Presidential candidate Alexander Stubb of the National Coalition party. LEHTIKUVA

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Alexander Stubb is a former Prime Minister of Finland and current member of National Coalition Party. Born on April 1, 1968 in Helsinki, Alexander Stubb, emerges as the handpicked presidential candidate for the coalition.

Despite a recent hiatus from active politics, Stubb has been a distinguished figure known for his global approach and wealth of experiences within various ministerial capacities in Finland and diverse EU portfolios.

Early Life

Stubb is known for his passion for fitness and sports, including triathlons, which stems from his teenage years where he played ice hockey,  for HIFK. Transitioning to golf, he joined the Finnish national golf team during high school, earning a scholarship to Furman University in the United States.

Distinguished for his linguistic repertoire, Stubb studied French at Sorbonne University, earned an MA in political science from the College of Europe, and completed a PhD in international politics at the London School of Economics.

Between 1995 and 1997, Alexander Stubb served as a researcher at the Finnish Foreign Office and later at the Academy of Finland until 1999. Simultaneously, his literary voice emerged, with Stubb assuming the role of a columnist in 1997.

Stubb found himself in Brussels from 1999 to 2001, serving as a researcher in Finland’s representation within the European Union. During this time, he actively contributed to the Finnish government’s delegation in the intergovernmental negotiations shaping the Treaty of Nice. In 2000, he assumed the role of a lecturer at the esteemed College of Europe.

Political journey

Self-identified as an “EU geek”, Stubb’s eminence resonates in Brussels. He also served as an adviser to the President of the European Commission, Romano Prodi, and became a member of the Commission Task Force on the European Convention. 2003 marked his return to Finland’s representation in the EU, this time as a special expert, actively participating in the intergovernmental negotiations for the European Constitution.

In 2004, Stubb decided to extend his impact to the European Parliament and contested the election as a candidate for the National Coalition Party.

Alexander Stubb was appointed as Finland’s Foreign Minister in 2008, following a scandal involving his predecessor, Ilkka Kanerva. The unanimous decision by the Finnish government marked a significant step in Stubb’s political career. While this tenure showcased his advocacy for Finland’s NATO accession, it also coincided with the Russo-Georgian War, during which the OSCE, under Stubb’s leadership, facilitated an agreement to dispatch military observers to the conflict area.

However, Stubb later expressed regret for not pushing the NATO membership strongly and supporting Russian ties. His regrets stem from underestimating the Russia’s motivations, as it later illegally annexed Crimea and initiated hostilities in eastern Ukraine, showcasing the failure to curb Putin’s expansionist policy that he had warned about during the 2008 Georgia-Russia conflict. Stubb acknowledged mistakes in promoting Russian economic ties and supporting projects like Nord Stream gas pipeline.

In January 2011, Stubb collaborated with EU Foreign Commissioner Catherine Ashton to aid hundreds of beaten and imprisoned opposition activists in Belarus.

Elevated to the role of Prime Minister in 2014 and the chairman of NCP, Stubb faced challenges, notably managing Finland’s relationship with Russia amid pro-Russian separatist movements in Eastern Ukraine. Despite his party losing its status as the largest in 2015, Stubb continued to champion innovative ideas, supporting basic income experiments and hosting events on industrial Internet and IoT.

As Minister of Finance, Stubb faced criticism for spending cuts, but his emphasis on structural reforms underscored his commitment to fiscal responsibility. However, internal party challenges led to his leadership loss in 2016.

Transitioning to international roles, Stubb served as Vice-President of the European Investment Bank and led the Crisis Management Initiative. His pursuit of European leadership, evident in a bid for the presidency of the European Commission, reflected his global outlook. Despite setbacks, Stubb’s trajectory continued as the Director and Professor of the School of Transnational Governance in Florence.

In 2024, Stubb’s return to Finnish politics marked him as a National Coalition Party presidential candidate. His popularity, reflected in polling, speaks to his enduring influence and marks him as dynamic political figure poised for continued impact on the global stage.

Presidential elections

Expressing his willingness to return to domestic politics and run for the presidency, Stub highlighted the urgency behind his decision stating that world’s political landscape been different or if there was no conflict in Ukraine. He emphasizes a strong passion for Finnish affairs.

Stubb revealed that three days after the war began, he sent a text message to Russian Foreign Minister Segei Lavrov, urging him to intervene and stop the conflict. The message conveyed a direct plea to Lavrov, stating, “Sergei, please, stop this madness. This has gone too far. Talk to him (Vladimir Putin). You are the only one he listens to.” However, the contact with Lavrov did not continue, and Stubb decided to end it when he realized that the conflict had escalated significantly.

Alexander Stubb’s candidacy for the coalition’s presidential nominee is marked by a formidable foreign policy background. With diverse roles in the European Parliament, national parliament, ministerial positions, and serving as the deputy director general of the European Investment Bank, Stubb brings extensive experience to the table. His wealth of knowledge in foreign policy solidifies his standing as a strong and capable candidate for the position.

