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Cablegate: Finland Begins Edging Toward the Nrf

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHHE #0126 0791242
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 191242Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY HELSINKI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4165
INFO RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L HELSINKI 000126

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/15/2016
TAGS: PGOV MARR PREL MOPS FI
SUBJECT: FINLAND BEGINS EDGING TOWARD THE NRF


Classified By: Polchief Gregory Thome, Reasons 1.4 b,d.

1. (C) SUMMARY: President Halonen has authorized the GoF to
make an official statement of interest in eventual NRF
participation. This is a welcome and necessary first step,
and we hope the Finns will deliver their official
notification to NATO before the Bucharest Summit. However,
in practice we should not expect to see Finnish troops under
NRF command any time before 2010. The decision to begin
exploring the NRF process enjoys strong support within
government, but the President and many others remain
uncomfortable with the idea of Finnish troops' participation
in actual NRF. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) On March 7, President Tarja Halonen and the Cabinet
Subcommittee for Foreign and Security Policy (UTVA) granted
approval for the GoF to officially inform NATO of Finland's
interest in participating in the NATO Response Force (NRF).
Although the Government must still engage in consultations
with Parliament's Defense and Foreign Affairs Committees,
support for informing NATO of Finnish interest is strong.
The Defense Committee Chairman publicly announced his support
on March 15, and the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee
told PolChief that his committee would give the green light
in time for Finland to officially inform NATO before the
Bucharest Summit.

3. (C) This said, the exact nature and timing of Finland's
participation is still a long way from being determined. The
GoF and Halonen are nowhere close to reaching consensus
regarding the types or numbers of forces they might offer;
which NRF rotation they might eventually join; or even,
according to some outspoken politicians, whether Finland will
ever actually allow troops to participate in NRF rotations or
operations. President Halonen, in particular, remains very
skeptical of placing Finnish troops under NRF command. Even
though she authorized an expression of interest, she still
opposes, at this stage, Finland's being involved in actual
NRF operations. Kanerva, Defense Minister Jyri Hakamies and
Finland's senior military officers believe that as the
process advances, they will be able to convince Halonen and
other skeptics of the advantages of full NRF participation.
In fact, Finnish diplomats and military planners have
suggested that the NRF's Danish-led 14th Rotation in 2010
might represent a good first opportunity, since the Finnish
Defense Forces (FDF) -- and, more importantly, Finnish public
opinion -- are comfortable working with the Danes. However,
our contacts hastily add that such a suggestion is premature,
and would require an entirely separate approval from the
President.

4. (C) COMMENT: Halonen's decision is a welcome first step
and, we understand, a necessary one to help NATO begin the
process of formally authorizing Partnership-for-Peace (PfP)
nations to participate in NRF operations. And although she
still opposes actual participation in NRF ops, her thinking
on the NRF is clearly evolving in a positive direction. Two
years ago, during her successful re-election bid, Candidate
Halonen stated quite clearly that she opposed any Finnish
involvement in the NRF and, if elected, would not approve it.
Now, she has taken the important step of at least permitting
Finland to express an interest despite her personal
reservations. It is too early now to know whether she will
"come around" in time for the Finns to join the Danish-led
14th NRF Rotation, but it is certainly not out of the
question. END COMMENT.
WARE

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