Finland PM Sanna Marin says Europe is ‘not strong enough’ without the US

Speaking in Sydney, Marin says Europe needs to build its own defence capabilities and says Finland is preparing for cyber-attacks from Russia

Finnish prime minister Sanna Marin has called for Europe to build its own defence capabilities in the wake of the war in Ukraine, saying that without US help it is not resilient enough.

“We should make sure that we are stronger,” Marin said in Sydney on Friday. “And I’ll be brutally honest with you, Europe isn’t strong enough. We would be in trouble without the United States.”

Her remarks came in response to a question about China’s responsibility to “rein in Russia”. Marin said that while China could play a role, “We shouldn’t only rely on that.”

Marin insisted Ukraine must be given “whatever it takes” to win the war, adding that the United States had been pivotal in supplying Kyiv with the weapons, finance and humanitarian aid necessary to blunt Russia’s advance.

“We have to make sure that we are also building those capabilities when it comes to European defence, the European defence industry, and making sure that we could cope in different kinds of situations,” she said.

Marin said that when Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February, the priority of most Finns changed “overnight” to security.

Until Russia invaded Ukraine, Finland’s priorities were to have working bilateral relations with Russia and be close partners with members Nato, but not be a member, she said. “That was the best way to secure our nation.”

Finland and Sweden applied to join the alliance in May, but are waiting on Turkey and Hungary to ratify their requests, which have been approved by the other 28 nations in the group. In June, Putin warned that if Nato installed military infrastructure in Finland and Sweden, Moscow “would be obliged to respond symmetrically and raise the same threats for those territories where threats have arisen for us”.

Asked what the likeliest scenario was in terms of threats posed by Russia to Finland, with which it shares a 1,300km border, Marin said: “We have extensive military forces, so we’re not expecting them to engage in that account and we’re not seeing any military action near the Finnish border.”

“But of course we are prepared for different kind of hybrid attacks that we might see.”

“We are preparing for different kinds of cyber-attacks … we’re preparing for different kinds of hybrid attacks, for misinformation.”

Between February and late October, cyber-attacks on “critical targets” in Finlandincreased by a third, according to a recent article by Finnish broadcaster YLE citing Aapo Cederberg, the CEO of Cyberwatch Finland.

In August, Russian hackers claimed responsibility for a denial-of-service attack on Finland’s parliamentary website, as well as another Finnish state website, writing on Telegram that it had, “decided to make a ‘friendly’ visit to neighbouring Finland, whose authorities are so eager to join Nato”, YLE reported.

In September, Antti Pelttari, the director of Supo, the Finnish Security and Intelligence Service, warned that, “We consider it highly likely that Russia will turn to the cyber environment over the winter.”

October alone saw what would previously have been three months’ worth of denial-of-service attacks, Trafficom, the Finnish transport and communications agency reported.

Concerned by the prospect of other hybrid attacks including weaponised mass migration, Finland’s main political parties have backed a proposal to build a fence along parts of the country’s border with Russia.

The country is also concerned about large-scale illegal crossings as Russian men flee the mobilisation drive. About 40,000 Russians have entered Finland since the start of the war, according to foreign minister, Pekka Haavisto.

Finland recently suspended tourist visas for Russian citizens. On Friday, Marin said, “It became morally unacceptable to allow the Russian middle and upper classes to continue to enjoy their vacations in Europe while their army kills, tortures and terrorises Ukrainians.”

Finland, which has a population of 5.5 million, still has military conscription for men, and has a wartime troop strength of 280,000, with 870,000 trained as reservists. It spend 2% of GDP on defence, a higher proportion than most Nato members. The country fought two wars against the Soviet Union in the 1940s, in which 100,000 Finns died.

“Our story after the wars, when we gained our independence, is a successful one,” she said. “We have to make sure that Ukrainians have that hope, that they will have that future.”


Helen Sullivan

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Finland anoints Sanna Marin, 34, as world's youngest serving prime minister
Former transport minister is country’s youngest leader ever and third female PM

Jon Henley Europe correspondent

09, Dec, 2019 @1:55 PM

Article image
Readers in Finland: tell us what you think of new PM Sanna Marin
If you live or work in Finland, we would like to hear what you think about Sanna Marin, the world’s youngest serving prime minister

Emma Ferguson and Guardian community team

09, Dec, 2019 @10:55 AM

Article image
Sanna Marin party row reflects Finland’s low threshold for scandal
In a country where politicians are held to very high moral standards, it does not take much to provoke debate

Minna Ålander

26, Aug, 2022 @1:55 PM

Article image
Women in Finland post party videos to back PM Sanna Marin
Prime minister embroiled in scandal after footage leaked of her dancing along with allegations of drug taking

David Connett

20, Aug, 2022 @8:49 PM

Article image
Finnish PM Sanna Marin tests negative for drugs after party video leak
Footage of Marin dancing and drinking with friends has brought 36-year-old leader’s judgment into question

Jon Henley

22, Aug, 2022 @4:34 PM

Article image
Finland’s PM Sanna Marin takes drug test after party ‘to clear up doubts’
Leaked videos show leader drinking at event at which unconfirmed reports claim drugs may have been taken by others

Jon Henley Europe correspondent

19, Aug, 2022 @4:26 PM

Article image
Jacinda Ardern and Sanna Marin dismiss suggestion their age and gender was reason for meeting
Finland’s PM says she met Ardern in New Zealand because they are both ‘prime ministers’ after journalist asks whether it was due to similar age

Eva Corlett in Wellington

30, Nov, 2022 @12:29 AM

Article image
Finland is the world’s happiest nation – and I want to keep it that way, says prime minister
In a rare interview with foreign media, Sanna Marin says she is determined to defend human rights, despite asylum policy challenges

Alexandra Topping

05, Dec, 2021 @6:00 AM

Article image
Supporters defend Finnish PM Sanna Marin’s right to party after video leak
Video leaked of country’s youngest ever leader, 36, dancing exuberantly and drinking with friends

Jon Henley Europe correspondent

18, Aug, 2022 @2:09 PM

Article image
Feminism comes of age in Finland as female coalition takes the reins
For more than a century, the Nordic country has blazed a trail for women in politics. But even there, the battle for equality isn’t over, writes Emma Graham-Harrison

Emma Graham-Harrison in Helsinki

14, Dec, 2019 @8:40 PM