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    Alexander Stubb Assumes Presidency of Finland: Reliving His Interview with Niezalezna.pl

    “It is incredibly heartening and encouraging to see how Poles are helping Ukrainians now. (…) It is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. So, I would like to personally thank the Poles for what they are doing,” said Alexander Stubb, former Prime Minister of Finland, to the Niezalezna.pl portal in March 2022, just after the outbreak of full-scale war in Ukraine. Now, the politician has become the President of Finland.

    Alexander Stubb is a Finnish liberal-conservative politician and academic teacher. From 2008 to 2011, he was the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and from 2011 to 2014, the Minister for Foreign Trade and European Affairs. From 2014 to 2015, he served as the Prime Minister of Finland, and from 2015 to 2016, as the Minister of Finance. He was a Member of the European Parliament during the VI term and from 2014 to 2016, the Chairman of the National Coalition Party (to which the former President of Finland, Sauli Niinistö, belonged).

    Alexander Stubb, the candidate of the current ruling party, the liberal-conservative National Coalition, won the second round of presidential elections. 

    We recall the interview Stubb gave to the Niezalezna.pl portal in March 2022, just after the outbreak of full-scale war in Ukraine.

    Last week, you wrote on Twitter: “I will give interviews to foreign media until everyone understands that Finland is not a neutral state.” Could you explain your position to Polish readers?

    We have not been a neutral state since the end of the Cold War in 1989. We departed from the doctrine of neutrality officially in the early 1990s.

    Finland has described itself as a country that does not belong to military alliances. And in 1995, we joined the European Union and established very close relations with NATO. We have an agreement for very close cooperation with the North Atlantic Alliance, participated in more NATO operations than most of its members. We have created an army that is more compatible with NATO than the armies of most Alliance members. We have 64 F/A-18 fighters. We have just ordered another 64 F-35 fighters. So, neutrality – that’s the last word I would use to describe us. It’s just a relic of the past that some people in the international relations sphere still mention. We are simply not neutral.

    Mr. Prime Minister, how do you assess Poland’s role in the assistance provided to Ukraine? How do you evaluate this aid?

    It is incredibly heartening and encouraging to see how Poles are helping Ukrainians now. They take families who have come to the border, refugees and asylum seekers, into their homes. They provide them with food and shelter. Amid a horrific war, initiated by a horrific aggressor. I think it is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. So, I would like to thank the Poles personally for what they are doing. They show the “human” face of war. And I think Poland’s attitude will be remembered, and gratitude will remain for your actions.

    It is similar to what Sweden did for us, Finns, during World War II when the Soviet Union attacked us. Sweden de facto opened its arms to children and families, those people who could not participate in the fighting. It’s the best thing to see how people unite. And Poles are part of this story.

    All in all, I’m talking to you now from a room filled with aid boxes for Ukrainians… This is really our everyday life now.

    And I think the rest of the world notices it. The neighbouring countries also look at Poland. Because potentially, we may be facing a refugee crisis. If the last refugee crisis in Europe in 2015 involved a million people, this new one could be seven times larger. So, we need to be prepared. And the openness that Poland is currently showing also outlines the future that awaits the rest of Europe.

    A few days ago, the Presidents of Poland and Finland, Andrzej Duda and Sauli Niinistö, discussed the war in Ukraine over the phone. Prime Minister, do you think our countries can cooperate in providing assistance to Ukraine?

    Obviously. Poland and Finland have often found themselves in a similar situation in their history, living near a great aggressor. I’m really glad that Poland is a member of both the European Union and NATO. There can be no better external security than this. Finland is a member of the EU and a NATO partner. So, we do not have the same legal or political security guarantees as NATO member states.

    We are facing historical changes. People have understood this. Previously, the data were reversed. Roughly speaking, 50% of respondents were “against” joining NATO, and 20% were “for”. That’s how it was for many years. Now it has changed. Just as I predicted the results of this public opinion survey conducted last week, I predict that in the next survey, there will be over 60% of supporters of Finland’s accession to NATO.

    And of course, I believe that Finland should not join NATO at the time of crisis. Because we do not want to escalate the situation. But Finland must start preparing the path or road to NATO membership. Because the security structure of Europe and the rest of the world has changed fundamentally. In 1989, thanks to the Solidarity movement, thanks to the fall of the Berlin Wall, we opened champagne bottles and celebrated the liberation of Eastern and Western Europe, and the reuniting of the continent. In 2022, we see the opposite process. And that means that under the new security conditions, Finland must think about ensuring security in a new way. The good news is that we have independent and strong armed forces. We are one of the few countries in the world, especially in Europe, that has not reduced either the size of its army or military spending. So, in that regard, we are well prepared.

    I think at the end of this road, we will see NATO membership. But now we need to prepare Finnish political leaders to respond to the security-critical situation. Because I believe you don’t have to be a military expert to understand that right now Russia is a threat not only to Ukraine but also to Eastern, Central, and Northeastern Europe. So, we will work on this together this time.

    You were the Prime Minister of Finland from June 24, 2014, to May 29, 2015. So, you took office shortly after the annexation of Ukrainian Crimea by Russia, which took place in February-March 2014. How do you remember that time?

    To fully understand my story, you have to recall the year 2008. Type my name and “war in Georgia” into Google. Or my name and the date “08.08.08.” Because at that time, I was the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Finland, and Finland itself chaired the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). That’s why I was involved in peace talks in Georgia with the then-French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner. And we were able to negotiate a ceasefire between Georgia and Russia within five days. That’s why I see the following years as progressing Russian aggression, which has three stages. The first stage was Georgia in 2008. I warned at the time that world politics could change permanently. I spoke about it in my speech to our ambassadors, which concerned the consequences of “08.08.08” [the war in Georgia – ed.]. My speech is available in English. The second stage was Crimea in 2014. And the third stage is what we have now.

    So – how did I react then? I felt the same frustration and anger that we all feel right now. But the difference is that Russia this time did not create a frozen conflict, as it did with Crimea or with Georgia in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. There is currently a full-scale armed attack with an attempt to annex an independent state. And if there is any clear side to what Putin has done, it is that he has achieved exactly the opposite effect to his intention. In other words, we see Ukraine, which wants to be Europeanized, not Russified. We see Europe that is united, not divided. We see NATO, which has reunited, not set at variance. We see the East, where the enemy is. But it’s not China, it’s Russia.

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