Sanna Marin opens up about how Finland 'danced' into Nato

Finnish politicians were reluctant to speak about Nato membership when Russia invaded Ukraine, she said

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin at London Tech Week. EPA
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Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin has spoken about the experience of leading her country into Nato, likening the process to a dance.

Days before she leaves office, Ms Marin recalled the difficult situation her country faced after Russia invaded Ukraine, prompting unprecedented security discussions in Helsinki.

She compared the scenario her administration was thrust into to the “chaotic” period at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, when governments around the world did not have a roadmap to navigate the crisis.

“We didn’t have a manual [on] how to have this Nato discussion within Finland,” she said, recalling how politicians “had to make decisions very fast”.

‘Dancing towards Nato’

Recalling the mood in Finland during the “Nato spring” – when conversations centred on defence, security and potential membership of the alliance – Ms Marin said people were hesitant to say out loud what they saw coming.

“I think everybody in the room knew where we are heading and where we’re going but nobody said it out loud, like ‘we should join Nato now’.

“It’s a dance. You have to make sure that everybody is on board … and make that process very fast but you cannot rush it.

You have to make sure that everybody's on board, because you need that unity.”

She made the comments during a discussion at London Tech Week on Wednesday.

A video of Ms Marin dancing went viral last year, sparking criticism from opposition MPs.

Looking back to February 2022, she said: “It was so hard wake up very early in the morning to face the fact that Europe is in war once again.”

Given Finland’s boundary with Russia, and the historic animosity between the two nations, Finns were eager to discuss security matters despite there being “no consensus” for Nato membership up to that point.

“It meant for Finland many decisions concerning security,” she said. “We have an over 1,300km border with Russia and they attacked another neighbouring country so of course we have to make decisions as well.”

After a war broke out on the continent “it was evident” that Finland’s population of 5.5 million were moving closer to the idea of becoming part of the transatlantic alliance, she said.

Her country’s eagerness to join Nato is “to do with the fact that we always want to make sure that our nation and our people are secure,” she said.

“This is in Finnish DNA because already we have had wars with Russia,” she added.

She expressed hope that Sweden would become a member of Nato at the alliance’s summit in Vilnius in July, saying it would “be very important” for security in northern Europe.

Finland became an official member of Nato in April.

Ms Marin became the world’s youngest serving state leader when she was elected Prime Minister in 2019 at the age of 34.

She conceded defeat in elections in April after being overtaken by two conservative opponents in a three-way race for control of parliament.

Updated: June 14, 2023, 3:52 PM