The coalition Alexander Stubb didn’t get to enjoy the confirmation of his presidential election victory for long, when he was already taken to a tight spot to be tested by the international media.
The press conference organized for the foreign media following the Finnish presidential election was short, but the questions were all the more pointed.
First, Stubb was asked a two-part question. The first part was about at what point Vladimir Putin Diplomatic discussions could start again with Russia. The second part involved a candidate for the presidency of the United States Donald Trump’s for Saturday’s statement.
Trump said at a campaign event that he is ready to encourage Russia to attack NATO countries that do not pay their share of NATO costs.
Stubb placed his words carefully. The first part was easier.
“It is quite self-evident that it is difficult to maintain any political relations with Putin as long as Russia is waging an aggressive war against Ukraine,” Stubb said.
“Of course we all want to see a path to peace, but it seems that at the moment that path goes through the battlefield.”
Stubb emphasized supporting Ukraine with arms and ammunition and opening doors to the European Union.
In another in part Stubb did not comment on Trump’s statements directly. He started by saying that the Finnish presidential elections have been “a victory for liberal democracy”.
Stubb recalled that he lived and studied in the United States. “I am fully aware that the US presidential election is somewhat different in nature.”
Stubb emphasized that NATO is the strongest military alliance in the world and one of the three “locks” of Finland’s security, in addition to its own defense forces and the DCA agreement with the United States.
Stubb managed to blurt out in his answer that this year Finland’s defense spending is 2.3 percent in relation to the gross national product, i.e. above the two percent limit set as a goal in NATO. He did not mention Trump.
“The United States is a very close ally to us, and I predict and believe that that alliance will continue.”
Second Stubb was asked about Finland’s special relationship with Moscow. The editor of the European edition of the Chinese state-owned CGTN channel substantiated his question by saying that Finland has traditionally had the ability to maintain a dialogue with Russia.
The purpose of the question was to find out whether Finland, as part of NATO, could play a special role as a communicator and negotiator towards Russia.
“Could Finland have the opportunity to talk with Moscow, as part of the military alliance and supported by the military alliance?” the reporter formulated his question.
The question was quite difficult. Finland would hardly refuse the task if it were decided together in NATO that a message from the military alliance to Russia would be conveyed through Finland. On the other hand, a positive answer could have given the message that Finland is geopolitically still somewhere between East and West – a message that Finland does not want to give.
Stubb dodged the situation by replacing the question with his own question and talking more generally about Finland’s NATO role.
“I don’t see our NATO identity through Russia,” he began.
“If the question was what kind of NATO member I would like to see Finland as, the starting point is that I want to see Finland at the core of NATO. We are a provider of security, not a consumer of security.”