'You Cannot Appease Putin,' Says Former Finland Leader As Country Considers Joining NATO

The former prime minister of Finland has warned that you cannot "appease" Vladimir Putin as the country risks Russian aggression over suggested plans to join NATO.

Speaking to Spanish news site El Confidencial, Alexander Stubb, who was Finland's prime minister from 2014 to 2015 and has also served as the country's foreign minister, warned that the situation in Eastern Europe will not return to normal while Putin is still president.

Stubb said that despite promises from Moscow, Putin will not back down from the Ukraine conflict, which could have knock-on effects for the entire world.

"You cannot appease Putin. It's over, we've passed the point of no return," Stubb said.

"We can try to get a ceasefire, but we all understand that the situation is not going to return to normal until Putin is gone and, in my opinion, regime change can only happen from within Russia.

Stubb added that Putin now risks making Russia "totally and completely isolated" with regards to its economy and exports, as well in sports, culture, and services such as energy and transportation as the fallout from the invasion continues.

"Russia is going to become a huge North Korea with which no one wants to trade or collaborate in any way," Stubbs said, adding that 10 percent of Finland's trading with Russia has "disappeared at a stroke."

"The price we are paying in Europe is the rising cost of energy. I think it's a small price to pay for freedom when you compare it to what Ukrainians are doing, paying with their lives right now," Stubbs said.

The comment arrives as Finland, along with Sweden, are reportedly contemplating joining NATO in order to further strengthen their security in light of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The move from Finland, which shares a border of more than 800 miles with Russia, would officially end a post-World War Two agreement to essentially act as a neutral boundary between the West and what was then the Soviet Union.

However, Finland has already started to move away from its neutral position in recent decades, including joining the European Union after the Soviet Union collapsed, assisting with NATO in some military options, and sending weapons and ammunition to Ukraine during the Russian conflict.

Public opinion has also dramatically shifted with regards to joining the Western military alliance.

According to a recent poll commissioned by Finnish broadcaster YLE, a majority of Finns said they were in favor of the country joining NATO, with 53 percent expressing support for membership compared to 28 percent who were against.

Russia has already warned Sweden and Finland that if they joined up with NATO they could also face military consequences.

Speaking to El Confidencial about the possibility of joining NATO, Stubb said Finland and Sweden must be careful not to aggravate the current crisis in Ukraine and "turn northeastern Europe into another hot spot of war."

He added: "I am sure that right now the Finnish and Swedish leaders are in talks with our NATO partners. Luckily, Finland has a strong and independent defense, we have 64 F-18s, and we just ordered more F-35s.

"We have always carried out training with NATO troops, we participate in NATO operations in Afghanistan... We feel very safe.

"But I think that the radical change in opinion polls in Finland will also push many of our political leaders to think and reflect on NATO membership. And in the end, it becomes a matter of timing."

In a previous interview with Newsweek, Stubb admitted that Finland joining NATO could see escalations with Moscow and urged the countries to carry out a "cool, calm, and collected, but determined" approach with regards to membership.

"Anyone who is hoping for an immediate application for NATO membership, they're going to be disappointed," he said. "The reason we are not doing that is that it would increase the security threat in Finland."

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Finland's former prime minister Alexander Stubb (L) has warned that you cannot “appease” Vladimir Putin as the country risks Russian aggression over suggested plans to join NATO. FREDERICK FLORIN-AFP/ SERGEI GUNEYEV/Sputnik/AFP/Getty Images