Finnish defense minister wants more dialogue with Russia

Source: Xinhua| 2018-07-25 23:56:39|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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HELSINKI, July 25 (Xinhua) -- Finnish Defense Minister Jussi Niinisto said on Wednesday more dialogue is needed between Finland and Russia to avoid misunderstandings about the military cooperation that Finland and Sweden are taking part in.

Niinisto commented on a speech by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu a day earlier. The Russia minister had said that the increasing cooperation of Finland and Sweden with NATO would make it necessary for Russia to take counter measures. Shoigu did not specify what those counter measures would be, however.

Niinisto said the bilateral defense agreement between Finland and Sweden is not connected with NATO in any way. The agreement was signed in early July.

Niinisto told national broadcaster Yle on Wednesday he would be willing to meet Shoigu to clarify what kind of cooperation Finland is engaged in. However, the current sanctions against Russia prevent ministerial level meetings.

Defense Minister Niinisto has not met Shoigu personally.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Finnish President Sauli Niinisto will be meeting in Moscow in August.

Defense Minister Niinisto considered the timing of the statement by Shoigu to be somewhat unusual, against the backdrop that Putin has publicly praised the relationship between Finland and Russia.

"In that respect this is surprising, but this is then a matter that Niinisto and Putin can talk about, if they think it is worth a discussion," Defence Minister Niinisto said.

Defence Minister Niinisto added that the message from Shoigu is very clear. Russia does not want Finland or Sweden to join NATO. "This has been heard many times," Niinisto said.

Besides the recent bilateral agreement with Sweden, a tripartite agreement between Finland, Sweden and the U.S. was signed in May this year. In 2014 Finland signed a hosting agreement with NATO.