The worst thing that could happen now, after all the attacks on her and the tears she’s shed is for Sanna Marin to succumb to self-censorship and stop having fun. That would be the victory of a malignant cocktail made of politics, corruption, sexism and conservatism. The main ingredient, the base of this cocktail is, of course, vodka.
In May, the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, threatened Finland and said that Russia would respond if the neighbour joined NATO and that their response would be a “surprise”. Before that, she threatened with “serious military consequences”, saying that Finland “knows what its entry into NATO will lead to”. And? Finland joined NATO, and Russia retaliated as it previously announced, with a surprise. Leaked private footage from the Finnish Prime Minister’s party is the Kremlin’s counter-strike on Helsinki; it is the response of one of the world’s largest military and intelligence powers (in its own opinion) that has been announced for months.
The proud heir of the KGB’s great murderous machine, Putin’s FSB was reduced, with the case of the Finnish prime minister, to the level of a tabloid, whose “researchers” dig through the trash of celebrities and camp out in front of their houses, waiting for them to appear in the window in their underwear. The agency, whose power and brutality petrified Western intelligence services for decades, today deals with peeping through keyholes and hacking private phones of Sanna Marin’s friends with whom she has fun in her free time and at her own expense. The surprise announced by Zakharova is complete. Not because it turned out that the Russian military and intelligence “power” is just a Potemkin village, but because there are no more village sets in that village, only the story of them remains.
The attempt to expose Sanna Marin’s behaviour as something unacceptable for the prime minister of an EU and NATO member state is the maximum damage that the announced Russian counterattack can cause to Finland. That is the extent of the ability of today’s Russian military and intelligence complex to influence foreign governments, their decisions and their fate. This is a poor image of the state that pleads to participate in global affairs from the top, while relying mostly on its repressive systems, such as the military and intelligence services.
What did Russia want with this? Russia wanted to discredit the leader of an important EU and NATO member to the extent of destabilizing its government and causing its downfall. Thus, Finland would join several countries from the EU and NATO that, for various reasons, but mainly due to the consequences of the invasion of Ukraine, were left without a government (Britain, Italy, Bulgaria), or their leaders were left without majority support (France). We can understand such a project as rational, after all, Russia is in a difficult war, its economy is on its knees, and it desperately needs to cause trouble in the Western bloc with which it is in conflict. But, if Russia had behaved rationally and if Russia had understood the world around it and its place in it, it would have never attacked Ukraine, nor would it want to conquer and subjugate it.
For the most part, the operation to discredit Sanna Marin is the result of the Kremlin’s irrational motives. First of all, there’s the desire for revenge because Finland joined NATO under her leadership. In revenge, because that eternal object of imperial Russia’s desire, which it never reached, has now officially moved to the rival camp, and disappeared forever. It was necessary to “hit” Finland, because while the invasion of Ukraine continues, it is still a living symbol of resistance to Russia, a historical shame for its expansionist goals. In addition, Sanna Marin personally symbolizes the opposite image of the world from the one that Russia sees as a model. She is a young, hardworking, successful European, capable of making strategic decisions for her nation. She is a symbol of a new generation of leaders who understand the 21st century, because they have matured in it and are shaping it to a great extent. And finally, she is a woman. The Kremlin and Lubyanka cannot stand any of this, particularly the last one. They cannot stand anything that Sanna Marin and, for example, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas symbolize. Their leadership, and especially their charisma, is intolerable for Russian ethical and aesthetical standards, with models like half-naked Putin riding a bear, and for the older generation, Brezhnev kissing Erich Honecker on the mouth. That’s why their “revenge” against Sanna Marin was personal, and that’s why it failed.
The Finnish Prime Minister managed the crisis she got into superbly, she adhered to a sacred rule that many of her colleagues ignore – she was honest, open, didn’t hide anything and thus managed to turn the problem into a quality. Against the moral panic raised by the opposition politicians, she fought and won by reminding that she has not neglected any of her duties, and that she considers having fun to be normal behaviour for any person her age. And really, what would you think of a 36-year-old who doesn’t want to have fun? You certainly wouldn’t trust such a person to run anything, let alone a country.
Sanna Marin received huge support from the European public, but not from her colleagues among European leaders. Their silence is shameful, not only because they did not extend their solidarity, but because they indirectly gave wind to the dirty operation of bringing discord into the unity of the Western military and political alliance. Remaining silent on the accusations against Sanna Marin was not “non-interference” in petty, tabloid scandals from which no European leader is immune.
That was the clear attitude of an ossified bureaucratic Europe, which will cover up its corrupt operations and hide bad behaviour, even at the cost of leaving power. It is a pyramid of hypocrisy, where there’s understanding for Boris Johnson’s lockdown parties and before that his “partying” in Italy with the Kremlin oligarch Evgeny Lebedev. There’s also understanding for Emmanuel Macron’s appeals to help Putin “save face” by having Ukraine pay with part of its territory. In that structure, there is always tolerance for the reluctance of Germany and Olaf Scholz to break business and energy ties with the Kremlin. It was possible for Karin Kneissl, the lady at whose wedding only four years ago, Vladimir Putin was a special guest, to become the head of an important European diplomacy (Austrian). In the end, in this structure it is quite realistic that Silvio Berlusconi, the champion of corruption scandals, who has never apologized for his bunga bunga adventures with minors, returns to politics.
There’s simply no room for Sanna Marin here, and it’s a good thing that’s the case. Her defence was also the defence of a strong and free Europe against the invasion of the ruined Russian war machine. It was also the defence of common sense in European politics against decades of hypocrisy, corruption, sexism and dancing with Putin’s Russia. Unfortunately, this will not be the final victory of the Finnish prime minister and everything she represents. In addition to her and Kaja Kallas, there are other young and energetic leaders in Europe who are ready to lead their nations differently than their predecessors did. Some of them will soon be under attack again, but Sanna Marin has already set a precedent, and paved the way for any future similar diversions to be doomed. Saying that she will “continue to be the same person as she has been until now”, she declared her own and all future victories.