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Speech by Minister for Foreign Affairs Elina Valtonen at the Hudson Institute 18 December 2023

Ministry for Foreign Affairs
Publication date 18.12.2023 22.35

Speech by Minister for Foreign Affairs Elina Valtonen at the Hudson Insitute in Washington, D.C. on 18 December 2023.

Ladies and gentlemen,
It is an honor to visit the Hudson Institute today, during my first official visit to the United States.
A new era has begun in Finland's foreign and security policy. I want to wholeheartedly thank you for the unwavering support the United States showed during our accession process to NATO. 
NATO remains the strongest Alliance in history. As in the past, NATO will stand the test of time in safeguarding the freedom and security of our Allies and contributing to peace and security.

I want to underline Finland’s strong commitment to the Alliance. Finnish NATO membership strengthens not only Northern European security and stability but makes the entire Alliance stronger. We are putting to use our strong defence capabilities, resilience, and broad know-how, ranging from emerging technologies to Arctic conditions.

Finland’s, and soon Sweden’s, NATO membership means that the Baltic Sea and the Arctic region form a new, continuous strategic space for NATO’s defence and deterrence.
We fully recognize the need for each and every ally to contribute to NATO’s 360 degree approach. Finland participated in NATO’s crisis management operations in Afghanistan, Kosovo and Iraq already as a partner, and continues to do so as an Ally. We are also ready to participate in NATO’s collective peacetime missions, and will decide on our part in due course. We stress the importance of sharing the burden.
The Finnish Government already spends more than two per cent of GDP on defence. With our own example, we encourage all allies do the same. Next year, 19 allies will meet the 2% defence spending floor (compared with only a few 10 years ago), which is a sign of strong and increasing commitment.
Dear listeners,
As an ally, the Finnish government puts an even greater emphasis on strategic partnerships, and their role in our security and prosperity. We have a joint opportunity to take the US-Finland cooperation to the next level.
Finland is a heavy-weight ally for the United States in defense, technology and democracy.  Our bilateral ties have long roots, and the bond between Finland and the United States has continued to deepen during the past years.

The US is our most significant trade partner. Our goal is to further encourage cooperation between Finnish and U.S. business and academic communities.
We have a long history of working together and therefore a solid base of mutual trust and shared experience. Our bilateral defence cooperation agreement (DCA) is one clear example of this. The DCA will create a clear framework and conditions for us to cooperate in all security situations. This will help us deter and defend together, and contribute to wider NATO objectives.
We are also committed to advancing cooperation in emerging technologies. They offer great opportunities for our societies. Especially in the field of technology and critical infrastructure, cooperation with trusted partners is essential. Indeed, we are already working with the U.S. for example on quantum and 6G.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The further we look into the future, the more difficult it is to disentangle security policy from a flourishing economy, technology and innovation. The protection of our values demands that we remain competitive on a global scale.

As geopolitical competition intensifies, it is crucial that the EU and the US deepen their ties in all fields in order to strengthen the resilience of our societies and economies. This also and very much means free trade between ourselves.

We should aim at treating the euro-atlantic sphere as a market of like-minded. We should not raise trade barriers onto the Atlantic, on neither side of the ocean. 

We should aim at a level playing field for all companies big or small in the euro-atlantic community. The free exchange of goods, services, capital and ideas also attracts the best talent.

In the long term, we cannot subsidise or isolate ourselves into success. 

A transparent and efficient market economy has always been the trademark of the West, creating and spreading prosperity and opening new horizons for all people. It leads to competitiveness, which we - again - need for geopolitical reasons, too. 
Distinguished guests,
The Middle East has been at the center of our attention since the horrible terrorist attack on October 7th. Finland has strongly condemned the attack by the terrorist organization Hamas against Israel. The hostages must be released, unconditionally and without delay. 

Israel has the right to defend its civilian population. It is crucial that it does so adhering to international humanitarian law. 

All civilians must be protected, and the civilian population throughout Gaza needs more humanitarian aid with utmost urgency. We support the UN Secretary General’s call for the UN Security Council to act.

The situation underlines the need for a negotiated two-state solution that creates stability for the entire region. This goal will require close cooperation between the US, Europe and Arab countries. 
In the meantime, we must protect the viability of the two-state solution, which includes strengthening the Palestinian Authority and calling on Israel to prevent settler violence.
Ladies and gentlemen,

I visited Ukraine in October together with my EU colleagues and met with President Zelenskyi. The bravery and determination of our Ukrainian friends is heroic. The war has already been long and grinding, and the second winter of war has  started.

