Finnish leaders taken aback by Marin’s Hornet fighter jet comment

Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) said in Kyiv that Finland should discuss whether its old Hornet fighters could be sent to Ukraine.

Speaking to reporters in Ukraine on Friday, Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) said that Finland should discuss the possibility of sending some of its ageing Hornet fighters to Ukraine. Finland’s current Hornet fleet will be decommissioned beginning in 2025.

In answer to a reporter’s question, Marin said that “there will certainly be a discussion about fighter jets. Various countries are weighing their own abilities to deliver this kind of military support. I think this could also be discussed in Finland. We know that we have made a decision about new fighter jets. We know the timetable for when we will receive new jets in Finland, and I think we can also have discussions in regard to the Hornets, whether it would be possible to hand [jets] over to Ukraine…but no decisions have been made. The discussions are in the very early stages,” she added.

Niinistö: “No discussion with anyone”

The statement seemed to catch other Finnish leaders by surprise.

President Sauli Niinistö said that there “has been no discussion with anyone” about handing over Hornet fighters to Ukraine. He commented to the Finnish News Agency STT by email while on a visit to the United States.

The Finnish Defence Forces (FDF) have not discussed the possible delivery of Hornet fighters to Ukraine, Air Force Commander, Major General Juha-Pekka Keränen told the leading daily Helsingin Sanomat on Saturday.

On Thursday, Helsingin Sanomat interviewed Juha-Matti Ylitalo, the Deputy Manager of Finnish Defence Forces Logistics Command. He oversaw the six-year process of purchasing US-made F-35 jets to replace the ageing Hornets, which are to be phased out by around 2030.

According to the paper, he said he “had followed the discussion on whether Hornets could be donated to Ukraine” but added that “there will not be much left in them in terms of their structural life. Their performance will no longer be very competitive in the 2030s.”

Kaikkonen: No advance knowledge

The FDF also told Yle that the issue has not been discussed. It noted that Finland cannot relinquish its Hornet capability until the replacement F-35 system is in place. The Hornet fleet will be decommissioned beginning in 2025.

Defence Minister Antti Kaikkonen (Cen) commented to Iltalehti and MTV that he didn’t know in advance about Marin’s intentions to mention the issue in Kyiv. According to Kaikkonen, Finland will still need its Hornets for the next few years.

According to earlier reports, the decommissioned Hornets will probably end up as spare parts.

Aaltola: “Unfortunate”

Interviewed on the Yle current affairs programme Ykkösaamu on Saturday, Mika Aaltola, Director of the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, said that it was “unfortunate” that Marin’s comments had come as a surprise to other national leaders.

“A phone call or text message could be useful before suggesting such things. That would be basic cooperation so that Finland’s policy line would be clear,” he said. Under the Finnish constitution, foreign policy is led by the president in co-operation with the government.

Also on Saturday, the reporter whose question prompted the comment, Jecaterina Mantsinen of STT, expressed surprise about the reactions to Marin’s fighter jet comment.

“I asked about it at the press conference and she answered that the matter could be discussed. Didn’t raise the issue herself and didn’t promise anything,” Mantsinen tweeted.

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