"We happen to have a neighbor that is the way it is, and it is unlikely to change quickly. In Sweden, they probably thought it has changed, first for the better, and now for the worse. We've always had a very realistic approach to relations with Russia, and this is unlikely to ever change," a proud Matti Anttonen told Swedish national broadcaster SVT.
According to Anttonen, the ongoing hot debate about Russia and the possible military threat stemming thereof is the result of Swedes' naïveté.
"Of course, when you believe the world to be different and then open your eyes and realize that it is what is, you feel a little different, too. In Finland, things are much easier, because Russia is not going anywhere, and cooperating with it is better than hoping it will mysteriously disappear somewhere and then becoming afraid when it does not," Anttonen said.
For Anttonen, it is not a matter of sympathies and antipathies.
"In Finland, Russia is a neighbor that is nearby every day, 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year. We've been working closely with Russia, with both parts dealing in investments. Besides, Russia's only high-speed railway to a foreign country runs from St. Petersburg to Helsinki," Matti Anttonen said, highlighting the level of cooperation.
"And in many ways this is the exact political line that Finland adhered to at all times," Anttonen said, possibly alluding to Finland's close and mutually beneficial ties with the Soviet Union, which are sometimes referred to as "Finlandization" in a derogatory way.
Matti Anttonen became Finland's ambassador to Sweden in early 2017. Anttonen has a long diplomatic career behind him, including the position of the Finnish ambassador in Moscow in 2008-2012.