Hot Häkämies chat on YLE

YLE's A-Talk (fi) is the leading Finnish political talk show - and just about the only political talk show around. The proceedings tend to be rather dry at most times, but yesterday's episode (fi) was more colorful than usual. The topic was Finnish foreign policy in general and Defense Minister Jyri Häkämies's (National Coalition Party) Washington speech in specific. The guests were Pertti Salolainen and Tuulikki Ukkola from the Coalition, Antti Kaikkonen from the Centre Party, and Kimmo Kiljunen from the Social Democratic Party.

That's an interesting party breakdown, what with three guests from government parties and only one from the opposition. I suspect the assumption was that Kaikkonen would take a critical view of Häkämies's speech. My impression was influenced by the seating arrangement which had Salolainen and Ukkola sitting one one side and Kiljunen and Kaikkonen on the other. As it happened, Kaikkonen mostly allowed the other three to bicker among themselves.

Kiljunen, whose rhetoric tends to rub me the wrong way even when I agree with him on an issue, clearly wanted Häkämies to resign, but couldn't bring himself to say it aloud. Instead he said that Häkämies should shoulder his "political responsibility", and kept repeating that phrase to comical effect when the Coalitionists pressed him on what he meant by it. He mentioned the possibility of an interpellation on foreign policy; the Coalitionists response amounted to "bring it on". When talking about EU forces, Kiljunen pointed out that they'd be like NATO forces, but without American troops. For some reason he considered this an argument for, not against EU forces.

I often have a tough time telling whether Ukkola knows much of anything about the topic she's discussing, although I'm never in doubt that she has strong opinions on it. This time she kept her comments brief as Salolainen did most of the talking. When Kiljunen kept asking what the government foreign policy line is in light of many Coalitionists' pro-NATO views, Salolainen argued that such views don't prevent Coalitionist MPs like himself from backing the commonly agreed upon government line. Neither Salolainen nor Ukkola expect the current government to apply for membership.

Salolainen made a pretty bizarre comment about how he'd like all EU members to belong to NATO so that European countries' weight inside the organization would increase, which he thinks would be needed because Americans have messed things up. Kiljunen made the obvious comment, wondering what the Americans would think about that assessment. Salolainen's response that they might like it probably didn't convince even himself.

The biggest disagreement between Kaikkonen and the Coalitionists came when the topic turned to the NATO Response Forces. Salolainen wanted Finland to make a decision next based on NATO's schedule. Kaikkonen said nothing definite, but gave the impression that he wouldn't be upset if the process took longer.

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