Speech by Minister for Foreign Affairs Pekka Haavisto at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, CSIS

Speech by Minister for Foreign Affairs Pekka Haavisto at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Friday 27 May 2022


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for your interest towards a Finnish and European perspective to the current security situation. We are in a period of unprecedented diplomacy between Helsinki and Washington, not only because of the tragic events in Ukraine, but also because one of the consequences: Finland’s request to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, NATO.

Let me first run through how we got to this moment in time. The 24th of February 2022 was a turning point. Russia launched a massive invasion of its sovereign neighbour. The offensive was a shock to the whole world.

Russia, which had willingly joined the European security order, now wants to annex and control its sovereign and independent neighbour, Ukraine.

In December, Russia started diplomatic preparations in the form of ultimatums. Countries between NATO and Russia would not have full sovereign rights to decide over their own destiny. Their security interests would be permanently subjugated to Russia’s. Indeed, even some NATO countries would not have full rights as alliance members. This interpretation was confirmed by Russia’s attack.

When people ask us why did you not react when Russia invaded Georgia in 2008 or when it annexed Crimea in 2014, I usually reply that four things have changed since Russia launched a full invasion of Ukraine in February 24th.

Firstly, European security architecture has failed. The security order established during the Cold War and enshrined in the OSCE agreements and principles, could not stop a full-scale war in Europe.

Secondly, Russia was able and willing to gather over one hundred thousand soldiers against a single neighbouring country, without having to mobilize additional forces.

Thirdly, we see that Russia is now willing to take higher risks, including casualties. The attempt to try to change the regime of a neighbouring country of over 40 million people cannot be described as a calculated risk.

Fourthly, there is loose talk in Russia about weapons of mass destruction, including tactical nuclear weapons and chemical weapons. This had led to many Finnish citizens asking what would we do if we were threatened with these types of weapons.

The burden of the war has of course been born by Ukrainians. They pay the price of Russia’s brutal invasion, and we support them full heartedly. Russia’s attack has failed to achieve some of its key targets. Kiev remains firmly in Ukrainian hands, and the legitimate government prevails.

Russia’s invasion has had unexpected outcomes. First of all, we have seen the Ukrainians rallying to defend their country, culture and democracy in a way that can only inspire others.

Secondly, there are consequences that are only beginning to unfold. Ukraine and Russia are major food exporters, who together provided about 30 percent of world wheat exports. Ukrainian fields and infrastructure are now being destroyed. Whereas, Russian exports held back by Russian officials. Consequences will be felt globally as shortages mean rising prices. I wish to thank the Biden administration for highlighting food security also in the UN Security Council.

Lastly, Russia’s neighbours have reacted. Carefully coordinating with the United States and other partners, the European Union has showed unprecedented speed and decisiveness in condemning and sanctioning Russia and in delivering lethal aid to Ukraine. These sanctions deliver a massive blow to Russia’s economy, trade and war effort.

Let me now turn to Finland where the popular opinion had remained for some time rather sceptical towards NATO membership. After the events in Ukraine, there was soon a majority, then over 60 percent support for joining the NATO.

When the parliament voted on whether Finland should seek NATO membership, 188 representatives out of 200 supported submitting an application. The latest polls show that 76 percent are in favour of joining NATO. The war had had yet another unpredicted consequence.

What happens next?

First of all, we maintain our support to Ukraine. This is the only way to ensure that Ukraine is in a strong position in possible future peace negotiations with Russia. Finland, together with the EU and the United States, stands firmly behind Ukraine and its people.

Second point is that while the rules-based international system and the European security structures, such as the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (the OSCE), could not prevent the Russian aggression, we must not abandon them. We will also need various forums after the war.

Thirdly, from a European and Finnish perspective I see that a rapid and smooth accession process to NATO for Finland and Sweden serves everyone’s interests. We, naturally, fully respect the right of every NATO member state to go through their parliamentary processes and all concerns or questions by member states will be addressed accordingly.

We wish to continue our constructive dialogue with the allies and are ready to continue the discussions on the outstanding issues.

I am very grateful for the unwavering support that we have received from the United States throughout the process. We appreciate the widespread bipartisan encouragement and I look forward to the Senate approving our membership. We value the commitment that President Biden made last week to deter and confront any aggression during the accession process.

Our membership in NATO is, after a thorough consideration, for the best of European and Transatlantic security. Finland is taking this step following a close and wide-ranging partnership with NATO for almost three decades.

Finland is a security provider. The Finnish armed forces are one of the strongest in Europe and can already operate seamlessly with NATO. The Finns' willingness to defend their country is among the highest in the whole world. Finland's security model is based on a comprehensive approach and preparedness across the society, and beyond the traditional military approach.

Together with Sweden, we will make a strong contribution to the stability of the Baltic Sea Region. As a country with a capable and well-trained military, as well as a large wartime reserve of 280 000 soldiers, Finnish membership would strengthen the Alliance as a whole. As a NATO ally, Finland will commit to the security of all Allies.

Finland is also a strong proponent of cooperation between European Union and NATO. We must develop and mobilize the EU’s security and defence related policies and capabilities not to compete but to complement NATO capacities.

And finally, Finland’s membership in NATO is not a threat to anyone. We only seek to enhance our own security and to contribute to a stable security order in Europe. As president Biden said: “New members joining NATO is not a threat to any nation. It never has been. NATO’s purpose is to defend against aggression.”

Thank you for your attention.

Speeches held by Ministers and the top leadership of the Ministry.