You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Finland's Prime Minister Sanna Marin says 'we don't want to ever again see war on Finnish soil by Russia'

ABC News (AU) logo ABC News (AU) 1/12/2022
Prime Minister Sanna Marin says Finland wants to be part of NATO for "that common shield", and that Finland would also enhance "NATO capabilities". (ABC News: Tom Hancock) © Provided by ABC News (AU) Prime Minister Sanna Marin says Finland wants to be part of NATO for "that common shield", and that Finland would also enhance "NATO capabilities". (ABC News: Tom Hancock)

Finland's Prime Minister Sanna Marin says the nation feels great sympathy for Ukraine because her people know what it's like to be at war with Russia. 

"We also have a long history with Russia, and now we're joining NATO because we don't want to ever again see war on Finnish soil by Russia," she told 7.30.

Russia and Finland were last at war with each other during World War II.

She described Russia's actions in Ukraine as "brutal, brutally attacking Ukraine and its people, especially the civilians".

Ms Marin has been at the forefront of European leaders calling for further sanctions against Russia.

Following the invasion of Ukraine in early 2022, Finland and neighbouring Sweden formally applied to join NATO in May 2022. The decision is awaiting the final agreement of all member nations. 

The prime minister said Finland sought the protection of NATO but also intended to make an outsized contribution for a country of only 5.5 million people. 

"We want to make sure that we are under NATO Article Five, that we have that common shield also working for us," she said. "But we are also protection givers, we are not takers. We will enhance the NATO capabilities."

Ms Marin is in Australia on a trade visit where discussions over a free trade agreement between the European Union and Australia will be one of the top agenda items when she meets Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Friday.

'As politicians we can also be human beings'

When Ms Marin was sworn into office in December 2019 at the age of 34 she was the world's youngest serving state leader. She drew global attention as the head of a government coalition dominated by women

"We have five parties in our government led by women, four of us are quite young and actually three of us have had children during this government … that only reflects how equal Finnish society is," she said.

Finland enjoys some of the most progressive workplace arrangements in the world, with policies aimed at child-rearing responsibilities being shared by men and women. Despite this, Ms Marin notes there are still problems for women in Finland.

"The gender pay gap still exists," she said. 

"We are also seeing double standards … women have to work twice as hard as men and we are seeing that all around society. They have to do everything. They have to be flawless to get ahead and still they are questioned: 'Are you going to have children? How will it affect your career?'"

Ms Marin told 7.30 that her status as Prime Minister offered her protection from the questions commonly asked of women.

"When I meet prime ministers or attend meetings in my job … we don't focus on my gender, we focus on the issues that are on the table."

In August this year that protection fell away when a video filmed at a private function attended by Ms Marin and friends was leaked.

The video showed the 37-year-old Prime Minister dancing with friends. The video's release led to criticism of Ms Marin and even allegations of drug taking at the event.

Ms Marin strenuously denied those allegations, subjecting herself to a drug test to prove it was not true

Ms Marin says that many supported her right to private enjoyment, especially in an era of pandemic and war. Finns posted videos of themselves dancing in support.

She maintains the criticism came largely from the media.

"People would stop me in the streets and say that we are supporting you, and keep on dancing, and they didn't see or feel that there was something that's wrong with that," she said.

In an impassioned public speech in the aftermath of the video's release, she spoke about the importance of enjoyment.

"During dark times I, too, need to have some joy, light and fun," she said.

She admitted however that the scrutiny was painful.

"Every day that pressure that you did something wrong, even though you didn't do anything that was wrong," she told 7.30. 

"I went dancing with my friends. I don't think still that that was something terrible that I did."

The breach of privacy did not deter her her wish to remain closely connected to the Finnish people. 

Ms Marin told 7.30, "I think as politicians we can also be human beings."

'I wanted to see change in the world'

Ms Marin says she entered politics as a young person in order to change the world and she thought about her influence on young people entering politics.

"I think it is very important that [young] people will change the world. That's why I entered politics, because I wanted to see change in the world," she said.

The prime minister recognises the importance of sharing some of the ordinary features of her life outside of politics.

"It's my life … we don't have any kind of media strategy behind, for example, my Instagram photos. They are just showing parts of my life and only certain parts."

She echoed the views expressed by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden that it was important for politicians to show their human sides for other people to know it is possible to be like them.

She hoped the presence of more people like her in public life would one day render questions about being a female politician obsolete.

"I hope that we will see in the future a place where we as young women aren't always asked about our gender and our age," she said.

Watch 7.30, Mondays to Thursdays at 7:30pm on ABC iview and ABC TV

More from ABC News (AU)

ABC News (AU)
ABC News (AU)
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon