Former Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb of the liberal-conservative National Coalition Party has narrowly won the Nordic nation’s presidential election.
Alexander Stubb made a political comeback on Sunday, beating his rival Pekka Haavisto of the center-left Green Party in the runoff with 51.6% versus 48.4% of the vote.
Stubb will assume office on March 1 and will serve a six-year term as Finland’s 13th president and commander-in-chief. The Finnish president-elect is known for his bellicose stance on Russia.
While on the campaign trail, he said that Finland is “on the threshold of a new era”, boasting that the country is now a member of NATO.
“When it became evident, right at the beginning of the war [Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine – Sputnik], that our path towards the alliance would begin, I felt strongly that this is a new age in Finnish foreign policy, and perhaps I could throw my hat into the ring once again,” Stubb told the press.
After the election, he claimed that he does not see the possibility of any “political dialogue” with Russian President Vladimir Putin while the military operation in Ukraine is underway.
“Of course, I hope for peace, but it seems to me that the way to peace can be found only through the battlefield. At the moment, we just need to provide strong support to Ukraine,” Stubb said, as quoted by Finland’s Helsingin Sanomat.
The incoming Finnish president has somehow failed to mention that his NATO allies are ignoring Russia’s openness to engage in peace discussions on Ukraine and the security of Europe as a whole. Most recently, Europe’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell declared in an article for France’s L’Obs that reconciliation between Russia and Ukraine and a cessation of hostilities would be “a mistake.” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova excoriated Borrell’s comments as “monstrous”.
“I want to see Finland in the core of NATO,” Stubb claimed after his victory. “We are a security provider, not a security consumer. We have no limits to our NATO membership. We have one of the strongest defenses in Europe, and we are a security asset in NATO,” he asserted.
The Nordic country joined NATO on April 4, 2023. Finland, a nation of 5.5 million people, can call up as many as 280,000 troops and boasts a total of 900,000 people trained as reservists. According to a report from Reuters, the Finnish Ground Forces are equipped with approximately 650 tanks, including 200 German-made Leopard 2A6 and 2A4 tanks. Additionally, they possess around 700 howitzers, 700 mortars, and roughly 100 heavy and light rocket launchers. Their arsenal also boasts a minimum of 650 anti-aircraft missiles.
In December 2023, the Finnish government signaled that it would invest over $130 million over the next three to four years to double the nation’s production of artillery and mortar ammunition, including 155mm shells as well as 81mm and 120mm mortar rounds.
Furthermore, Stubb previously mentioned that NATO nuclear weapons could potentially be transported through Finland in the event of a “difficult situation”.
Finland, a previously neutral state, formally announced its bid to join NATO along with Sweden on May 15, 2022. While Sweden’s neutrality was self-declared and not enshrined in law, that of Finland was stipulated by the Paris Peace Treaties of 1947 which were signed after the end of the Second World War between the Allied powers, namely, the USSR, the UK, the US and France, and the former allies of Nazi Germany, that is, Italy, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria and Finland.
During World War II, Finland allied with Nazi Germany, playing a crucial role in Hitler’s strategy to blockade Leningrad, now known as St. Petersburg. The siege of Leningrad lasted from September 8, 1941, until January 27, 1944, resulting in the deaths of an estimated 800,000 to 1.5 million people, according to various estimates.
Meanwhile, Finland’s NATO bid also violated the 1992 Russo-Finnish treaty, inked after the collapse of the USSR. Russia is the legal successor of the Soviet Union de jure and de facto.
Moscow has repeatedly expressed concerns over Finland’s rush to enter NATO, and that’s apart from the fact that Helsinki’s move has violated bilateral and international agreements. Finland shares a 1,340 km (830 mile) border with Russia, making the situation even more sensitive for both nations.
In an interview with journalist Pavel Zarubin in December 2023, President Vladimir Putin stated that all disputes between Russia and Finland had been resolved long ago, and there were currently no issues in the relations between the two countries.
“So they [the West] dragged Finland into NATO. Did we have any disputes with Finland? All disputes, including those of a territorial nature, were resolved a long time ago in the middle of the 20th century. We had the kindest, most cordial relations,” Putin told the reporter.
“There were no problems, but now [with Finland’s accession to NATO] there will be problems,” the Russian president said, adding that Moscow had started to create the Leningrad Military District and concentrate certain military units there.
The announcement to recreate the Leningrad Military District was made in late 2022. Sergei Shoigu, Russian Minister of Defense, stated that the decision was prompted by NATO’s intention to beef up its military potential near Russia’s borders.