Former Finnish Defense Minister Rehn: I am No Longer Sure About the Strength of NATO

Former Finnish Minister of Defense Elisabeth Rehn at the Pentagon, May 19, 1993The chief editor of The Lithuania Tribune Ruslanas Iržikevičius talked to Elisabeth Rehn, former Minister of Defence of Finland. . . .

TLT: What is your opinion about the increasing Russian defence budget and the state’s exercise of soft power measures in our region?

ER: The Russian defence capabilities have suffered for a long time of being old and in bad shape. The modernisation and an increase in the defence budget are natural follow-ups of your mentioned fact. Of course, it is not very comfortable when that is happening close to our borders. The soft power of Russia is perhaps more alarming, including the strong attitude with regard to human rights.

TLT: During your presidential campaign in 1994, you said that everyone, who opposes the discussion on pros and cons of the Finnish NATO membership, were burying their heads in the sand. What is the situation of Finland and its NATO aspirations now?

ER: I have always supported the idea of Finland joining NATO. That might have even taken away some percentage of the votes at that time. Our perceptions towards NATO are very much affected by the Russo-phobia we always feel – we are afraid that Russia will not like it. But what would they do if we joined NATO? They always say that it is our own decision, but it is obvious that the relations between Finland and Russia would be jeopardized. . . .

TLT: If Sweden joined NATO, would Finland follow such path then?

ER: That is possible. Fortunately, I am no longer in the politics and can share unpopular opinions. I must state, that today’s NATO is no longer the NATO which it was in those years. I am no longer sure about the strength of the alliance and would like to have its actions in case of crisis defined more clearly.

Therefore, I am no longer pushing the idea of Finland’s NATO membership as much as I used to. Today’s Finnish leadership is wandering around seeking for various options of or for the state’s NATO membership. I personally do not like that.

Image: Former Finnish Minister of Defense Elisabeth Rehn at the Pentagon, May 19, 1993 (photo: Robert D. Ward/DoD)