Skip to content

Speaker of Parliament criticises Halla-aho's "military intervention" comments

Former Finns Party leader and current chair of Parliament's foreign affairs committee Jussi Halla-aho said that Western military intervention in Ukraine cannot be ruled out.

Matti Vanhanen
Speaker of Parliament and former Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen (Cen). Image: Hanne Salonen / Riksdagen
Yle News

Speaker of Parliament Matti Vanhanen (Cen) has told Yle he does not consider comments made by Jussi Halla-aho (Finns) about the need for military intervention by Western nations in Ukraine to be appropriate.

Halla-aho — the new chair of Parliament's Foreign Affairs committee — said on Tuesday that Western military intervention in Ukraine cannot be ruled out. He also told the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper that he believed such an intervention was inevitable, and should therefore be carried out sooner rather than later.

Russian President Vladimir Putin hinted last week that he was ready to use nuclear weapons if there was any attempt to thwart Russia's intentions in Ukraine.

In reference to Halla-aho's comments, former Prime Minister Vanhanen said that it was important to make clear that the statements do not reflect the position or policy of the Finnish state, Parliament or the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Vanhanen further warned against the risks associated with creating misunderstandings about Finland's official position on the war in Ukraine.

"If the message is not clear that these are not official statements by Finland, the only formal way for Parliament to address this issue is to dismiss the entire committee," Vanhanen said.

He emphasised however that he is not proposing the dismissal of the committee, but "trusts in the political process", referring to the way parties elect their representatives and candidates to different committee positions.

Vanhanen further added that it is not up to the Speaker of Parliament to say that Halla-aho's party chair, Riikka Purra, should respond to the comments in any particular way. Purra told Yle on Wednesday that the party does not intend to interfere in Halla-aho's activities and that she is very pleased with his chairship of the committee.

MP Erkki Tuomioja (SDP), vice-chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, criticised Halla-aho's comments as "irresponsible".

"It is clear that we do not want World War III, and therefore both Nato and Russia have tried to ensure that these forces do not have to face each other. If this happened, it would be very destructive for us [Finland] too," Tuomioja said during an interivew on Yle Radio 1's Ykkösaamu show on Wednesday morning.

The threat of nuclear war has been a significant factor in the decision by Western nations not to send troops to Ukraine. U.S. President Joe Biden said last week that if "Americans and Russians start shooting at each other" it could start a world war.

"We are supporting Ukraine, as we must do, and we have imposed the largest sanctions on Russia in history," Tuomioja added.

Vanhanen: Watch your words at a time like this

Also on Tuesday, Halla-aho tweeted in English that if Putin tried to fire Russia's nuclear weapons, someone would press a "9mm tranquilizer" to the back of his head.

Halla-aho has defended his comments, arguing he is participating in the public debate as a Member of Parliament. However, Vanhanen said it can be difficult for people to distinguish between comments that are made as part of a public debate and statements made as the chair of the foreign affairs committee.

"It is not easy, especially at a time like this, when people are following very closely what everyone is saying," Vanhanen said, adding that while it is difficult to separate these roles in Finland, it is even more difficult abroad, where Finnish political culture is not well known.

"When a neighbouring country is at war and has launched an attack on another sovereign state, it is the duty of each of us to strive to ensure that carefully considered statements and messages about war and our own actions and goals in Finland can be conveyed as consistently and clearly as possible," he stated.

"We have a constitution that states that foreign policy is led by coopeartion between the President and the government. The role of Parliament is to control and resolve any disputes. Parliament is not the one to draw the line," Vanhanen continued.

Yle asked Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) on Tuesday for her reaction to Halla-aho's comments, and she replied that they were "strong words" for a committee chair.

"I think that Parliament, for its part, will evaluate what has happened here," she said.

Purra: Halla-aho can give his opinion

Finns Party leader Purra said she does not believe that Halla-aho's comments would present a risk to Finland.

"I don't see the risk. It has already been stated many times that Halla-aho's tweet is not in line with Finland's foreign policy," she said, adding that her party colleague is entitled to express his opinions.

"Both politicians and others can present assessments, opinions and possible scenarios. I think that is permitted," Purra said.

Latest: paketissa on 10 artikkelia