Alexander Stubb has vowed to maintain a close relationship with Washington and the West Alexander Stubb speaks to the media during a presidential election event in Helsinki, Finland, February 11, 2024 © AP / Sergei Grits

Finnish President Alexander Stubb has boasted that NATO membership gives his country a “real nuclear deterrent” in the form of American missiles. At his inauguration on Friday, Stubb promised to lead the Nordic nation into a “new era” of military partnership with the West.

Stubb, who was nominated by the center-right National Coalition Party, defeated Pekka Haavisto, an independent candidate backed by the center-left Green League, by 51.6% of the vote to 48.4% last month. On Friday he officially took over the presidency from Sauli Niinisto, who held the position since 2012 and oversaw the country’s accession to NATO last year.

During his election campaign, Stubb said that he would be open to allowing American nuclear weapons to be transported through – but not stored on – Finnish territory, calling these weapons of mass destruction “a guarantee of peace.” Speaking to reporters after his inauguration ceremony, he doubled down on his enthusiasm for NATO and for nuclear weapons.

Ukraine free to attack Russian territory – newest NATO member Ukraine free to attack Russian territory – newest NATO member

“Finland must have a real nuclear deterrent, and that’s what we have, because NATO practically gives us three deterrences through our membership,” he said. “The first is military, i.e. soldiers, the second is missiles, i.e. ammunition, and the third is a nuclear deterrent, which comes from the United States.”

During the ceremony itself, he declared that Finland is “facing a new era.”

“As a result of our military alignment and NATO membership, we have taken the final step into the Western community of values, where our republic has spiritually belonged throughout its independence” he said.

Stubb served as Finland’s prime minister from 2014 to 2015, and as foreign minister from 2008 to 2011. His new position is largely a ceremonial one, although Finland’s president has a role in formulating foreign policy and serves as commander-in-chief of the country’s armed forces.

Finland shares a 1,300 kilometer border with Russia, and Moscow has argued that NATO membership has threatened, and not guaranteed, Finnish security. After Finland joined the alliance last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the creation of a new military district bordering the Nordic nation. “There was no trouble” before Finland joined the bloc, he said in December, adding: “now there will be.”

Earlier this week, Putin said that Russia would strengthen its military presence along its western frontiers “in order to neutralize the threats created by the latest NATO expansion to the east with the involvement of Sweden and Finland in the alliance.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said after Stubb’s electoral victory that Moscow respects the democratic choice of the Finnish people, but expects no improvement of relations with Niinisto’s replacement. (RT)