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Finland sets example of pragmatic relations with Russia, says ex-president

December 25, 2017, 20:26 UTC+3 HELSINKI

According to Halonen, Finland’s approach to ties with Russia under current President Sauli Niinisto has remained generally the same

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HELSINKI, December 25. /TASS/. Finland has established pragmatic relations with Russia which may serve as an example for other nations, Finland’s former President Tarja Halonen told TASS on Monday.

The former president spoke in comments on an article published by the Financial Times several weeks ago and saying that the West would do well to learn from Finland how to communicate with Russia.

"First of all, relations of Finland with Russia are very mundane," Halonen explained the possible reasons for such recommendations. "We are meeting not only at major summits, the Finns have a long history of trade with Russia, tourist visits there, trips to study within the framework of different exchange programs. We have a century-long experience of this," she said.

It is not that everything has gone like clockwork all the time, she admitted. "But we know how to draw a line between peace and war, we know that peace is very important and that it is necessary to adhere to it when contradictions emerge," Tarja Halonen added. "I think that this very mundane manner of cooperation is the thing that others could learn as well," she added.

According to Halonen, Finland’s approach to ties with Russia under current President Sauli Niinisto has remained generally the same. "As far as I can remember, every president starting from Urho Kekkonen (President from 1956 to 1982) has had good-neighborly relations with Russia," she stressed.

"These relations - first with the USSR and then with Russia - are a result of long-term efforts, we have achieved them thanks to mutual trust and cooperation," she went on to say.

Less space for maneuvering

Tarja Halonen noted, however, that "the situation in the world was not that complicated" when she was first foreign minister and then president.

"We achieved a lot in teamwork with Russia, especially in the Baltic Sea region. These are the things that we would find difficult to achieve these days, probably," she said, listing "quicker railway communication - Allegro train, repair work on a library in Vyborg which is now put on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. "We took active joint measures to clean the Baltic Sea," the ex-president added.

"But now the global situation is different," she went on. "The situation with security in Europe is more vulnerable and complex that ever before. That is why I think that Finnish-Russian possibilities for such bilateral activity are more limited now," Tarja Halonen said.

She does not believe that relations between the two countries have worsened of late. "I don’t think that relations between our countries have chilled, simply the situation is more difficult. In other words they are as good now as they can be under this state of things, when there is less space for a maneuver," she explained.

Intelligence scandal won’t affect the dialogue

According to Halonen, last week’s news leak about Finnish intelligence’s spying on Russia should not affect relations between the two countries.

"I don’t believe it, but in my opinion this is a good reminder that each country should pursue a clear and cautious course in this field. I believe that the incumbent president, the parliament and the government will sort it out," she said.

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