The election of Alexander Stubb as president confirms a lasting shift in the country’s approach to transatlantic security.

The outcome of Finland’s presidential election on February 11 left no doubt that the country’s history of military nonalignment is a relic of the past, and that Finns are fully embracing their NATO identity.

Alexander Stubb, a former prime minister from the center-right National Coalition Party, secured a narrow victory over Pekka Haavisto, a liberal Green Party member running as an independent. Against the backdrop of Russia’s unprovoked and brutal war against Ukraine, both candidates agreed that Finland needs to take a tough stance against Russia, be an active participant in NATO, and continue support for Ukraine, which Stubb declared unconditional.

Political polarization is making headlines on both sides of the Atlantic, but the Finnish presidential election set a powerful counterexample by demonstrating civility and a shared understanding that Finland is entering a new security era that requires responsible leadership. This broad political consensus on foreign and security policy helps contain corrosive foreign influences while strengthening resilience against hybrid operations, including Russia’s weaponization of migrants.

Beyond bolstering democracy, the historically tight election saw 51.6% of Finns embrace the candidate more focused on hard security. Stubb highlighted throughout his campaign that Finland is selecting a “NATO president”, a leader pivotal in shaping the country’s role within the military alliance, although he dialed back his rhetoric post-election by emphasizing that the president's primary mission is to uphold peace. He has identified NATO as one the three pillars, or “locks”, of Finnish security, alongside a credible national defense and the Defense Cooperation Agreement with the United States signed in December 2023.

Stubb is expected to pursue extensive engagement with NATO and not impose limitations on Finland’s membership. Unlike Haavisto, he has not excluded the possibility of letting nuclear weapons transit Finnish territory. At the same time, Stubb, who previously served in the European Parliament and as a European Investment Bank vice-president, has called for a more Europe-centered NATO, stressing that European allies need to take responsibility for their own defense capabilities.

Stubb's election solidifies shifts that have taken place over the past few years in Finnish society and foreign and security policy. This movement is exemplified by the surge in public support for NATO membership that began after the Russian invasion and stood at 82% late last year. For decades, Finns elected presidents to foster diplomacy and minimize tensions between Moscow and NATO countries. Now embedded in the alliance, Finland is looking to bolster European security and contribute to a stronger NATO.