President of the Republic Sauli Niinistö participated in the International Security Conference in Munich on 17-18 February 2018. The conference agenda focused mainly on the future of Europe and there was also much discussion about Russia and the situation in Ukraine.
President Niinistö met with the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko both in Munich on 17 February and on the previous day at the Centennial Celebration of the Restoration of the State of Lithuania in Vilnius. The situation in eastern Ukraine and proposals on how to get peacekeepers to the region were among the matters discussed at the meetings. President Niinistö commented to the Finnish media on possible peacekeeping operations and stated that Finland would be prepared to be involved in such operations.
President Niinistö reminded everyone that the conflict in Ukraine is the largest problem now facing Europe: “If there is even the slightest indication that the problem could be resolved, then Finland must be involved both in spirit and action to the extent our resources allow.” However, President Niinistö noted that plans for peacekeeping operations are very much in their infancy. “If agreement can be reached and if there is a broad UN mandate for such a mission, then it is certainly in Finland’s interests to use the key to unlock this situation in Europe.”
In Munich, a speech given by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was followed by a speech from US President Trump’s National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. President Niinistö noted that steps forward in Ukraine could also de-escalate the intense rhetoric between the United States and Russia. “Now we must just hope to be able to find even small common solutions. Moving ahead on Ukraine would be a major common solution, after which I believe it would be possible to release a lot of these pent-up feelings,” said President Niinistö.
President Niinistö also had a bilateral meeting in Munich with former Vice President of the United States Joe Biden.
President Niinistö took part in the MSC Arctic Security Roundtable, where discussions were held under the heading “Frozen Conflicts? Great Power Politics in the Arctic.” In the closed-door panel discussions, President Niinistö made the opening statement. The President told that those present in the discussions were particularly interested in whether the Arctic Council will exclude military issues from the Council’s work also in the future. Finland currently holds the chairmanship of the Arctic Council.
President Niinistö said that he has begun to think increasingly about how climate change will impact the activities of the Arctic Council. “The consequences of climate change are fastest in the Arctic and give rise to global consequences. The Council consists of just eight countries and combating these consequences is, however, in the interests of everyone around the globe. This must weigh heavily in the Arctic Council so that those outside cannot complain that you are tinkering around with the issue, but we’re suffering.”
The Munich Security Conference has been held since 1963 and brought together almost 500 key foreign and security policy decision-makers from around the world.