Trying to “avoid tensions”, the Finnish president informed his counterpart Vladimir Putin on Saturday of his country’s imminent candidacy for NATO, described as a “mistake” by the master of the Kremlin.
“The conversation was direct and straightforward and went without annoyance. Avoiding tension was considered important,” said Finnish head of state Sauli Niinistö, a very regular interlocutor of the Russian president in recent years.
According to Moscow, Vladimir Putin told him that to see Finland stop its historic policy of military non-alignment “would be a mistake, since there is no threat to Finland’s security”.
President Niinistö and Prime Minister Sanna Marin announced on Thursday that they wanted to see Finland join NATO “without delay”, with a formalization of the candidacy expected on Sunday.
Helsinki considers that the invasion of Ukraine, but also Moscow’s demand for no further enlargement of NATO, justifies its change of foot.
Also remained historically out of military alliances so far, Sweden is also preparing to make its decision to join NATO, with a key meeting of the ruling Social Democratic Party on Sunday in Stockholm.
Moscow threatened to take “technical-military” measures in retaliation.
Have these started? As announced on Friday by the subsidiary of a Russian supplier, electricity exports from Russia to Finland, which represent just under 10% of the Nordic country’s consumption, were suspended at midnight on Friday night in Saturday.
Exports from Russia to Finland “are currently at zero”, confirmed to AFP Timo Kaukonen, an official of the electricity network operator, Fingrid.
According to the company RAO Nordic, a subsidiary in Helsinki of the Russian group InterRAO, this suspension is however linked to unpaid bills noted for a week, of which it did not specify the exact causes.
Finland, which shares a 1,300 kilometer border and a painful past with Russia, said it expected measures such as computer attacks or border violations.
In addition to Russian hostility, another pitfall emerged on Friday in Sweden and Finland’s march towards NATO, when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan displayed his hostility to seeing them enter the alliance, which currently has 30 members including Turkey.
The Turkish head of state notably criticized these two Nordic countries for serving as a “hostel for the terrorists of the PKK”, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, considered a terrorist organization by Ankara, but also by the European Union and United States.
Unanimity being required, Ankara finds itself in a position to block the process, while NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg had said he expected the two Nordic countries to be welcomed “with open arms”.
Invited to an informal meeting of NATO foreign ministers taking place in Berlin this weekend, Sweden and Finland are due to hold bilateral talks with Turkey on Saturday.
Stockholm and Helsinki admitted to having had no warning signs of Turkish hostility.
“It’s best to take it calmly. Until now, Turkey’s message to us has been the exact opposite,” Niinistö stressed on Saturday in an interview with Finnish television Yle.
A new step must however be taken on Saturday in Helsinki, with the green light expected from the Social Democratic Party led by the Prime Minister.
The party leadership has been meeting since 11:00 GMT to validate a resolution in support of membership.
The Finnish Parliament must meet Monday in the wake, with a probable river vote in favor of membership among the 200 deputies.