"We see that Ukraine's future is in NATO": interview with Elina Valtonen, Finland’s Foreign Minister

Elina Valtonen, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Finland Новина оновлена 04 квітня 2024, 12:36
Elina Valtonen, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Finland. Фото ANSA

Finland is ready to support Ukraine in joining the EU and NATO.

Finland allocates about 0.25% of its GDP to help Ukraine. The other day, Helsinki announced the delivery of a new aid package worth 188 million euros to Kyiv, which includes much-needed air defense systems and large-caliber ammunition.

To learn more about what Finnish partners are currently focusing on in matters of support for Ukraine and their own security, on the sidelines of the Meeting of Foreign Ministers in Brussels, "Telegraf" recorded an interview with Elina Valtonen, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Finland.

— Finland is one of the few countries that has currently approved long-term aid commitments to Ukraine, until at least 2027. Why is it important for Finland to be so constant in supporting our country?

Ukraine is fighting for all of us, for the prevalence of our values, a free society, a democracy, human rights, and the European way of life effectively that Ukrainians have chosen for themselves. I think it is our responsibility to keep aiding Ukraine.

Finland shares a long border with Russia, we have been invaded before. So we know what we are talking about and what kind of threat we are facing. That probably also explains why the Finns have very strong sympathies with the Ukrainians.

— What are the specific Russian threats that Finland faces now? And how does the country counter those?

— We don't feel any immediate military threat from Russia. We are prepared for any sort of circumstances. Indeed, we have experienced significant cyberattacks over the years. It's nothing new in the sense that it's been there for quite some time and also targeting other European countries.

We have had this so to say phenomenon at our eastern border, where Russia has been instrumentalizing third-country citizens. We had to close the entire eastern border by the end of last year because we saw and still see that Russia is probably going to threaten us with this for the long term like it has been doing [before].

Disinformation and certainly some sort of propaganda always has been around, but I think Finns are quite aware of what is true and what's not.

*Russia was encouraging asylum seekers to travel across its territory into the EU and NATO countries. Finland has evidence that Russian authorities have been actively helping people reach the border, by oganizing group transports, for example. In the autumn of 2023, the Finnish government closed all eight crossing points it shares with Russia, along a border of almost 1,400 kilometers.

Finland-Russia border on November, 2023
Finnish border guards with migrants on the Finland-Russia border on November, 2023. Photo by Getty Images

— In your opinion, could Putin dare to attack NATO? What are the best ways for the West to not let this happen in the next years?

— I will not speculate on his plans or motives or ideas for the future, but the only thing that we can do and should do is concentrate on the issues that are in our control. And that is certainly the fact that we should be ramping up the deterrence and the defense of the alliance, especially in Europe. That is very much the Finnish message.

— I believe that NATO right now is focusing on some multi-year commitments to Ukraine. What is Finland's position on some plans that are discussed right now?

— I think we should commit ourselves to long-term aid and support for Ukraine. It was also, at least on a sort of political level, declared in the G7 Declaration last summer, based on which many countries already have published their security commitments to Ukraine, and Finland is in the process of also doing that.

*On April 3rd, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy and President of Finland Alexander Stubb signed an Agreement on security cooperation and long-term support.

Finland will help Ukraine rebuild its energy sector, assess environmental damage, strengthen border and critical infrastructure protection, and provide medical treatment for Ukrainian soldiers. In addition, the document contains powerful blocks on sanctions, compensation for damages, and bringing the aggressor to justice.

I think what we need to do is to have a strong role of NATO in institutionalizing different tasks, which need to be taken care of. Taking into account that so many countries, for instance, sending military materials over, there should be a coordination role. And also someone overseeing, perhaps, that there is sufficient contribution from each and every member state. And I think NATO is very well equipped to take on that role.

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy and President of Finland Alexander Stubb
Ukraine and Finland have signed a security agreement. Photo by the Office of the President of Ukraine

— Recently, Finland started the implementation of the Foreign Service reform. Will the approach to the role of Ukraine as a Finnish partner be reformed too?

— We are strongly committed to paving the pathway for Ukraine for membership in the European Union which has to be merit-based and based on the reforms, that Ukraine is now bravely carrying out despite the war. And, of course, we also see that Ukraine's future is in NATO. So, we are happy to assist in both those.

— Last but not least question. In recent weeks, Ukraine has been experiencing serious Russian attacks on its energy sector. What are the plans for helping Ukraine to overcome the consequences?

— It is very deplorable. Of course, it is also a war crime to target energy infrastructure. And it is civilian infrastructure, which is not easily repaired. But Finland is committed to helping Ukraine in rebuilding and reconstruction.

When it comes to Zelenskyy’s peace plan, we are co-chairs in the working group concentrating on the environment. This is at least partly linked to it because energy security and also what might come out of such terrible attacks is very much affecting the environment and climate. Finland is very strongly committed to helping Ukraine.