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Saarikko, Orpo: Russian countermeasures are the price we have to pay

Any Russian response to western sanctions will have an impact on the Finnish economy, particularly in relation to energy prices.

Centre Party chair Annika Saarikko and National Coalition Party leader Petteri Orpo.

Minister of Finance Annika Saarikko (Cen) and former Finance Minister, National Coalition Party (NCP) chair Petteri Orpo, agree that Russia's attack on Ukraine will have a detrimental impact on the Finnish economy.

The extent of the effects will become apparent once Russia responds to the economic sanctions imposed by Western nations, following Russia's military assault on Ukraine.

Saarikko told Yle's breakfast TV show on Friday morning that although the consequences might be severe, they will be worth enduring.

"Peace is the highest value in Western democracy. The cost of these sanctions will just have to be borne," Saarikko said.

NCP chair Orpo, also in the studio on Friday morning, stressed that a response to Russia's attack on Ukraine was imperative. This means the toughest possible sanctions, he said, even if Russian countermeasures are inevitable.

"It's a price we have to pay together and we have to endure. I think we can handle it because we want to show solidarity," Orpo said.

Orpo: Energy price rises "very serious"

Both Saarikko and Orpo further agreed that Russia's expected countermeasures will hit energy prices in particular.

"Not only Finland, but the whole of Europe is heavily dependent on Russian energy imports. Right now, this has been reflected by a very strong rise in the price of oil," Saarikko said.

Orpo meanwhile described the price rises of petrol and electricity in Finland as "very serious".

"This must be taken very seriously and means must be sought [to tackle it]. From the point of view of the opposition, we have put forward measures to improve people's livelihoods. Many measures are needed here," he added.

Saarikko: Focus on Finland's security of supply

Finance Minister Saarikko said that while the effects of the crisis on the economy will be manifold, she is particularly concerned about the growing uncertainty on world markets.

"It is never a good thing for the economy if there is deep uncertainty around it. For example, I cannot promise that inflation will stop, but rather it is justified to be worried," Saarikko said.

She added that Finland and other European countries are also heavily in debt due to the coronavirus pandemic. On the other hand, there has been strong economic growth in recent months, she pointed out.

"The worst case scenario would be one where economic growth is slowing down but prices remain high. It is not worth predicting that yet, but I would emphasise the importance of preparation," Saarikko stated, adding that preparation should not only be financial, but would also need to focus on Finland's security of supply.

Orpo: Nato membership "a real deterrent"

Orpo and Saarikko also spoke about the possibility of Finland applying for membership of the military alliance Nato during Friday morning's broadcast.

Orpo's NCP has been in favour of Finland joining Nato for a long time.

"It would increase our security. Keeping Nato membership as an option is a deterrent in itself, but membership would be a real deterrent," Orpo said.

According to Saarikko, making such decisions in the midst of the crisis would not be the wisest move. She added that the Centre Party wants to keep the option open, but such a decision would need to have a strong security policy rationale and broad public support.

In response to Saarikko's comments, Orpo clarified that the NCP would not submit an application to Nato immediately.

"However, it must be said that our security environment changed completely yesterday [Thursday] morning," Orpo said.