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President Sauli Niinistö speaking at the panel discussion on arms control at the Munich Security Conference. Picture: Katri Makkonen/Office of the President of the Republic

President Sauli Niinistö participated in a panel discussion on arms control at the Munich Security Conference in Germany.

The panel discussed the termination of the INF Treaty, which bans intermediate-range nuclear missiles.

The INF Treaty banned land-based missiles with ranges of 500-5,500 kilometers. It was signed between the US and Russia in 1987. In February 2019, the US suspended the treaty, and so did Russia the following day.

“If we end up in a situation where diplomacy no longer works, we will all have a big problem in our hands.”

President Sauli Niiistö

At the conference, President Niinistö noted that the recent developments have consequences beyond the treaty itself.

“What concerns me the most is the notion that international treaties are dismantled without even thinking of an alternative to replace them. If we end up in a situation where diplomacy no longer works, we will all have a big problem in our hands,” Niinistö said to the Finnish media. “Are we now witnessing the end of diplomacy? Without diplomacy, there is no dialogue. It makes things difficult, not knowing what the other side is thinking.”

President Niinistö reminded the audience that the demise of the INF Treaty represents a problem for Europe even if the continent is not a signatory to the agreement itself.

He presented a thought in a panel that the United States and Russia could agree alternative arrangements to ensure that nuclear weapons subject to the INF Treaty are not positioned in a way as to represent a threat to Europe.

President Niinistö also mentioned that Europe should be able to act together with determination and credibility. “How do we create a strong Europe that remains respected? We must find a way to speak with one unified voice. You can’t have influence if there is always someone disagreeing,” he said.

President Niinistö attended the Munich Security Conference on Friday and Saturday, February 15-16, 2019.

In conjunction with his visit, he met with Rose Gottemoeller, the deputy secretary general of NATO, Federica Mogherini, the high representative of the European Union for foreign affairs and security policy and the United States Senators Sheldon Whitehouse and Chris Coons.

Organized since 1963, the Munich Security Conference is an independent discussion forum seeking to promote resolution of conflicts, international cooperation and dialogue.

Nearly 500 representatives of foreign and security policy from around the world will participate in the conference.