New NATO member admits ‘sovereignty’ issue with US pact

A military agreement with Washington comes at a cost, Helsinki has said

The military cooperation agreement with Washington limits Helsinki’s sovereignty, the Finnish foreign ministry said on Thursday, advising that its ratification will therefore require a two-thirds majority in the parliament.

Finland joined NATO in April 2023, abandoning a decades-long policy of neutrality. It began negotiating a Defense Cooperation Agreement (DCA) with the US almost immediately, and signed it last December. 

A working group led by the foreign ministry was set up to draft the ratification protocols. They were formally sent to the parliament for comments on Thursday, the ministry announced.

“The working group concludes that the DCA would restrict Finland’s sovereignty, which is why Parliament’s acceptance of the agreement would require a two-thirds majority of the votes cast,”  the ministry press release said. The parliament has until May 12 to comment on the draft proposal.

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The DCA gives the American military access to 15 military bases in Finland and allows the deployment of military equipment and supplies on Finnish territory, as well as the free movement of US aircraft, ships and vehicles. Members of the US military and the facilities they use would also get special legal protections.

When the DCA was signed, Finnish Defense Minister Antti Hakkanen said it was “a guarantee from the world’s largest military power that they will defend us.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin responded by saying that Helsinki previously enjoyed cordial relations with Moscow and had no disputes, territorial or otherwise, but chose to side with the US-led bloc anyway.

“There was no trouble. Now there will be,” Putin said in December. “We will now create the Leningrad Military District and concentrate certain military units there.”

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