Speech by the President of the Republic of Finland at the Swedish Parliament on 17 May 2022

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Your Majesties, Mr Speaker, Ladies and gentlemen!

It is an honour to speak to you here at the Riksdag today.

Sweden and Finland are about to take historic steps. Together. Very shortly, we will officially announce in Brussels our will to initiate membership discussions with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Sweden’s and Finland’s NATO membership would enhance not only our own security, but also that of the whole alliance. It is without detriment to anyone. Our membership would strengthen the responsible, strong and stable Nordic region on the northern edge of NATO.

***

We are taking these historic steps in the shadow of a brutal war. Last December launched a chain of events that fundamentally changed our security environment. This forced us to reassess our security policy.

With its requirements about stopping NATO enlargement, Russia strived to narrow our freedom of choice and our sovereignty. This put us in a new position. Russia’s major offensive against Ukraine made it clear that it is once again ready to use armed force in its immediate areas to achieve its goals. These combined factors showed the impermanence of our traditional position.

The transatlantic community has stood strong and united in its support to Ukraine and its response to Russia. The bravery of the Ukrainian people has touched us deeply. The suffering of civilians has shocked us all. We support Ukraine, defending its independence and freedom, and we help those fleeing the horrors of war. Those liable for war crimes must be held accountable for their actions.

***

Before the Russian attack, having a major war in the 2020s Europe appeared almost impossible to imagine. Many people believed that the memories of the generations who had lived through war belonged to history, we took peace for granted. The 24th day of February broke that peace.

At the same time, our trust in the traditional ways of ensuring our security and maintaining our relations with Russia broke. Our old policies are no longer compliant with the new situation.

Even though our security policy solution changes, the goals of the Finnish foreign and security policy remain unchanged. Alongside securing Finnish security, we want to strengthen multilateral co-operation, bear global responsibility and build peace.

Our solution does not change geography. Also in the future, Finland wants to take care of the practical questions arising from being a neighbour of Russia in a correct and professional manner. Security is not a zero-sum game. The Finnish people looking at Russia across the border are the same as they were before.

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“There are times in world history when it is far wiser to act than to hesitate. There is some risk involved in action–there always is. But there is far more risk in failure to act.” These were the words of U.S. President Harry S. Truman when he spoke to the Congress in March 1948. Truman spoke to the Congress about the role of the United States in supporting security and freedom of Europe. The idea of NATO had already been born.

The state leaders of Sweden and Finland have now considered the risk of inaction to be higher than the risk of taking action. Months of intense work have led to similar decisions. We share the same security environment, our interests are similar and the security policies pursued by us have been largely similar for a long time. I greatly value our countries still advancing together, hand in hand, even in this important decision.

We are now faced with a common challenge. In recent days, Turkey’s statements have changed and hardened very quickly. I am sure, however, that we will solve the situation through constructive discussions.

As part of NATO, Sweden and Finland will position themselves in the same zone with our close partners Norway, Denmark and Iceland. The Nordic Countries, which stand strong together in so many areas, will soon form a strong northern European quintet in NATO as well. In addition to democracy and well-being, security is increasingly becoming one of the basic pillars of our joint Nordic model.

Our close co-operation with the Baltic countries will also gain new security dimensions. Our NATO membership will bring depth to the defence of our own countries and the defence of the whole Northern Europe. At the same time, the security and stability of the entire Baltic Sea region will be strengthened. In the event of crisis, we can trust our neighbours for support, solidarity and functioning lines of supply.

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Responsible, strong and stable. These words summarise our joint Nordic model. The Nordic Countries have always assumed responsibility. As part of the European Union, Sweden and Finland have given a strong contribution to the stability and well-being within the Union and supported their partners in times of trouble. As part of the international community, we are pioneers in seeking solutions to global challenges, such as climate change.

In the Baltic Sea region, our contribution to ensuring security is strong. As NATO members, our primary task will continue to be to secure our own territories. But at the same time, we are committed to taking responsibility for the security of our allies. This will further strengthen our contribution to the Euro-Atlantic security.

The Nordic Countries are strong in every meaning of the word. Our military strength is among the most advanced in Europe and our capabilities complement each other. The threshold for any military action against us is already very high.

But strength is not generated by force alone. It also requires resilience. And that is something our Nordic Countries are famous for. Globally, we are among the world leaders in technological development. Our economies rest on solid foundations and they are resilient in the event of crisis. We have strong freedom of speech and our citizens have been inoculated against many forms of information influencing. We take care of our citizens.

Our stability is backed up by a strong democracy. At a time when democracy is weakening globally, the Nordic Countries stand out from the crowd. In the annual Democracy Index, in 2021, five of the six leading countries were Nordic countries. Ultimately, a strong democracy is the best guarantee of security. That we must ensure even in the future.

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Now that we have made our decision, the power will be handed over to NATO and its current member countries for a while. We hope that all Member States will give their strong support. We expect to sign the accession protocols soon, after which we hope for swift ratification by national parliaments of the member countries.

Over the past few weeks, together and separately with Prime Minister Andersson, we have conducted discussions with the allied countries to secure support for our membership. Our membership enjoys wide support among NATO countries. With our strong defence, and societal and political stability, we are considered to enforce the alliance.

We have also received strong statements of support for duration of the membership process. The support of our allies is important, and we are grateful for that. At the same time, I underscore that our primary source of security even in this situation is our strong defence systems and the strength of our societies. Our strong and stable societies will withstand.

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Finally, I would like to thank Prime Minister Andersson for close co-operation and valuable exchange of ideas over the past few months. Sweden and Finland share a history dating back hundreds of years. We are united by geography, values, language and culture. Co-operation between our countries has always been close. Still, hardly ever has the connection between our state leaders been as close as it has been lately. We have discussed with each other almost every week.

I also want to extend my thanks to all ministers, members of parliament and officials who have travelled this road together with your colleagues in the neighbouring country, exchanging views. I believe that this valuable and close connection will last and continue to strengthen. This past spring has revealed its value and immeasurable potential to us all. Thank you.

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