Finland’s new president faces his first unexpected test: not Russia, but Trump

Finnish President-elect Alexander Stubb, who was educated in the United States and was staunchly pro-American, seemed ideally placed to lead his country toward a stronger transatlantic partnership and redefine its role in the global order. New member of NATO.

Instead, he will take office next month at a time when American policy has once again thrown the strength of that relationship – and the wisdom of the European countries that depend on it – into question.

For weeks, the two candidates have been in a runoff for Finland’s presidential election, Which Mr Stubb won on SundayThey have touted their pro-NATO credentials and hard-line views on Russia. Then former US President Donald J. Trump threatened that if re-elected he would allow Russia to “do whatever it wants” against NATO allies who do not contribute enough to collective defense.

This is hardly what this small northern country of 5.6 million people, after decades of maintaining a non-aligned policy, wants to hear, now that it controls NATO’s longest border with Russia – and as European leaders warn that a confrontation in Continent with Moscow May it continue For decades.

Mr. Trump’s comments were a harsh reminder to many European countries that relying on Washington to confront Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is no longer as sure a bet as it seemed.

“Any suggestion that allies will not stand up for each other undermines our entire security, including that of the United States, and exposes American and European soldiers to increased danger,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement on Sunday.

However, in Helsinki, the newly elected Mr. Stubb kept his cool.

In some of his first comments since his election victory on Sunday night, he attributed Mr. Trump’s words to a difference between fiery American campaign rhetoric and the consensus views of the Finnish presidential campaigns.

“This is because foreign policy for us is an existential issue,” he said in a press conference on Monday.

Instead, he urged Finns to take these troubling comments as another reminder that Europe, now facing its biggest land war since World War II, needs to take its defense seriously, without relying on Washington, regardless of who ends up in office. Oval.

Describing himself as a “transatlantic enthusiast”, Stapp believes US involvement in NATO is crucial, but said he nonetheless believes Europe needs to be more self-reliant.

He added: “The entire European security system has been turned upside down due to Russian aggression and its attack on Ukraine.” “We need to make sure that we in Europe take care of our role in NATO. Finland is a country that will continue to do that. We are a security provider, not a consumer of security.”

Finland has a long history of war with its larger eastern neighbour, with the Finns coining the term “Molotov cocktail” during the Winter War with Russia in 1939. Because Finland lives in Russia’s shadow, it has long had a conscription army, and actually spends more on its defense From the 2% of GDP that NATO members pledged to spend.

Mr. Stubb, who was fluent in Finnish, Swedish and English, even said at his news conference that Trump was “basically right” that countries were obligated to meet spending commitments.

Mr. Stubb, a center-right politician and former prime minister, earned his bachelor’s degree on a golf scholarship at Furman University in South Carolina (and can replicate great Southern style). Originally aspiring to become a professional golfer, he later switched to international relations and became an academic.

He entered international politics in 2004, being elected to the European Parliament as a candidate for the Finnish National Coalition Party. In April 2008, the Prime Minister of Finland, Jyrki Katainen, appointed him Minister of Foreign Affairs. Four months later, he was handling the country’s response to the 2008 Russian invasion of Georgia.

Later, as Minister for European Affairs and Minister of Finance, Mr. Stubb was involved in the government’s approval of a new nuclear power plant in Finland in cooperation with the Russian atomic energy company Rosatom, as well as permission to build the Kremlin-backed Nordic plant. The Stream 2 pipeline runs through Finnish waters.

Mr. Staub has since publicly admitted that those decisions were mistakes.

After losing to internal leadership contests within his party, Mr Stubb retired from Finnish politics, becoming vice-president of the European Investment Bank in 2017, and an academic at the European University Institute in 2020.

He attributed his return to politics to the invasion of Ukraine, which put Finland and Sweden on track to join NATO, redefining their roles on the world stage at a time of increasing global instability.

Although Finland has a parliamentary system, its president is responsible for foreign policy and serves as commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

“It is clear that Stubb has great ambitions for a greater role for the president of Finland in international affairs,” said Johanna Onislooma, a political historian at the University of Helsinki.

As for how he would handle the possibility of Mr. Trump becoming president of the United States again, Mr. Stapp had already told voters during the campaign that he had a plan: He would take Mr. Trump to the golf course and let him win. .

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