Where is Finland heading?

Posted in Europe | 25-Jul-05 | Author: Jukka Aminoff

Now and then, my European and American colleagues ask me where Finland is heading. Finland has an opportunity to become a member of NATO, but the political elite in Finland is not excited about this membership. The reason for this lack of excitement is because the people and the polls dictate Finland's foreign policy, not the political leaders. Politicians only pay attention to the polls to help them win the next elections. At the same time, anti-Americanism and anti-EU sentiments are growing. However, this is not a new trend in Finland. The West brings all the bad things and after the collapse of the Soviet Union, no one cares about Russia.

In the days of the Cold War, Finland began a policy of friendship toward the Soviet Union and positioned itself as a neutral country. The idea was to keep friends close and enemies even closer. Not everyone knew the idea of it. So a masterpiece became a monster. During the Cold War, it was acceptable to criticize the West, but raising a finger at the East was not acceptable. Everyone was expected to support the friendship policy - even the media. Even after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Finland continues to face the same problems. This has its dark reasons.

GETTING UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF THE SOVIET UNION

The term "Finlandization" was launched during the Cold War. It meant that a country was coming under the influence of the Soviet Union. In the international community, Finland tried to explain that it was a neutral country and it was not under the influence of the Soviet Union. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, some information was revealed that would have remained secret if the Soviet Union had continued to exist. There was a true diplomatic underground battle between Finland and the secret services from the East and West. The KGB and other communist secret services were funding people who really had in mind a peaceful revolution in order to make Finland a part of the communist regime.

The CIA and other Western secret services funded different democratic movements that were fighting against any new communist threats. The idea was to defend democracy in the neighboring states of the communist Soviet Empire. Finnish corporations also funded the democratic movements.

The Cold War was also a time of two-faced policy in Finland. Many politicians, government officials, journalists and researchers believed that the Soviet Union would never collapse. This was the start of the Finlandization process.

NOT TOTALLY INDEPENDENT NOR A NEUTRAL COUNTRY

If a political party wanted to get into the government, it had to underline the friendship policy. The Social Democratic, Center and Communist parties did underline the policy, but the Conservative party did not. The Soviets did not like that, so the Conservative party was forced to be in the opposition for many years to come. The strategy was to keep the Conservative party in the opposition as long as it did not underline the friendship policy. Thus, the Soviets had a major influence over which political parties and even which people would be part of the governing coalitions in Finland. Finland did not seem to be a purely independent country.

PLAYING WITH THE KGB

Back in those days, there were lots of opportunists who wanted to have a successful political career. Everyone knew that if you wanted to have a successful career in politics or in any other area, then you had to please the Soviets. Sharing some secret information with the Soviets was a normal thing. Everyone did this, so the Finnish secret service had a problem with tracking people and the information that they were sharing. The problem became even worse when every important person had his or her own KGB agent with whom to share some information. The craziest part was that it was totally open. It became a tradition.

The Soviets were very amused by the fact that they were able to obtain secret information with just a few vodka bottles, knowing that receiving the same information in the West would have cost thousands of dollars and was also very difficult to get. The friendship policy was working well between Finland and Russia.

The Soviets also arranged some trips to Leningrad and Moscow. Usually the participants were leftist Stalinists. When the Soviets showed them documents of Soviet lifestyle, the Finnish participants were fascinated. The Soviets noted in their reports that the Finnish guests were "shit eaters".

The only problem at this moment - a topic which should not be discussed - is that the KGB/FSB archives have all the information on who gave secret information and when. Finnish security policy experts are saying that there still might be some valuable information that could be used for blackmailing. There is no other reason why the Russians have closed the KGB archives to researchers.

There are still strong speculations as to whether or not the Finlandization process is still on the move. Those who raise this question have been isolated. So it might not be speculation after all. Finlandization was true and it was not a joke. There were movements that tried to change the democratic system. The communists had an immoral position. They were free men in the West. If there had been a revolution, they would have become part of the political elite in a communist country. Now their only explanation is: "We were young and we did not know what we were doing." The communists knew exactly what they were doing.

FROM THE COLD WAR UNTIL TODAY

Being familiar with Finnish history during the Cold War enables people to understand the position Finland is in at present. Finland still has the same frontlines as it had in Cold War times. Pro-West supporters are still a small minority in Finland. They want Finland to be a member of NATO, maintain good relations with the United States and be in the core of the European Union. The former pro-East supporters are doing everything they can to stop Finland's West-integration process. Their motto is: "No to NATO, no to USA, no to EU." Finland is in a difficult position when its current political leaders have such ideological positions towards NATO, the EU the US - i.e. towards West.

At the same time, the Russians began to violate Finland's airspace almost six months ago. Russians stopped the violations one month ago, in June, when these violations were leaked to the Finnish press. In that way it became public information and Finnish political leaders had to deal with the problem. Russia did the same thing to the Baltic States. But when the Baltic States joined NATO, the violations stopped.

The reason why Russia violated Finnish airspace was because the fighters were photographing important strategic territories. The reason for such action was that the West had spread its democratic influence to the former Soviet Republics. So as a countermeasure, Russian fighters were trying to locate suitable landing areas on the Finnish islands, if the situation between the West and Russia were to worsen - an eye for an eye.

If Finland had been a member of NATO, there would not have been such airspace violations. The reasons for not having fruitful discussions about NATO are purely ideological. Even the Estonians say with bewilderment: "Don't you know that the Soviet Union has collapsed? You can talk about NATO." One of my friends said it even tougher after the situation in Ukraine: "There are still two countries that are still under the influence of the Russians: Byelorussia and Finland."

Finland is still trying to find its place in the world, but it only has one home: The West.

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