Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) spoke to reporters about the actions taken by Russia in Ukraine in Helsinki on Tuesday, 22 February 2022. (Vesa Moilanen – Lehtikuva)


PRIME MINISTER Sanna Marin (SDP) on Wednesday told YLE that she is prepared to consider deviating from a prohibition set forth in the government programme on exporting defence materiel to countries engaged in war or violating human rights in the case of Ukraine.

“I myself am ready to have that discussion. We have to recognise that the situation is completely different in Ukraine. This is about Russia’s aggressive action,” she stated on YLE A-studio.

Issues dealing with defence materiel exports, she added, will be discussed in joint meetings of the president and the ministerial committee on foreign and security policy.

The European Union on Wednesday announced an initial round of sanctions targeted at the inner circle of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The sanctions, officials said, are the first step toward punishing the 351 Russian lawmakers who supported recognising the so-called people’s republics of Donetsk and Luhansk in Ukraine and 27 individuals and entities that have contributed to destabilising Ukraine.

Marin expressed her support for imposing the sanctions gradually, assuring that the bloc is prepared to ramp them up should there be a surge in military action by Russia.

“[The EU’s] goal is definitely that Russia resumes diplomatic dialogue,” she said, declining to comment on what sort of military action would trigger the escalation of sanctions. “We’ll discuss how we move forward with the sanctions tomorrow with the European Council.”

She was also asked to estimate how the situation affects the likelihood of Finland applying to Nato and the fate of Hanhikivi Nuclear Power Plant, an energy project that involves Russian state-owned nuclear energy company Rosatom.

Finland, she said, will continue to hold on to the option of applying for membership in the military alliance.

“No acute discussions are currently underway about the possibility of Finland applying to Nato,” she stated, underlining that the application should have the strong support of the public and the unanimous support of the Parliament. “These kinds of decisions wouldn’t be made in a hurry.”

“You can’t influence us from the outside. We’ll make our decisions from our own national starting points,” she added. “Russia’s actions have no effect on these decisions.”

Marin estimated that it is important to conduct a new security policy assessment of the nuclear energy project spearheaded by Fennovoima. She chose not to give a direct answer when asked whether permit processes related to the project should be put on hold, reminding that the project is private.

“The assessment will be conducted and we’ll examine the situation then,” she told. “We’re going by the legislation: this is a private project and it’s important that all assessments are made carefully and that decisions are made based on them.”

Marin on Wednesday submitted to the Parliament a prime minister’s announcement on foreign and security policy. Finland, the announcement indicates, is under no military threat but must prepare to deal with use of force or threats to use force.

“I can’t go over all the details in a public broadcast, but Finland is indeed preparing,” she noted. “And we must prepare more, that should be acknowledged too.”

The parliamentary debate the followed the announcement veered repeatedly to energy independence from Russia, according to Helsingin Sanomat.

Jussi Halla-aho (PS), the chairperson of the Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, demanded that Finland steer clear of any type of energy-related dependencies that make it susceptible to “blackmail and pressure”.

“Distancing ourselves from fossil energy helps both the climate and our geopolitical standing. Our economic and material dependence on the Kremlin is a risk in all circumstances, also when it comes to nuclear power,” viewed Atte Harjanne, a deputy chairperson of the Green League.

“We can’t be dependent on outside energy or digital components, not to mention food,” said Sari Essayah, the chairperson of the Christian Democrats.

The largest parties reiterated their disapproval of the approach adopted by Russia.

“Spheres of influence don’t belong in the 21st-century world. We’ll resolutely reject any attempts from any directions to restrict our country’s sovereign right to define its own security policy line,” stated ex-Minister for Foreign Affairs Erkki Tuomioja (SDP).

“The Ukraine war mustn’t reinforce Russia’s experience that power politics and sphere-of-influence thinking pay off,” added Mikko Savola (Centre).

Such statements drew criticism from Halla-aho. “We can declare that there’s no room for power politics and sphere-of-influence thinking in today’s world, but these declarations don’t change the facts,” he said, reminding that there are other countries that, for geographical reasons, have similar interests as Finland.

“It’s in our own strategic interest to empathise with these countries.”

Aleksi Teivainen – HT