The Ukrainians are fighting for their survival. They are also fighting for our values and principles. This is not just a Western viewpoint. A vast majority of countries has condemned Russia’s actions in UN General Assembly resolutions. 
By attacking Ukraine, Russia committed a monumental strategic error. Russia underestimated both the Ukrainians' heroic will to defend their country and the unity of the Western countries to stand with Ukraine. It is our collective responsibility to ensure that the support stays strong.

Putin thought he would take Kyiv in days. It‘s almost been two years now and there‘s barely anyone in Russia who would applaud the war or call it a success. Ukraine has prevailed because of the strong support it has got from Europe and the US but also, because the Ukrainians - unlike the Russians - know what they are fighting for. Ukraine is fighting for their very existence and the liberty of their children.

For us in the West, aiding Ukraine is not charity. Ukraine is defending our way of life and the civilized world as we now it. 
Let me be clear, Finland stands firmly with Ukraine for as long as it‘s needed. In relation to GDP, we are one of the strongest donors to Ukraine. We are in the process of preparing another military aid package, the 21st so far.

Finland, together with the other Nordic countries, has expressed its readiness to support Ukraine and its security also in the long term, building on the joint declaration by G7 countries on security commitments.
Ukraine continues to need the support of the international community. The US contribution has and will be key. Together, the bilateral, NATO and EU efforts will ensure that Ukraine is in the strongest possible position when the war ends. 
Ukraine will also need to win the peace after winning the war. We support Ukraine’s initiative for a just and lasting peace and a Peace Formula Summit. We need to ensure the broadest possible international participation in these efforts.
China bears it’s responsibility, too. As a self-proclaimed responsible global power stressing the importance of the UN Charter, sovereignty and territorial integrity, it could and should use its leverage on Russia.

We need China to speak for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, and to engage with Ukraine’s efforts towards peace. We also need to make China understand the consequences if it doesn’t refrain from support to Russia and its war of aggression – be it political, economic or technological.

As Allies, it is clear that we must all reject Russia’s notions of spheres of influence in the 21st century. There can be no compromise over the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of any state. 

Concessions only feed the aggression of Russia in its current posture. A free, democratic and prosperous Ukraine will be the best guarantee against future aggressions of any autocracy. 

Dear listeners,
During the past two years we have seen that there are very few restraints for Russia’s aggressive behaviour. We see that Russia will remain a threat to global security for the foreseeable future. Russia is also trying to distract us from its illegal war of aggression and to sow disaccord in our societies.
This is what we have seen recently on Finland’s eastern border, where Russia has intentionally pushed third country nationals to the Finnish border zone. By choosing and even mobilising people to pass without valid documentation Russia is threatening Finnish national security.

This hybrid operation needs to be seen as Russia’s attempt to weaponize migration but also in the context of Russia’s aggression in Europe. Finland‘s border with Russia is also that of the EU and NATO.

Finland’s recent decision to close all border crossing points towards Russia shows that we are determined in our response.
The West has never been as united as it is now. Both NATO and the EU continue to attract new member candidates. There is a queue to join and for a good reason. NATO and the EU are a source of peace, security and prosperity. They will stand the test of time in safeguarding this important mission.
Also Ukraine’s future is European and Euro-Atlantic. We need to ensure continuity and momentum towards the Washington Summit as regards Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations. Finland welcomes opening EU accession negotiations with Ukraine and we will support Ukraine in the needed reforms.
Ladies and gentlemen,

Unlike Russia, NATO and the EU do not enlarge by force. It is the free people in democratic nations choosing to join. This is a fundamental difference to how autocrats think and act.
Russia‘s cruel, illegal war has, in all its wickedness, opened our eyes and given new momentum to those defending freedom. Once you are in danger of losing something so essential, you truly understand its value.

As the former US President Ronald Reagan once said; “Freedom is a fragile thing and it's never more than one generation away from extinction. It is not ours by way of inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation, for it comes only once to a people.”
We should hold high the beacon of hope.

In Finland, we know what we are talking about. And more than ever, we need to underline our common values - human rights, democracy and the rule-of-law - which are put to the test as we speak.
Thank you for your attention. I look forward to our discussion.