Stubb, leading in polls for Finland’s presidential election, advocates a European-focused NATO and has on several occasions signaled alignment with Western values. He advocates Finland’s defense independence but also affirms Finland's enduring partnership with the U.S. On the Russia-Ukraine conflict, he completely backs Ukraine and sees no improvement in Finland’s relations with Russia.

Alexander Stubb identifies two fundamental pillars shaping Finland’s foreign and security policy: idealism and realism. Idealism reflects a belief in genuine cooperation, even with nations like Russia or the Soviet Union, emphasizing mutual dependence. Stubb acknowledges that during the Cold War, idealism may have been taken to extremes. Concurrently, realism has involved the practical maintenance of one of Europe’s largest military forces.

On the middle east conflict, Stubb has voiced profound concerns about the escalating Gaza crisis, emphasizing the risk of it transforming from a local conflict to a broader regional issue. He had earlier condemned Hamas for their attack in Israel, highlighting the latter’s right to defend itself.

Politics and persona

Alexander Stubb is recognized as a cosmopolitan figure, proficient in multiple languages, and adept at navigating international circles. He frequently appears on prominent global media outlets such as BBC, CNN, and French and Swedish media, providing expertise on Russia and Finland’s NATO membership.

Stubb underscores the crucial role of culture in upholding spiritual crisis resistance and ensuring spiritual security in Finland. Emphasizing its irreplaceable contribution to strengthening national identity during pivotal moments, particularly in the early 20th century, Stubb sees culture as a unifying force.

Many political commentators see Stubb as suitable candidate to counterbalance global strongmen like Trump, Xi due to his big personality, energy, and communication skill. Described as a “true believer in the postwar European ideal of closer union,” Stubb is portrayed as having a strong commitment to the values of European integration.

Stubb balances his idealism with Nordic pragmatism, reflecting a practical and realistic approach to political matters. His politics also advocates multiculturalism, immigration and globalization.

The presidential candidate is renowned globally for his strong internationalist and liberal stance. However, some section also believe that it might pose a challenge in garnering broad support beyond his party in the presidential election. His divisive personality and distinctive style have not universally resonated with everyone, potentially impacting his appeal to a wider audience.

Challenges

Alexander Stubb acknowledged a mistake in his handling of security concerns related to the Nord Stream gas pipeline project. In 2009, while serving as foreign minister, Stubb dismissed security worries in a parliamentary debate, emphasizing that the project was not a security policy issue but rather an environmental one. In hindsight, he admitted the error, recognizing that as a government official, he should have aligned with the government’s position, even if he disagreed.

He admits to four misjudgments in his approach towards Russia. The first, a personal misjudgment, was regarding visa exemption. The second, related to the Nord Stream gas pipeline, was aligned with government policy. The third involved Rosatom, while the fourth and most significant misjudgment, according to Stubb, was not advocating for NATO membership with sufficient enthusiasm.

Stubb was also heavily criticized during his tenure as the PM for delaying implementation of EU sanctions against Russia and for increasing energy dependency on Russia arising from proposed Fennovoima nuclear project.

Some people perceive Stubb’s engagement with sports and social media as detracting from his responsibilities. For example, he has been criticized for his choice of attire, such as beach sandals and shorts during a press conference and his tweets about a triathlon during the 2014 Ukraine crisis and bumping fist with politicians, after announcing pay cuts for most of the country in a new labor accord at the press conference, which sparked controversy. Concerns arise whether such behavior is appropriate for a political leader, especially during sensitive geopolitical situations.

Alexander Stubb faced criticism for a significant error when he inaccurately stated incorrect percentage figure during a parliamentary session, as a Finance Minister. He initially stated that 90 percent of statements about a disputed ownership register were positive, but subsequent verification revealed that only ten percent were positive. Stubb issued multiple apologies throughout the week, acknowledging his mistake.

Interesting Quotes

“In this geopolitical situation the answer is unequivocal: when the fatherland calls, then we go.”

“The global west is mistaken in framing the new order as a battle between democracies and autocracies. The situation is much more complex than that. For the global east it is about power and managed dependencies. For the global south it is about agency, representation and economic growth and development.”

“Putin is driven by nostalgia and legacy. Nostalgia of historic Russia with one language, one religion and one leader. A legacy of a leader who has made ”Russia great again”. He thus sees  Belarus and Ukraina as part of Russia. Won’t necessarily stop there.

“Currently, the conflict between Hamas and Israel is local. But we are in a situation where the United States has struck forces in Syria that are supported by Iran. Iran has done the same to forces that the US supports in Syria and Iraq.”

“I wasn’t an advocate of the pipeline as such, and I did raise issues around security and criticize the bilateral deals that Russia and Germany had made. But in office I spoke that it only has an environmental impact for Finland. I was wrong, it was much more than that. It should’ve never been allowed to be built.”

“Finland is one of the safest countries Europe. We aren’t faced with any particular threats. Yet, we must understand that the world is unfortunately increasingly unsafe. It’s also affecting Finland. We can’t be lulled into a false sense of security. We must respond to the change.”

HT

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