In her second visit to Kyiv, which her critics see as a photo opportunity before Finnish elections, prime minister Sanna Marin has raised some eyebrows and received criticism for offering Finnish fighter jets to Ukraine.
Finnish Member of Parliament Jari Ronkainen from the Finns Party, criticized Prime Minister Sanna Marin's announcement on Hornet fighter jets during her recent visit to Ukraine.
Ronkainen, who is also the Vice Chairman of the Defense Committee, expressed his surprise at Marin's comments on the donation of Hornet fighter jets to Ukraine during a press conference. Finland currently has 62 F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets, which are set to be retired by 2025.
"It has been reported that the Prime Minister's statement during her trip came as a surprise not only to the President of the Republic but also to the Minister of Defense. In addition, she has hardly discussed the matter beforehand with the Commander of the Defense Forces. Bypassing foreign and security policy bodies and expressing personal opinions, which can be easily interpreted abroad as Finland's position, was thoughtless on the part of the Prime Minister," Ronkainen explained.
Finland's Hornet fighter jets are being replaced by American F-35 fighter jets under the HX program, a historic and large-scale aircraft deal that has been in progress since 2019. The Hornet jets, which were put into service between 1995 and 2000, have a life span of 30 years, and the last of them will be retired by 2030.
"The Hornets are a significant part of Finland's defense capabilities until the end of their life cycle. We cannot promise them to anyone without considering Finland's own defense capabilities or even the operational capability of the Hornets at the end of their life cycle. The Prime Minister cannot make such a decision without consulting experts first," Ronkainen said.
According to the Finnish Constitution, the President of the Republic leads Finland's foreign policy in cooperation with the Government. In practice, foreign and security policy decisions are made by the Government's Foreign and Security Policy Committee, which meets with the President.
"The Prime Minister's unilateral statement on arms donations is worrying, especially given the planned appointment of a separate security policy advisor to the Prime Minister earlier this year. Foreign and security policy must be made together, and there is no room for solo performances, especially in this global climate," Ronkainen said.
Meanwhile, Finnish Member of Parliament Mikko Kärnä demanded that Prime Minister Marin apologize to Ukraine for her comments during her visit to Kyiv. Kärnä, a member of the Center Party, expressed his disappointment at Marin's promise to donate Finland's Hornet fighter jets to Ukraine without consulting with other members of the government or the Commander-in-Chief of the Finnish Defense Forces.
"Hornets, on the other hand, would be a bad idea for many reasons. Firstly, we need them until 2026 to secure our own air defense, and secondly, they would be worn-out equipment by then. Thirdly, I sincerely hope that the war will be over by then, with Ukraine victorious over the Russians. Marin's statement was a brazen and thoughtless election stunt," Kärnä said.
Kärnä expressed his sympathy for Ukrainians, but demanded that Prime Minister Marin apologize to Ukraine and make it clear that Finland cannot donate its Hornets to them.
It is not clear why Prime Minister Marin made the announcement about donating Hornet fighter jets to Ukraine without consulting with other members of the government or defense experts. Some have speculated that her lack of experience in foreign and security policy may have played a role in her decision-making process. Marin became Finland's Prime Minister in 2019, making her the youngest serving Prime Minister in the world at the time.
Sanna Marin was first elected to the Finnish Parliament in 2015, representing the Social Democratic Party. Before becoming Prime Minister in 2019, she served as Minister of Transport and Communications for 6 months. Prior to her political career, she worked in various roles, including as a salesperson, cashier, and in the hospitality industry. She graduated with a master's degree in Administrative Sciences from the University of Tampere in 2017.