Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) addressed the public in the City Library of Kokkola on Monday, 13 March 2023. While on the campaign trail, the premier was was asked repeatedly about her comments on the Finnish Air Force’s Hornet jets in Kyiv on Friday. (Elina Paavola – Str / Lehtikuva)


PRIME MINISTER Sanna Marin (SDP) has denied making any promises about the ageing fighter jet fleet of Finland.

“No one has made any promises about the Hornets,” she was quotoed saying at a campaign event in Vaasa on Monday by Helsingin Sanomat. “Europe is widely having discussions about supporting the air defence systems of Ukraine, including with fighter jets. It’d be good for Finland to prepare for that discussion.”

“I haven’t made or proposed any decisions. I’ve said that Finland can discuss how we could participate more strongly in supporting Ukraine.”

The Finnish Air Force’s 62 Hornet fighter jets that are to be retired in 2025.

Marin on Monday faced a number of questions from the media about the statement she made last week in Kyiv. “I think we can have a discussion about the Hornets. About whether it’d be possible to hand them over to Ukraine. And about what kind of training would possibly be needed for Finland to do its part to help,” she stated in the capital of Ukraine on Friday.

Her statement took a number of foreign and security policy makers and experts by surprise. Marin had not discussed the matter in advance with Minister of Defence Antti Kaikkonen (Centre), Commander of the Finnish Air Force Juha-Pekka Keränen or President Sauli Niinistö.

Marin on Monday reminded, though, that she has talked about ways to support the defence capabilities of Ukraine also at a meeting of the European Council and the Munich Security Conference. The statement should thus not have “nothing new or surprising”.

“I believe Finland has the ability to contribute to offering [air defence] assistance. What form it takes will be decided together with the appropriate parties,” she said.

The debate sparked by her statement, she viewed, is emblematic of the looming parliamentary elections. She also highlighted that she has neither been asked to comment on the issue by international media, nor detected any “significant discussion” about the issue outside Finland.

Niinistö on Monday revealed he had a discussion with the prime minister over the weekend. He responded to media enquiries with a short statement that underscored that national defence requirements are “decisive” when it comes to the Hornet jets.

Marin said the tone of the discussion was not one of a talking-to but declined to shed further light on her confidential discussion with the president.

Tapio Raunio, a professor of administrative law at Tampere University, reminded Helsingin Sanomat on Monday that the Finnish constitution states that foreign policy is determined in collaboration between the president and government. While it demands a degree of coordination between the two institutions, it does not stipulate that they must be in agreement.

“I doubt there are any constitutional problems here. I personally wouldn’t be too shocked if the prime minister and president gave differing views. It’s part of politics.”

He also estimated that it is positive that the government is defending its role in foreign-policy making more actively, given that presidents have tended to show greater disposition to underscore their role in the domain.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT