Secretary General in Helsinki: time to welcome Finland and Sweden as NATO members

In Helsinki on Tuesday (28 February 2023), NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg participated in the Cooperation Committee of the Nordic Labour Movement (SAMAK) Nordic Summit, together with Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre, and Magdalena Andersson, leader of the Swedish Social Democratic Party.

Opening speech by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the SAMAK Nordic Summit:
In his speech, Mr Stoltenberg commended the Nordic countries for supporting Ukraine’s right to self-defence, calling this the morally right thing to do, and also in our own security interest. “We do not know when this war will end, but when it does, we must ensure that history does not repeat itself. President Putin cannot continue to chip away at European security,” he said. He added: “we must enable Ukraine to deter and defend against future aggression. We must put in place long-term arrangements for Ukraine’s security, because Ukraine’s future is in the Euro-Atlantic family.”

The Secretary General also called for continued strengthening of deterrence and defence. “At the end of the Cold War, many of us in this room believed we could build a better relationship with Russia,” he said, “but President Putin chose to walk away from cooperation and dialogue, he has left a trail of broken promises, shattered fundamental principles of global security, attacking neighbouring countries, and tried to undermine our own democracies.” Mr Stoltenberg pointed to Russia suspending the New START Treaty limiting nuclear weapons as the latest example of Moscow’s lack of respect for international norms. He added: “we have to recognise that the end of this war will not be a return to normal in our relations with Russia. There is no going back. In a more dangerous world, we can no longer afford to treat defence as optional. It is a necessity.”

The Secretary General stressed that completing Finland’s and Sweden’s accession is a priority for NATO and “we are making progress”. He added: “I will convene another meeting of the Permanent Joint Mechanism at NATO Headquarters next week”, bringing together Türkiye, Finland and Sweden. Mr Stoltenberg also made clear that Finland and Sweden are now more secure than before they applied. “You are sitting at NATO’s table, and integrating into our political and military structures,” he said. He added: “NATO has increased its presence in the region; we are exercising more together; and many Allies have given Finland and Sweden security assurances, so it is inconceivable that NATO Allies would not act if your security was threatened.”

While in Finland, the Secretary General is also meeting with President Sauli Niinistö and Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto.