To join or not to join: that is the question when US Air Force calls for military exercise in Estonia

F/A-18 Hornet. Picture: The Finnish Air Force

F/A-18 Hornet. Picture: The Finnish Air Force

The upcoming Nato military exercise with Estonia at the beginning of May has caused confusion among Finnish politicians and the media.

The question is, whether Finland should participate in the air exercise, where it would fly together with the US Air Force.

On Sunday, Helsingin Sanomat reported that President Sauli Niinistö and foreign minister Erkki Tuomioja opposed the idea.

Later on the same day, prime minister Alexander Stubb denied the disagreements between the parties.

The subject is touchy, because Nato’s military exercise is a response to the heightened Russian military activity.

As stated earlier many times by President Niinistö: Finland strives to good relations with the neighbouring Russia.

A matter of details

On Tuesday, Niinistö arranged a quick press conference on the subject.

Niinistö stressed that the practice sessions with Nato air forces would continue as before. Niinistö also denied any claims that anyone would have demanded to pull out from any military exercise.

President Sauli Niinistö. Archive picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

President Sauli Niinistö. Archive picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

“The air exercise with Nato will continue as before in Estonia. Maybe even on a larger scale,” NiinIstö said.

However, the upcoming military exercise would be led by the US Air Force instead of Nato.

The technicality doesn’t cause disagreement between the decision-makers.

The subject is a matter of the details of Finland’s involvement in the exercise that Finland is still waiting for.

“In our opinion, it’s highly important that if the Finnish Air Force is crossing the Finnish borders that we know from the beginning what it is about.”

Verbal or official invitation

There has also been speculation of whether an official invitation to the exercise has been sent to Finland.

According to Niinistö, after checking with the Ministry of Defence, an official invitation has not been received.

Jeffrey Reneau, the manager of public relations at the US Embassy to Finland, said Finland was verbally invited to the exercise by Frank Gorenc, the commander of US Air Forces in Europe and US, in November during his visit in the country.

In order to stop the confusion, Reneau said, that Finland will receive an official invitation to the exercise with the US Air Force in a few days.

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