During her visit to Kyiv on March 10th, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin suggested that Finland could consider providing Ukraine with its ageing Hornet fighter jets. The statement has caused controversy in Finland, with some government officials denying any discussion of such an action.
Speaking to reporters in Ukraine, Marin said, "there will certainly be a discussion about fighter jets.
Various countries are weighing their own abilities to deliver this kind of military support. I think this could also be discussed in Finland. We know that we have made a decision about new fighter jets. We know the timetable for when we will receive new jets in Finland, and I think we can also have discussions in regard to the Hornets, whether it would be possible to hand [jets] over to Ukraine…but no decisions have been made. The discussions are in the very early stages."
However, President Sauli Niinistö denied any knowledge of such a discussion, stating that there "has been no discussion with anyone" about handing over Hornets to Ukraine. Defense Minister Antti Kaikkonen also commented that Finland would still need its Hornets for the next few years to protect itself.
The Finnish Defense Forces have not discussed the possible delivery of Hornets to Ukraine, and the Air Force Commander, Major General Juha-Pekka Keränen, ruled out the delivery of Hornets until the FDF receives US-made F-35 fighters in return. Additionally, Juha-Matti Ylitalo, the Deputy Manager of Finnish Defense Forces Logistics Command, stated that the Hornets would no longer be competitive in the 2030s due to their structural life.
Mika Aaltola, Director of the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, criticized Marin's statement, saying, "It was unfortunate that the statement was made and it came as a surprise to some other national leaders. A phone call or text message could be useful before suggesting such things. That would be basic cooperation so that Finland's policy line would be clear."
This is not the first time statements from the inexperienced prime minister have caused headaches for the Finnish president, other ministers and even NATO.
Last October, on the Finnish TV morning show (Ykkösaamu), answering an audience question about Finland's NATO entry, asking why the country has not ruled out accepting nuclear weapons or permanent bases on its territory. Marin said: "I've considered it very important that we don't set these kinds of preconditions or limit our own room for manoeuvring when it comes to permanent bases or nuclear weapons,''
Her statement was refuted both by NATO and president Niinistö who is the commander-in-chief of Finnish Armed Forces. “Finland has no intention of allowing nuclear weapons to be located on its territory. There are no indicators that any NATO-nation is offering nuclear arms to Finland,” Niinistö said.
Mika Aaltola, Director of the Helsinki-based Finnish Institute of International Affairs (Ulkopoliittinen Instituutti) also called Marin’s statement “nonsense”.
“No nuclear weapons will be brought to Finland. Neither NATO nor Finland have such aspirations. The doctrines of the United States and other member countries do not include any offer of nuclear weapons to Finland. Moreover, Finland has no desire to place nuclear weapons on its soil,” said Aaltola.
Marin who is the youngest prime minister in the history of the country is a recent graduate with no leadership or work experience before entering politics. She was not elected by popular vote but was put forward within the Social Democratic Party when her predecessor, Antti Rinne had to resign suddenly for mishandling a postal strike.