The 2022 Kultaranta Talks ended with the closing remarks of the President of the Republic of Finland Sauli Niinistö. He stated that this time the talks addressed significant issues of major importance. “It is very descriptive of this year in particular, that most things have happened.”
In the opening discussion with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Sunday, the President highlighted the Secretary-General’s message that Turkey’s concerns must be taken seriously. “We will certainly do that, but at the same time, we should remember that, as far as I can understand, our approach represents about the standard followed by the EU countries in relation to Turkey and the prevention of terrorism against Turkey,” the President said.
According to the President, Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership will not increase tensions in the Nordic region “On the contrary, it provides an opportunity to consolidate and stabilise the situation even further.” He said that he had discussed the Nordic brand with Prime Minister of Norway Jonas Gahr Støre, and quoted Støre as saying that we should not be bashful about coming from a Nordic country.
At the end of his closing remarks, the President said that he believes that the Kultaranta Talks have given people more food for thought. “And, hopefully, also something that will help them at least approach these issues, if not fully resolve them.”
Changing security policy as the theme of the second panel discussion
The latter panel discussion on the second day of the Kultaranta Talks focused on the changing security policy. The panelists included Commander of the Defence Forces General Timo Kivinen, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee Jussi Halla-aho, Chair of the Defence Committee Petteri Orpo, Director of the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies Professor Tuomas Forsberg, and Minister of Education Li Andersson.
At the beginning of the discussion, Commander Kivinen said that no one can estimate for how long the war in Ukraine will continue. There is no victory in sight for either of the parties, nor any signs of willingness to negotiate. “Russia has made slow progress by massive shelling, but no signs of the Ukrainian defences crumbling can be detected.”
Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Halla-aho considered it dangerous and difficult to start giving any outsider advice as to what Ukraine in particular should settle for. Professor Forsberg estimated that even if the stalemate were to lead to negotiations, the parties could consider the solution only temporary. Forsberg pointed out that Russia has already been engaged in a war in Ukraine for eight years.
The panellists considered it important to continue providing military, financial and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine. Minister of Education Andersson said that, when the war gets prolonged, there is a danger that citizens will gradually lose their interest in the situation in Ukraine.
What kind of foreign policy will Finland pursue as a NATO member?
It was also discussed what will change after Finland joins NATO. Orpo emphasised that Finland will continue pursuing its foreign and security policy from its own starting points. Andersson considered it important to specify at some point what kind of a member Finland will become. In this respect, the Foreign and Security Policy Report will play a major role.
General Kivinen highlighted, among other things, the reconciliation of defence plans with NATO. The membership will bring not only rights but also obligations for Finland, regarding, for example, rapid deployment forces.
Professor Forsberg estimated that, in the long term, NATO membership may stabilise the situation on Finland’s eastern border. Now the political cooperation and collaboration between citizens is diminishing. As the situation changes, we must see where new windows of opportunity might open.