It came as a surprise when new Finnish PM Juha Sipilä this week announced that Timo Soini will become the country’s new foreign minister. Soini is co-founder and leader of the eurosceptic Finns Party and has over many years voiced harsh criticism of the political establishment.
With Soini as foreign minister Finland is likely to get a foreign policy line which is more open towards NATO. Soini has already announced that the new government will prepare a report to explore the benefits of NATO membership for Finland. That marks a clear change of direction from the previous government, which agreed at its outset in 2011 not to embark on a process of joining the military alliance, Upnorth.eu reports.
Outgoing Finnish FM Erikki Tuomioja was more sceptic towards closer relations with NATO and instead favoured a policy of Finlandization and cooperation with Russia.
Also Soini however stresses that he will work actively to promote good cooperation with Russia and that the country is “an important neighbour of Finland”. At the same time, he underlines that Finland backs EU sanctions, but that it also has the right to develop bilateral relations with Moscow, the Financial Times reports.
That relationship with the big Russian neighbor could however quickly sour as Soini looks towards Nato. Also Soini’s former statements on the Karelian issue could strain relations with Russia. The Finns Party leader has earlier expressed support for a return of lost Karelian land from Russia to Finland. During a debate prior to the 2012 presidential election Timo Soini reportedly reiterated his view that, if elected, he would advance the issue.