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Stubb: Russia is trying to irritate us

Speaking on Yle's Saturday politics show, the prime minister classified recent repeated incursions into Finnish airspace as deliberate attempts by Russia to provoke. He also vehemently defended Finland's partnership status with Nato, denying the country is inching towards membership of the military alliance.

Alexander Stubb
Prime Minister Stubb on Yle's weekend politics show Ykkösaamu Image: Tiina Jutila / Yle

Russia’s repeated incursions into Finnish airspace are deliberate and designed to create tension, Prime Minister Stubb claimed on Saturday.

Speaking on Yle’s Ykkösaamu politics show, the prime minister said the three alleged violations by Russian aircraft within the space of one week were “not a question of an accident”, and said the behaviour gave a “bad message”.

Stubb said Russia's foreign policy is based on "power politics" and the philosophy that "if I'm winning, you're losing". He said it was not uncommon for the superpower to forment instability on its borders, such as in Ukraine and in Georgia in 2008.

He described the situation as “serious” but said there is no cause for alarm. “You can’t compare what’s happening in Ukraine to the situation in Finland,” he said.

On Friday Finland’s defence forces announced its Hornet fighter jets were on standby to see off any further attempted airspace breaches.

"Nato is like being pregnant"

On the question of joining Nato, the prime minister vehemently denied that Finland’s signing of a Host Nation agreement with the military alliance was a step towards full membership.

”Being in Nato is like being pregnant – you either are or you aren’t. We are not inching towards it,” he said.

“We have a duty to maximise Finland’s safety, and we will do that in three ways. Through Nordic co-operation – with Sweden, for example, and by the fact that we are an EU member, and finally as a Nato partnership nation.”

Last week the government announced its intention to sign the Host Nation agreement, which will allow Finland’s parliament to agree to offer assistance or resources to countries in emergency situations such as natural disasters or security threats.

Stubb also voiced support for tougher sanctions against Russia if it does not act to end the violence in eastern Ukraine. Later on Saturday he will travel to Brussels to discuss the Ukraine crisis with other EU leaders.

“We will not make a final decision on any more economic restrictions today,” Stubb said. “But if Russia continues attempting to create instability, in my opinion it is right to tighten sanctions. The ball is in Russia’s court,” he said.

Asked whether he believed that Russia will change its stance on events in Ukraine, Stubb said: “Unfortunately, I think that’s unlikely.”

Tough times ahead

Stubb once again defended his government’s budget announcement earlier this week, describing it as “a win for Finland,” but underlining the tough period of austerity that is still to come. “This is just the beginning,” he said.

“In 2008 Finland’s national debt was 54 billion euros. Now it’s over 100 billion, so it’s effectively doubled. This trend has to turn,” he said.

Popularity poll

Stubb made light of a popularity poll published in the tabloid Iltalehti on Saturday which found that two-fifths of people feel the new government has not been doing a good job.

“Well, if you turn that round that means three out of five people do think we’re doing a good job. It sounds like the question here is really, ‘Do you like Alex or not?’, and three-fifths do, two-fifths don’t,” he said.

Stubb also once again defended his informal image, after coming under fire for posting selfies on Twitter and his well-publicised participation in triathlon events. “What you see is what you get,” Stubb said.


15.00 This article was updated to include more detail on Stubb's comments.

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