Finland aims for peace on borders with Russia: FM
Following talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinisto, Helsinki stresses that it wants to uphold the peace on the borders with Russia.
Helsinki sees it as highly important to maintain contact with Moscow to preserve peace on the Russian-Finnish border, Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said Saturday at the doorstep of the informal meeting of NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs in Berlin, Germany.
"It is very important for Finland to maintain communication with Russia since the two countries share such a long bilateral border," he added, commenting on the call between Russian and Finnish leaders held earlier in the day.
Finland and Russia share a 1,300 kilometers-long border, the minister said, stressing that his country would like to maintain and uphold the existing peace on the border, which highlights the importance of "communicat[ing] with our neighbors."
Russian President Vladimir Putin had an exchange of views with his Finnish counterpart, Sauli Niinisto, on Helsinki's intention to apply for NATO membership in a phone call initiated by Helsinki on Saturday.
Putin, speaking to his Finnish counterpart, said Helsinki's accession to NATO could have a negative impact on Russian-Finnish relations, which were built in the spirit of good neighborliness and partnership and were mutually beneficial.
The Russian president reiterated that Moscow posed no threat to Finland; therefore, abandoning the traditional policy of military neutrality on Helsinki's end would be a mistake.
Niinisto, on the other hand, told his Russian counterpart that Moscow's demands aimed at preventing countries from joining NATO and the war in Ukraine have led to alterations in the security environment in Finland.
Helsinki wishes to strengthen its own security, Niinisto said, adding that Finland would like "to take care of the practical questions arising from being a neighbor of Russia in a correct and professional manner" in the future.
A statement issued earlier in the day by the Kremlin revealed that "Putin stressed that the end of the traditional policy of military neutrality would be a mistake since there is no threat to Finland's security."
On Saturday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko said that Russia harbors no hostile intentions against Finland or Sweden.
"All this fits into the all-too-common ‘search for an enemy’, which entails, in practical political [and] military sense, a demonization of Russia, assigning to [Russia] hostile intentions against some countries, while Russia absolutely cannot be suspected of such intentions, " the diplomat said.
Finland, alongside its neighbor to the West, Sweden, is expected to request NATO membership in the coming months - before summer. Their accession, if it were to happen, would redefine European security and would be met with opposition from Russia, which has been very vocal about its opposition to NATO's expansion.
Though Moscow opposes the alliance's expansion, it does not see the accession of Finland and Sweden into the bloc as an existential threat, Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov underlined. However, Russia will work on its Western flank to make it more sophisticated in terms of security in the face of NATO creeping in on its northern borders.