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Home NATIONALHaglund’s visit to U.S. aircraft carrier raises controversy
Tue, 24 Mar, 2015 03:55:40 AM
FTimes-Xinhua Report, Mar 24

A high-profile visit by Finnish Defence Minister Carl Haglund to a U.S. aircraft carrier in the English Channel over the weekend has aroused political controversy in Finland, media reports said on Monday.

     The Finnish Speaker of Parliament, Eero Heinäluoma, has expressed surprise with the visit and wondered what kind of message the visit was intended to send.

     Interviewed on a commercial TV network,  Heinäluoma said the defence minister was "at the wrong place at the wrong time".

     Haglund visited the USS Theodore Roosevelt along with Swedish Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist and British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon.

     Haglund dismissed that his visit was in any way connected with the Finnish debate about a NATO membership.

     The commander of the U.S. naval forces in Europe, admiral Mark Ferguson, told a Finnish national radio reporter on the carrier that the United States wants to show military preparedness.

     "Decision on joining NATO is totally in the hands of the Finns," he was quoted as saying.

     The visit by Haglund preceded joint maneuvres launched by the U.S., Finnish and Swedish air forces beginning on Tuesday.

     Commenting on the criticism by Heinäluoma, Haglund said it would have looked odd that a Finnish minister cannot visit a U.S. air craft carrier if Finnish forces can exercise together with the USAF.

     Haglund also pointed out the fact that Finnish jet fighters are F18 Hornets. "It is a U.S. naval airplane, not from the air force," he said.

     The joint exercises take place mainly over international waters between Finland and Sweden. The aircraft carrier was sailing in the English Channel, far from the Baltic Sea.

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