Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin urged solidarity among small, democratic countries in the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, when she met Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in Auckland this morning.
Asked about what “soft power”, small countries like Finland and New Zealand could exert around the world, Marin said “hard power” like sending weapons to Ukraine was needed.
“We need hard power when it comes to Ukraine. They need weapons, they need financial support, then need humanitarian support and we need to make sure all the refugees fleeing Ukraine are welcomed to Europe,” Marin said.
“Ukraine will win, they will need our help, they will need hard power to win that war.”
Ardern said that the visit, the first by a Finnish prime minister, was an opportunity to gain insight on the conflict from a country very close to it - Finland shares a long land border with Russia.
“The conflict, I am very aware, is literally on Finland’s doorstep,” Ardern said.
New Zealand has sent several rounds of financial aid to Ukraine via a Nato fund. Much of this aid has been non-lethal, however New Zealand contributed money to a United Kingdom-led effort to procure weapons for Ukraine.
The pair also discussed what Ardern called the “gravely concerning situation” facing women and girls particularly in Iran, where brutal protests against the regime have highlighted its repressive attitude towards women.
“The violence being used against peaceful protesters there as well as the death penalty being issued to protestors is abhorrent,” Ardern said.
The fact that Ardern and Marin are both women heads of government was not lost on either leader. As of September 19, according to a United Nations report, just 28 countries had a woman as head of state or government - the figure took a dent after the resignation of British Prime Minister Liz Truss - Marin and Ardern’s meeting represented 7 per cent of the world’s entire crop of women leaders.
“Finland and New Zealand count among the oldest democracies in the world. Our countries were among the first to grant full political rights to women - in Finland women could stand as candidates and vote in general elections in 1906,” Ardern said.
“It is not a coincidence that our countries today are among the most advanced economies and equal societies in the world,” Marin said.
The visit was an unusual one, given the relatively small trading relationship New Zealand has with Finland.
But both leaders talked up the possibility of deepening this economic relationship under the free trade agreement signed this year between New Zealand and the European Union, of which Finland is a member.
Marin said she was also keen to deepen relations between Nordic countries, which include Denmark, Norway and Sweden, and the Pacific region - her visit also includes a stop in Australia.
She said New Zealand and Finland were both “welfare” states, sharing similar attitudes. New Zealand is a fairly miserly welfare state compared to Finland, spending about 19 per cent of GDP on what the OECD calls “social spending” compared to Finland’s 29 per cent.
She said both countries were trying to build high-value, productive economies.
Marin said Finland wanted to “understand the Indo-Pacific region even better”, and that New Zealand had a unique view to share.
Marin warned that one of her concerns was that “dependencies that we have right now on authoritarian countries”, particularly in the areas of the economy and technology.
“We need democratic countries and cooperation between democratic countries,” Marin said.
“Nordic countries together, Australia and NZ - we could tighten our co-operation so much more.”
New Zealand’s trade agreement with the European Union had been couched as a ploy to diversify New Zealand’s trade dependency on China, however, the agreement keeps trade barriers in place in some key areas, leading some to question how effective it will be.