The former European leader claimed Finland and Sweden’s confirmation they will apply for membership of NATO will increase the EU’s standing in the international military alliance. The two countries have formally applied for NATO membership this week and if accepted they will leave Ireland, Austria, Malta and Cyprus as the only EU states not part of the alliance.
Mr Stubb told Politico: “I think, actually, what we will most probably see, is a more European NATO, rather than more independent, European strategic autonomy.”
He added: “The paradox is that this NATO enlargement would not have happened without Putin.
“Last week, we had 76 percent in favour of NATO membership. This week,
“I predict that support for Finnish NATO membership will exceed 80 percent.”
Playing down Russia’s reaction to the news Finland applied for NATO membership, he continued: “I think the reaction has actually been quite moderate from Putin.
“We don’t expect any immediate reaction, certainly not conventional.
“There might be some smaller hybrid things, maybe information, but nothing major.”
Both Finland and Sweden have now expressed an interest in joining the alliance, against the backdrop of the conflict in Ukraine.
UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said Britain “strongly supports” the two countries’ accession.
She said the countries should be integrated into the alliance “as soon as possible”, to “strengthen the collective security of Europe”.
It comes as Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he opposes their accession, accusing the pair of not taking a “clear stance” against groups his country perceives to be terrorists.
In a statement on Monday evening, Ms Truss said the UK looked forward to working with the countries as “new NATO allies”.
“The UK strongly supports applications for Nato membership from Finland and Sweden,” she said.
“They should be integrated into the alliance as soon as possible; their accession will strengthen the collective security of Europe.
“We look forward to working with them as new NATO allies and stand ready to offer them our every assistance during the accession process.
“Our mutual security declarations signed with Sweden and Finland last week by the Prime Minister demonstrate our steadfast and unequivocal commitment to both countries during this process and beyond.”