June 6, 2023

Finland’s former prime minister said he was giving up on his hope that Finland would join NATO, but Russian President Vladimir Putin achieved it by invading Ukraine.

Alexander Stubb, who was prime minister between 2014 and 2015, told Insider in a phone interview on Thursday that he had been an “advocate of Finnish NATO membership for the better part of 30 years.”

But his views did not get majority support due to reasons like Finland’s history with neutrality and the fear of retaliation from Russian.

That changed when Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.

‘Grateful’ to Putin

Stubb said the idea of joining NATO did not have majority support in Finland before the invasion, but “all of this changed pretty much overnight on the 24th of February when Putin and Russia attacked Ukraine.”

“Putin has only himself to thank, you know. I should probably be grateful to Putin, as a strong advocate of  Finnish NATO membership,” he said. “I was giving up hope.”

“But everything changed on the 24th of February and, and Putin is to be thanked for it.”

Stubb said that being motivated by the invasion of Ukraine was “brutal a way to join NATO,” but that he believes that joining the alliance will increase Finland’s security.

Putin ‘has made Russia weak again’

Stubb said that Russia’s decision to invade Ukraine was motivated by Putin’s trying to restore Soviet glory and weaken Western alliances like NATO and the European Union — both of which have stood by Ukraine in the war.

Putin has framed the invasion as a response to NATO’s possible eastward expansion as well as the false belief that Ukraine is not a real country, but part of Russian history and culture.

“Putin wanted to prevent Finland and Sweden from joining NATO. And now because of his actions, they will,” Stubb said. Sweden is also considering joining the military alliance.

“So in his sort of quest to unify Russia, and make Russia great again, he has made Russia weak again, and will go down in history as one of the biggest failures of Russian leadership,” Stubb added.

Finland is close to joining NATO

Prime Minister Sanna Marin said Wednesday that Finland would decide whether it will pursue membership “within weeks, not within months.”

Stubb said the invasion meant Finland had to contemplate its location as Russia’s neighbor with a long, 800-mile border between them.

Stubb said he thought the ultimate argument in favor of joining NATO was that it would bolster the country’s security.

He said people also had the sense that “we never want to be left alone again, as we were in World War II.” Finland was at the time invaded by the Soviet Union and forced to give up some of its territory.

Finland has traditionally kept a policy of neutrality and staying out of military alliances, but Stubb said that kind of stance can no longer work as the fight against Russia now involves energy and the economy.

“Neutrality, you know, sounds like a nice [idea]. But there are moments in life when idealism meets reality. And this is one of those moments,” he said.

Stubb said he didn’t think Finnish people and politicians were panicking in wanting to join NATO, but that they were motivated by what he called “rational fear.”

“I think the logical conclusion is that if Putin slaughters his Slavic brothers, sisters, and cousins in Ukraine, then there’s nothing stopping him from doing that in Finland as well,” he said.

Russia has threatened Finland with retaliation if it joins NATO, but Stubb said the country is well prepared for any attack.

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