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Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Finland’s new President Stubb is sticking to the tough line against Russia

AAlexander Stubb refrained from making triumphant gestures at the moment of his greatest political success. Instead, he was humble, calling the office of president bigger than any person and emphasizing unity. In the runoff election on Sunday, Stubb defeated Pekka Haavisto, making him the new president Finland.

Julian Staib

Political correspondent for Northern Germany and Scandinavia based in Hamburg.

Stubb has held many top political positions for Finland. He was finance and foreign minister, later prime minister. Cosmopolitan and extremely self-confident in his demeanor, he rarely minced his words back then.

People in Helsinki still remember how Stubb once came to an official appointment in shorts. This behavior, which was quite unusual for Finns, contributed to Stubb’s unpopularity as prime minister; The end of his political career in 2015 was welcomed by many.

He speaks fluent Swedish, French and German

Stubb, who belongs to the conservative National Coalition Party, moved to the European Investment Bank in Brussels and later to the European Institute in Florence. He seemed to have floated away from Finland. Stubb, who regularly takes part in triathlons, spent his student days in California, Belgium and London.

He has two children with his wife, a British lawyer. In addition to Finnish and Swedish (Stubb is part of the Swedish minority in Finland), he also speaks English, French and German.

Stubb often justified his return to Finnish politics with concerns about Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. It was precisely his internationality that he promoted in the election campaign. The president not only has representative functions in Finland, he also largely directs foreign policy and chairs the armed forces.

Facing a domestic political test

The fifty-five-year-old Stubb is now taking on this position in difficult times. Although Finland is firmly integrated into Western security structures after joining NATO, the threat from Russia is seen as great in Helsinki. There was hardly any other topic in the election campaign. Foreign policy is “existential” for Finland, said Stubb, and made it clear on election evening that he would not change anything about his country’s tough course against Russia.

He cannot imagine that there will be contacts with Vladimir Putin or anyone else in the political leadership in the near future of Russia will give, said Stubb. The path to peace leads through the battlefields.

At the same time, Finland is facing a major test domestically. In view of the tough cuts that the government of Stubb’s party colleague Petteri Orpo is planning in the social sector, there is a risk of disruption. The president is likely to play the role of a mediator and conciliator. It remains to be seen whether Stubb can master this.

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