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Finland Says NATO an Option After Russia ‘Violates’ Border Laws

Finland's Sauli Niinistoe and Russia's Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, greets Finnish President Sauli Niinistoe in Sochi on Aug. 15, 2014. Niinistoe urged the European Union to step up its focus on defense spending amid an escalating crisis in Ukraine. Photographer: Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images

Finnish President Sauli Niinistoe said joining NATO remained an option for the Nordic country as Prime Minister Alexander Stubb criticized Russia for what he characterized as an illegal incursion into Ukraine.

“Russia has violated international justice,” Stubb said today in a speech in Helsinki. “We cannot bargain over territorial sovereignty. Russia did wrong. We have seen enough of the justice of the strong on this continent.”

Niinistoe urged the European Union to step up its focus on defense spending amid an escalating crisis in Ukraine. Unlike its Baltic neighbors, Finland has so far opted to remain outside the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Yet calls to consolidate Finnish defenses have grown. General Jarmo Lindberg, commander of the Finnish Defense Forces, said in an interview this month Europe needs to be prepared for a sudden deterioration at its eastern frontier.

Finland has the EU’s longest border with Russia. Russian state aircraft have violated Finnish airspace at least four times this year.

“The possibility of military alliance through membership in NATO will remain as one option for our security policy also in the future,” Niinistoe said today. “European Union security and defense policy hasn’t developed as we had hoped.”

Yet Finland’s economic fate depends to a large extent on its ties with Russia. Trade figures show Finland is more exposed to economic losses stemming from a weaker Russian economy than any other euro country.

Stubb today described Finland’s economic plight as a “lost decade” and warned gross domestic product won’t reach its 2008 level until 2018. He underscored Finland’s commitment to European sanctions against Russia, which he said don’t constitute a “trade war.”

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