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Tue, 16 Jun, 2015 12:03:42 AM
Foreign and security policy debate held at Kultaranta
FTimes – STT Report, June 16
 
Prime Minister Juha Sipilä, Outotec CEO Pertti Korhonen, Demos Helsinki Executive Tuuli Kaskinen, and Professor Anne Brunila at the foreign and security policy debate in Naantali on Monday. Photo – Str / Lehtikuva.
Aleksei Kudrin, a former Russian minister of finance, said Russia needs guarantees that the military alliance NATO would not be expanded or deploy troops near Russian borders.
 
Kudrin made the comments after President Sauli Niinistö had inquired whether Ukraine’s non-alignment to NATO is a condition for peace in Ukraine.
 
“Direct link exists not. This is my opinion, how the Russian government operates. Guarantees on NATO’s non expansiveness would pacify Russia, and therefore, the solution to the crisis in Ukraine would be achieved easily,” Kudrin said during the second day of the foreign and security policy debate held at the president’s summer residence in Naantali.
 
Kudrin, however, repeatedly criticised the Russian economic policy, but when it came to the security policy, he settled on the Russian government policy line.
 
Foreign Minister Timo Soini in his assessment observed that Kudrin had spoken more as an outside observer than a voice from Moscow.
 
“He has a good sense of realism and situational awareness. He tackled issues where he is a specialist. He did not answer questions which he should not have answered,” Soini said.
 
Russia's former finance minister Alexei Kudrin spoke in the foreign and security policy debate in Naantali on Monday. Photo – Str / Lehtikuva.
Former US deputy secretary of state Strobe Talbott emphasised once again that, for instance, Ukraine’s accession to NATO would be an internal decision. However, according to Soini, Talbott is close to the US administration.
 
Talbott pointed out that Ukrainians were not supportive of NATO membership before the onset of the crisis. However, the support for membership has risen in favour of NATO membership during the crisis.
 
Soini also ruled out the argument that Russia currently operates without a grand plan.
 
“I am convinced that Putin [Russian President Vladimir Putin] has a plan. From our perspective, this conduct is difficult and we cannot accept that,” Soini said.
 
Foreign Minister Timo Soini and Speaker of Parliament Maria Lohela at the debate in Naantali on Monday. Photo – Lehtikuva.
On Sunday, Niinistö opened the third conference on foreign and security policy at his summer residence in Kultaranta.
 
Niinistö is scheduled to travel to Moscow today where he will meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.
 
The Office of the President had earlier said the two presidents will discuss the Ukrainian crisis, bilateral relations and relations between the EU and Russia.
 
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