EMBARGOED: Speech by President of the Republic of Finland Sauli Niinistö at the Munich Security Conference Ewald von Kleist Award ceremony on 18 February 2023


Last year as we gathered here in Munich, the world was standing at the brink of a large-scale war. Russian troops stood at the border of Ukraine, talks had proven futile and the writing was on the wall. In his speech at the Conference, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky talked about the eight-year-long war that Ukraine had endured. He pleaded for action and asked, if we would be able to hear him now.

Just four days after the conference, Russia launched its full-scale war on Ukraine. A year later, the war is still raging on with no end in sight. Russia continues and escalates its aggression. It targets civilian infrastructure causing unspeakable suffering and devastation.

And our answer to President Zelensky is: We hear you loud and clear. And we are with you.

The Western response to Russia’s aggression has been swift, strong and unified. We are united in our support and solidarity to Ukraine. We are united in our opposition to Russia’s illegal acts. And we are united in our resolve to strengthen our own defence and resilience.


In his speech in 2010 in front of the Reichstag building, Ewald von Kleist described Central Europe of the past decades as an “Oasis of happiness”. But he added a word of warning: this oasis is not to be taken for granted. Von Kleist had experienced war in Europe. He knew what he was talking about.

Europe has indeed been fortunate to enjoy decades of relative peace and prosperity. Before February 24th last year, it was tempting to think that this state of affairs will continue indefinitely. Many of us had started to take peace for granted. Many of us had let our guard down. That all changed.

The German language has given us many wonderful, incredibly descriptive words that capture the spirit of the age. The word that has emerged to describe this era is apt – Zeitenwende. To quote Federal Chancellor Scholz: that means that the world afterwards will no longer be the same as the world before.

European countries are now rapidly ramping up defence spending and improving their capabilities. It has become very clear that peace, security and rules-based international order are something that we have to actively uphold, and be prepared to protect. The renewed focus on security and defence in Europe will benefit transatlantic security as a whole. It will make us better partners, and stronger Allies.


For Finland, Russia’s invasion brought back echoes of our own history. We had not forgotten our past. Throughout the years, we had continued to invest in our security. We had held on to conscription as the backbone of our national defence. We had developed international partnerships and become a trusted partner for NATO.

We had not let our guard down. But we, too, needed to rethink. Russia’s attempt to bring back spheres of influence and, finally after that, its attack on a sovereign neighbour prompted us to take one more step in increasing our security: that is applying for NATO membership.

We made this decision in close coordination with our friend and closest partner, Sweden. I believe I speak for both Finland and Sweden when I say that we are deeply grateful for all the support that we have gotten in this process.

Twenty-eight NATO countries moved fast to ratify our memberships. Many offered their support and intensified cooperation. The application period – the so-called grey period – has not been cold or grey. On the contrary. The warmth and the sense of unity have been overwhelming.

Our NATO memberships are still two ratifications short of completion. I want to stress that it is very important that at the Vilnius Summit in July, we will both sit at the table as full NATO members. In these critical times, Finland and Sweden’s memberships will strengthen the whole Alliance.

And truly, these times require a strong Alliance. As the late Senator John McCain put it in a letter beautifully read by his wife in this very ceremony in 2018: “we come to Munich because sustaining our vision of world order, though it requires wealth and power and realism, is not merely a material struggle. It is a moral struggle. It is about the values that will govern our world. That is why we are allies.”

With these words, I want to thank the Munich Security Conference for granting us the Ewald von Kleist award.

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President Niinistö to make a visit to Türkiye15.3.2023 10:40:14 EET | Press release

Office of the President of the Republic of Finland Press release 9/2023 15 March 2023 President of the Republic of Finland Sauli Niinistö will make a working visit to Türkiye from 16 to 17 March 2023. At the beginning of the trip, President Niinistö will visit the area affected by the earthquake in south-eastern Türkiye. On Friday, the President will meet with President of Türkiye Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Istanbul. In addition to the reconstruction after the earthquake, the discussions will focus on the geopolitical situation, bilateral relations between Finland and Türkiye and Finland’s and Sweden’s NATO memberships. President Niinistö’s delegation will include Minister for Foreign Affairs Pekka Haavisto.

President Niinistö på besök till Turkiet15.3.2023 10:38:50 EET | Tiedote

Republikens presidents kansli Pressmeddelande 9/2023 15.3.2023 Republikens president Sauli Niinistö gör ett arbetsbesök till Turkiet den 16–17 mars 2023. Resan börjar med ett besök till jordbävningsområdet i sydöstra Turkiet. På fredag träffar presidenten Turkiets president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan i Istanbul. Diskussionsämnen är återuppbyggnaden efter jordbävningen, det geopolitiska läget, de bilaterala relationerna mellan Finland och Turkiet samt Finlands och Sveriges Natomedlemskap. I president Niinistös följe ingår utrikesminister Pekka Haavisto.

Presidentti Niinistö vierailulle Turkkiin15.3.2023 10:34:12 EET | Tiedote

Tasavallan presidentin kanslia Tiedote 9/2023 15.3.2023 Tasavallan presidentti Sauli Niinistö tekee työvierailun Turkkiin 16.–17. maaliskuuta 2023. Matkan aluksi presidentti Niinistö vierailee Kaakkois-Turkin maanjäristysalueella. Perjantaina presidentti tapaa Turkin presidentti Recep Tayyip Erdoğanin Istanbulissa. Keskustelunaiheina ovat maanjäristyksen jälkeisen jälleenrakennuksen lisäksi geopoliittinen tilanne, Suomen ja Turkin kahdenväliset suhteet sekä Suomen ja Ruotsin Nato-jäsenyydet. Presidentti Niinistön seurueessa on mukana myös ulkoministeri Pekka Haavisto.

President Niinistö to meet U.S. Senators23.2.2023 14:28:12 EET | Press release

Office of the President of the Republic of Finland Press release 8/2023 23 February 2023 President of the Republic of Finland Sauli Niinistö will meet U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and Republican Senators Thom Tillis, Joni Ernst, Ted Budd, Katie Britt and Pete Ricketts on Friday 24 February 2023 at Mäntyniemi in Helsinki. During their meeting, the President and Senators will discuss, among other things, Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine, the situation and prospects of the war one year after the start of it, support for Ukraine, and advancing Finland’s membership in NATO. The Senators’ visit to Finland will be hosted by the U.S. Ambassador to Finland, Douglas Hickey.

President Niinistö träffar amerikanska senatorer23.2.2023 14:27:10 EET | Tiedote

Republikens presidents kansli Pressmeddelande 8/2023 23.2.2023 Republikens president Sauli Niinistö träffar Mitch McConnell, republikanernas ledare i Förenta staternas senat, och de republikanska senatorerna Thom Tillis, Joni Ernst, Ted Budd, Katie Britt och Pete Ricketts fredagen den 24 februari 2023 på Talludden. Vid sitt möte kommer presidenten och senatorerna bland annat att diskutera Rysslands anfallskrig i Ukraina, läget och utsikterna för kriget ett år efter att det inleddes, stödet till Ukraina och Finlands medlemskap i Nato. Värd för senatorernas Finlandsbesök är Förenta staternas ambassadör i Finland Douglas Hickey.

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