The war in Ukraine is just over a year old. There is much talk on both sides of a major spring offensive. War in Europe, once unthinkable, is now the new normal. But for one country on Russia’s northern border, this feels like deja vu.
Like Ukraine, Finland knows what it’s like to share a long border with Russia. The Finns have had Vladimir Putin as a neighbor, and under his watchful eye they perform the same delicate dance of disconnection.
Before his deployment to Washington, Mikko Hautala was Finland’s ambassador to Russia, where he met Vladimir Putin more times than he can count. Hautala held his post in Moscow during the critical years following Putin’s initial invasion of Ukraine.
Since the beginning of the war, he has been known as the person to talk to to understand Putin, Russia and the conflict in Ukraine.
In this episode of Playbook deep divehost Ryan Lizza talks to Hautala about what Americans don’t understand about the Russian leader, the implications of the growing China-Russia alliance, Finland’s entry into NATO, and why he believes the West must massively ramp up its industrial capabilities if it is to wants Ukraine to survive.