May 24, 2022

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Finland

Finland

– Were you surprised when Putin went to war?

The former Finnish prime minister, Alexander Staab, relies little on the question from Dagbladet.

During his time as Head of State and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Finland, he met the President of Russia several times. The last time they sat face to face was in 2014.

– Putin was always well prepared. He was analytical, cold and logical, says Staab on the phone from Italy.

But the answer is still yes. surprised.

We were wrong about Putin. Although Russia has made aggressive progress in the past, I thought it would initiate a “stagnant and frozen conflict” in Ukraine, says the former prime minister, now director and professor at the School of Transnational Governance in Florence.

Senior leaders: German Chancellor Angela Merkel will visit then-Prime Minister Alexander Staub in Helsinki in 2015. Photo: AP Photo/Lehtikuva, Markku Ulander
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He refers, among other things, to the Russian war in Georgia in 2008, and the annexation of Crimea in 2014. Could the world have stopped Putin sooner?

Stabb can hardly believe it.

But in hindsight, the former prime minister believes he and the outside world should have imposed much tougher sanctions already at the time.

– We now know that if you show weakness, as we did with Georgia and Crimea, he will benefit from it. This is Putin’s mentality. It is the only language he speaks.

“I’ve heard that before”

Not many years have passed since Stapp, as recently as Prime Minister in 2016, worked hard to get his homeland into NATO – and then without success.

– The headwind was very strong. At some point I gave up hope, he says, and compared it all to Norway’s long-running struggle with the European Union.

But now, the question of NATO membership has reached the top of the Finnish security policy agenda. For the first time, the majority opposes the country that applied to join the North Atlantic Defense Alliance.

– I’ve always thought of NATO as the security alliance to which Finland belongs, says Stubb, who feels confident it is going that way now.

Fury in NATO: Alexander Stabe with NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg in Helsinki in 2015. Stubb has always wanted Finland to become a member of NATO, which until recently met with significant opposition among the population.  Photo: REUTERS/Marco Olander/Letikova

Fury in NATO: Alexander Stabe with NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg in Helsinki in 2015. Stubb has always wanted Finland to become a member of NATO, which until recently met with significant opposition among the population. Photo: REUTERS/Marco Olander/Letikova
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The NATO warnings from Russia threatenrefuses to stain.

We have heard these threats many times. When Zelensky spoke in the Finnish parliament recently, the foreign ministry’s website was taken down, while Russia violated Finnish airspace.

– We’re used to it, he points out.

do the opposite

However, the professor realizes that the moment Finland submits an application, they are moving into the gray area, where they will be considered members by Russia.

After that we will likely start receiving mixed threats, cyber threats and information threats. But it’s a typical Russian attempt to intimidate, says Stubb, who believes both Finland and Sweden have a lot to learn from how Norway does things.

The Court of the Future: Alexander Staab and then Prime Minister of Norway, Erna Solberg.  The two met in Helsinki in 2014 to discuss the future of Europe with several Nordic ministers.  Photo: Agence France-Presse

The Court of the Future: Alexander Staab and then Prime Minister of Norway, Erna Solberg. The two met in Helsinki in 2014 to discuss the future of Europe with several Nordic ministers. Photo: Agence France-Presse
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– When Norway became a member of NATO, the language from the Soviet side was very similar to what we see today. Stubb points out that Norway has succeeded.

He thinks it’s the expression “totally missed” when Finland and Sweden are currently considering joining NATO.

He achieved the opposite of what he wanted. He wanted to split the European Union, but now the European Union is more united. He wanted to create a wall between the United States and Europe, but now they’ve cooperated, he says, before pausing for a moment.

He wanted to destroy NATO and remove Sweden and Finland. And boom, then all of a sudden we entered.

Border Security: Border guards at the Finnish-Russian border in Valima are seeing a slight increase in border traffic, as well as among Russians traveling from Finland to Russia. Reporter: Audon Hagiskal/Video: Julie Tran
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North Korea in Europe

The professor and the former prime minister have a tight schedule. With Finland’s surprising news about NATO, it has appeared in many of the largest European newspapers in recent weeks.

NATO membership or not, as Stapp sees the situation now, there are three possibilities for the so-called “end game” – an end game of war.

1. Russia will win the war in Ukraine
2. That Russia be completely removed from Ukraine
3. For Russia to leave behind an unresolved frozen situation in Ukraine

He describes the first two alternatives as unlikely.

I see no reason to stop Putin now. Staab notes that the Finnish Winter War lasted for six years.

A Closer Alliance: Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Alexander Stabe, here as Secretary of State, in Washington in 2011. Staab believes that cooperation between the United States and Europe has become closer as a result of the war.  Photo: Agence France-Presse

A Closer Alliance: Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Alexander Stabe, here as Secretary of State, in Washington in 2011. Staab believes that cooperation between the United States and Europe has become closer as a result of the war. Photo: Agence France-Presse
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When asked how he envisions Europe next 10 years later, he was crystal clear.

I imagine dividing Europe in two. I think Russia will be completely isolated economically, politically, culturally and sportingly, unless the whole system is changed.

This means that Western companies must leave Russia, and the rest of the world become independent of Russian oil and gas.

– Like kind of big North. Russia has chosen to go back to the past, and I see no way back.

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