price. And I don’t speak about the price for us to pay for those weapons, but it comes with the price of prolonging this war. But as I said many times, I think it’s for Ukraine to decide, not for me to decide when they think they have paid too high a price for the war. Hopefully, as part of some kind of peace agreement, there will also be some kind of security . . . I don’t call them ‘guarantees’, because I don’t think it will be Article 5 guarantees, but ‘assurances’. The problem, and I’m quite honest with you, is that Ukraine has had that before. They had a beautiful memorandum called the Budapest Memorandum, where Russia guaranteed, because Ukraine got rid of all their nuclear weapons. But also other countries guaranteed. So the problem is that these kind of documents, they . . . if you have countries, as Russia, who are violating those documents, they don’t make so much difference. So you need documents, you need values, you need principles. But at the end of the day, you need some hard power to protect those values.
SAULI NIINISTÖ: Yes, when it comes to security guarantees, which is very understandable that Ukraine wants them and needs them, because any solution would leave very easily a doubt that, ‘When they come again?’ And how to, well, guarantee – that’s a really complex question. There was an idea that all the permanent members of the UN would give this guarantee, including Russia. Okay. But I tend to agree with the Secretary General, it’s, at the end, it’s hard power. We don’t have a court deciding whether somebody is behaving against agreements, international agreements. They are just broken, like in this case. In Europe, the architecture, we have made European Map, Strategic Map. NATO is having its Strategic Concept and there have been discussions of EU-NATO cooperation. So there is, ongoing, a lot of discussion and ideas of European security, without Russia. And then the big question is that the moment it is possible – and it’s possible only after Ukraine is peaceful – in that moment, one has to link, somehow, Russia to these kind of talks. Trying to, let’s say, at least secure the future. Even though, in that case too, we have to remember that any document, well, might be [inaudible] if it’s broken. 2025, you reminded – well, we had a beautiful idea, yes. And that maybe also Russia supported that warmly. So maybe that’s an indication that sometimes some people tend to think too positively for the future.
MODERATOR: I’m going to break the rules here, but I’m going to take one more question. But that means that, also, you need to make your answers a bit shorter. We have Professor Matti Nojonen.
MATTI NOJONEN [Professor]: Yes. Thank you. I’m a China scholar and I have a question for General Secretary Stoltenberg related to China-NATO The question is that, whether NATO will write into the strategy, China. And then how . . . or do you think China will react to that, and what kind of ball game then NATO will face in the future, because then it’s really a global player. And whether that also will push China closer to Russia and increase bipolarity.
MODERATOR: Thank you.
JENS STOLTENBERG: First of all, NATO is an alliance of North America and Europe, and NATO will remain an alliance of North America and Europe. So we will not become a global alliance. But North America and Europe, this region faces global threats and challenges. That includes, for instance, cyber, which is a truly global threat. People can be in China, in North Korea, they can be all over the world and impose heavy damage on NATO Allies, on our security, through cyberspace. Space is becoming more and more important for our security, the satellites, the communications, everything we do, or more and more what we do on the earth is dependent on space capabilities globally. We need to react to that. Terrorism brought NATO to Afghanistan on the borders, actually of China – a global threat. And then China matters for our security. It is absolutely impossible to deny that. They are the second-largest defence spender in the world. They are investing heavily in new nuclear weapon systems, including a lot of long-range nuclear missiles that can reach the whole of NATO territory. They are the largest navy in the world, they have the largest navy in the world. And they are working more and more closely with Russia, like it or dislike it. But they operate together with them militarily, diplomatically. They have not condemned the invasion of Ukraine. They spread the same false narrative about NATO causing this war, about NATO and the United States producing biological chemical weapons in Ukraine, they are spreading that with their public information means, underpinning the Russian narrative about the war in Ukraine. So, they are trying to control our infrastructure, so we need to respond to that. We will respond to that as we have always responded to that. But we also reflect that in the new Strategic Concept, not saying that China is an adversary, but addressing the fact that China’s growth matters to our security. Now I have to stop because she moved towards me.
MODERATOR: I did. Thank you for noting that. And thank you both. The talks will continue tomorrow morning at 9:45am. See you all then for a discussion on the Nordic model and security. And for our audience watching this live on TV, the programme will continue until 8:00pm, but from us here in the tent, see you tomorrow and have a great night.