Finland presidential candidate Stubb Im running because of the war

Finland, presidential candidate Stubb: “I’m running because of the war in Ukraine”

The Courier reached him on the phone as he was returning by car to Espoo, in the hinterland of Helsinki: in these five and a half months of campaigning, he gave “180 interviews” and took part in “150 events in 120 cities”. At the mention of the polls favoring him over former Prime Minister Alexander Stubb, the automatic reaction is: “I've had eight major election campaigns in my life: I know full well that everything can change in a very short space of time.” He is referring to the gap between his expected 22% and former Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto's 20% and the big father of sovereigntists Jussi Halla-aho's 18%: a gap that is narrowing and will lead to a runoff in February. Finland is voting today: the race is for the presidency of the republic, the first state office elected by universal suffrage and, above all, the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. A non-ceremonial role, with joining NATO after 75 years as a non-aligned country, angering neighboring Russia.

Stubb was Prime Minister of Finland between 2014 and 2015, before that Minister for Foreign and European Affairs, before that MEP and then Finance Minister. He had believed “that he had done enough for God and his country, as we say.” His role as an outsider and his erratic communication – short circuits, open language – had earned him first the favor of the Finns, then even some resentment even from his own members of the liberal-conservative National Coalition Party; By accepting the nomination for Vice-President of the European Investment Bank in 2017, he left parliament and clearly said goodbye to Helsinki's domestic politics. “But when Russia attacked Europe, in Ukraine, I had international assignments.” Among other things, he was director of the Transnational Governance School at the European University Institute in Florence. “So, in short, I became a kind of spokesman for our foreign policy. I felt that my experience from eight years in government and then in international institutions could be used.”

So he ran for president of the republic. “A different role than that of the government, which generates less hatred.” The election campaign was exemplary, very different to the March elections.” Nine candidates; among them EU Commissioner Jutta Urpilainen, who left her post in Brussels to run for president and may now regret it. The Finns are looking for the successor to Sauli Niinisto, who in two terms went from being nicknamed “the man who whispered to Putin” because of his complacency towards Moscow to joining NATO with the historic call to Putin himself: “If you are looking For someone to blame for this turning point, look in the mirror.

“Voters want clarity about who will take power,” explains Stubb. In the March elections, the populists won in Finland, as in much of Europe, “but this role is different.” For Finland, defense and relations with Russia have always been an existential question. You don’t want amateurs for this role, you want professional politicians.” Does that also apply to Donald Trump in the USA? “I'm not worried about him winning.” As much as he may pursue isolationism, it will only benefit him if we have an ally in us on the border with Russia. It is important that we continue to support Ukraine. The fatigue of European public opinion is normal, but we must accelerate their accession to NATO and the EU.” When he sees himself as Finland's first president of the NATO era, Stubb has no catastrophic scenarios in mind. “Finland has never been safer. Reinforced army, joining NATO, bilateral military cooperation agreement with the United States. Our border is secured by three padlocks.”

Since autumn, one of Moscow's non-military reprisals has been taking place precisely in the endless forests on the border with Russia: migrants are being sent “as weapons, as happened on the border between Belarus and Poland.” “We will first react by closing the border, then over time we will see what decisions we have to make.” During the election campaign, he did not rule out the use of force.

If he wins, he promises: “I will come to Italy soon.” I have great respect for many presidents of the past, my friends Mario Draghi, Mario Monti, Enrico Letta. I see Giorgia Meloni as a solid ally. Some observers at home and abroad have called him “the Finnish Renzi” because of his ambitions as an outsider and reformer as well as an athlete: Renzi runs marathons, Stubb is a triathlete. “I don’t like these comparisons. But I will come to Rome in June to watch the World Athletics Championships. Finland decides today whether as president or as a simple spectator.