VILNIUS – Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, currently on a visit to Vilnius, does not think that nuclear weapons could be stationed on Finnish soil following the country’s accession to NATO.
“What comes to nuclear armament, we haven’t discussed it in Finland [yet]. We will surely have discussions on all issues after we finally become members. But my own opinion is that it sounds not at all familiar to me to think that we could have nuclear armament [in Finland],” he said during a news conference in Vilnius on Friday.
Earlier this week, the Newsweek reported citing the Helsinki-based newspaper Iltalehti that Finland's foreign and defense ministers, Pekka Haavisto and Antti Kaikkonen, gave a "commitment" to NATO in July that they would not seek "restrictions or national reservations" if Helsinki's NATO application were accepted.
Foreign policy insiders told the Iltalehti this means NATO nuclear weapons could transit through, or be based on, Finnish territory. Additionally, there would be no restrictions on establishing NATO bases in the country.
Finland and Sweden dropped decades of military non-alignment and scrambled to become NATO members in May, after Russia invaded Ukraine.
To date, all but Turkey and Hungary of the 30 NATO member states have ratified the accession of Sweden and Finland.
Budapest said last week it supported the applications of the two countries and its parliament would ratify them by mid-December, but Ankara has not yet given any specific dates.
Ankara has accused the two Nordic nations, in particular Sweden, of providing safe haven to outlawed Kurdish militants it deems "terrorists".
Ankara was more concerned about Stockholm, and not Helsinki, Niinisto said but stressed that Helsinki “considers that it's very important that we walk hand by hand with Sweden”.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg is visiting Ankara this week aiming to convince Turkey to finalize the process of ratifying Finland’s and Sweden’s accession to the Alliance. Moreover, Sweden's new Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson will visit Ankara next week for further talks.
“We’ll see what this will bring… I am optimistic, Turkey will ratify our membership eventually. I hope this will happen as soon as possible,” Niinisto said.
Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda stated in his turn that the ratification process “cannot be the same in all countries”.
“Just two countries remain. I think ratification should not take infinitely long,” he added.
CALLS TO JUDGE BY ACTIONS
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis accused Turkey of playing a double game in the war in Ukraine during his visit to Vilnius earlier this week.
“Turkey considers it does not need to choose a side as if there is no right or wrong. It seems to be OK for Turkey to be providing arms for Ukraine while accommodating Russia’s economic interests," the Greek prime minister said.
The United States and the EU are pressing Ankara to comply with the sanctions they have so far imposed on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.
However, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan disagrees and is offering his country as a neutral venue for possible ceasefire talks. He has also approved various agreements that have more than doubled the value of Turkey's exports to Russia in recent months.
Yet Nauseda said on Friday that, as far as Ankara was concerned, it was necessary to assess “specific actions, and not words”.
“No one could doubt that Turkey plays an important role in stopping Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. Both in military terms and in addressing humanitarian problems”, the Lithuanian president said citing the example of a humanitarian corridor for the export of Ukrainian grain.