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Finland’s president accuses Swedish Air Force of “dozing off”

YLE NewsEye on the Arctic

Finland’s president Niinistö says that despite an ongoing military realignment in neighbouring Sweden, the two countries still see eye-to-eye on security issues.

President Sauli Niinistö says that Finland and Sweden are pursuing the same security policy, even though the Swedish government emphasised the threat from Russia in a security white paper issed on Friday.

Interview on an Yle Saturday-morning current-affairs programme, the president speculated that discussion of a threat is related to a major ongoing overhaul of the Swedish armed forces.

Niinistö made a slight dig at Sweden over the recent Russian encroachment on its airspace, saying: “The Swedish air surveillance officials may slightly doze off from time to time.”

In April, the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet reported that six Russian military aircraft had carried out a simulated attack on Sweden in late March in international airspace close to the Swedish border. The Swedish Air Force did not react.

Heated debate in Sweden

Referring to the military reforms, he noted that “some opposition has clearly arisen in Sweden in response to the decisions that have already been made”.

The interviewer noted that Sweden has changed its military doctrine and is in effect phasing out the type of independent defence posture that Finland maintains. Sweden says it will in future concentrate on international duties.

“Yes,” replied the president. “And certainly now there are Swedes who want to return to the past. And that explains this heated debate – not to mention that the upcoming elections may also be adding pressure.”

Sweden’s next general election is 15 months away, in September 2014.

Finland and neighbouring Sweden – who were part of the same kingdom for centuries – are both members of the European Union and of NATO’s Partnership for Peace programme. The other three Nordic countries, Denmark, Iceland and Norway, have all been full NATO members since it was founded in 1949. The three Baltic states, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, joined the alliance nine years ago.

This story is posted on Alaska Dispatch as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.