Finland’s new president sees no limits to NATO relations and support for Ukraine
Written by Anne Kuranen
HELSINKI (Reuters) – Alexander Staub He announced his victory in the Finnish presidential elections on Sunday after a campaign built on promises to make the most of his country’s new membership in NATO and to support Ukraine in its war with its neighbor, Russia.
In his new position, the former prime minister and center-right investment banker will head foreign and security policy, represent Finland at NATO meetings, and serve as commander-in-chief of the military.
“It is very important that we in Europe take care to defend ourselves,” the 55-year-old told Reuters ahead of the vote. He said he agreed with his predecessor Sauli Niinistö, “who said we need a more European NATO.”
The new job marks Staub’s return to domestic politics after several years working abroad as Vice President of the European Investment Bank and Director of the European University Institute in Florence.
His allies describe him as multilingual, pro-European and fiscal conservative. He describes himself as moderate.
He told Reuters he would be a “Western president in many respects” and lean toward the United States, Britain and its Nordic neighbors when it comes to setting the tone for foreign policy.
It will not set “any limits” on Finland’s support for Ukraine.
“The starting point for me is to recast (European Central Bank President) Mario Draghi, whatever the cost,” Staub said.
The Scandinavian country joined the Western military alliance in April last year, breaking with decades of non-alignment in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
During his election campaign, Stubb said that Finland should be an active member of NATO and seek to station some NATO forces on its territory.
He also said he would be willing to allow nuclear weapons to be transported through the country, though not stored there. “Sometimes, nuclear weapons are a guarantee of peace,” he said in one of the debates.
Many Finns also see the cosmopolitan Stubb as a candidate for the Helsinki elite, says University of Helsinki political scientist Johanna Vorilmaa. “The visible and well-known names in the business world strongly support Stubb,” Forelma said.
She added that this was the image he tried to change during his election campaign, by speaking positively about Finland’s social democratic welfare model.
Since the 1990s, foreign policy has clearly been one of his strengths, although there have been questions over the years “about his level of domestic political experience and interest in it,” as the head of the Finnish Center for Foreign Policy said. Said Parliamentary Studies Marco Guccesibella.
Staub served as a Member of the European Parliament from 2004 to 2008 before returning to his home country to begin a political career that culminated in a series of ministerial positions – Foreign Affairs, European Affairs, Trade and Finance and then Prime Minister in 2014-15. He was ousted in 2016 as head of the National Coalition Party, which he still represents.
Staub is an avid amateur athlete and triathlon champion, although he has said he will stop playing the sport once he becomes the 13th president of Finland.
He is married to British-born lawyer Susan Innes Stubb, 54, and they have two adult children.
(Reporting by Anne Curranen; Editing by Andrew Heavens)
(Tags for translation)Alexander Stubb