Finnish president Tarja Halonen is convinced that normal relations with Russia cannot develop successfully because too many are still obsessed with historical grievances.
In spite of this, as an example of inevitability, she is convinced that in spite of past antagonisms, Russia and the European Union will achieve a visa free regime for each other’s visitors. (Some officials close to the negotiation process indicate otherwise.)
But, such breakthroughs in relations must be preceded by a radical change in attitudes, according to Halonen: “We can remember history, but we must not live it. For a long time we have pursued co-operation with all our neighbours, as equals. The last war between the Soviet Union and Finland occurred 60 years ago and we have had plenty of time to develop neighbourly relations. The last war was not a success for us. There was much bitterness and pain. We lost part of the country. We had large numbers from there relocating into Finland and naturally people still carry sad memories from that time. We cannot escape from history, but we must build for the future.”
Many will accept that Halonen’s goal of pursuing normal ties with Moscow is unavoidable in an interdependent world. Ongoing political standoffs and confrontations are unnecessary distractions they say. But observers ask the obvious knowing that Moscow has no intention currently of even acknowledging that the Baltic states were occupied with all the resultant consequences. Friendly relations? At what price?
Undoubtedly Moscow held the upper hand during the Soviet years, the idea of “Finlandization” does not evoke open, friendly relations, based on mutual trust and genuine reciprocity in relations. For most, “Finlandization” refers to small and vulnerable countries that often on their own initiative adjust their political and diplomatic behavior in order to avoid the wrath of a large, aggressive neighbor. Generally considered to be pejorative, “Finlandization” also refers to the influence that one powerful neighbouring country has on the actions and policies of a weaker neighbor. “Finlandization” then covers the relationship dynamics both as an external as well as internal influence on the country adopting a certain subservient behavior.
The term was highly offensive for most Finns, even though Finland’s intellectual and political elite used it only in reference to foreign affairs. Some said that the term described an aspect of Realpolitik, in essence the need to survive. Political cartoonist Kari Suomalainen has described “Finlandization” as the ability “to bow to the east without mooning the west”.
Briefly put, Finland, by keeping very cool and distant relations with NATO and the West in general, it could fend of incessant overtures for an affiliation with the Warsaw Pact. Finns enjoy a well derserved reputation as a plucky and courageous nationality who fended off the total takeover of their country by an overwhelmingly larger Soviet force. But there’s no denying that this obsequious stance to conform to Moscow’s wishes was adopted by editors of the mass media whose self-control and voluntary censorship yielded pro-Soviet attitudes among most. Critics have said that this form of self-imposed “Finlandization`` even exceeded Moscow`s expectations. It`s been said that anti-Soviet discussions were subconsciously sanitized to maintain a working relationship between the USSR and Finland. (In fact it wasn`t until Mikhail Gorbachev’s ascendancy in 1985 that Finnish media started cvover the ills of the Soviet Union. The Soviet leader pointed to Finalnd as an example for emerging non-communist governments of Eastern Europe to follow.)
Russia’s pursuit of closer ties with its neighbours is seen by some as a resurgence of a new “Finlandization”, especially among those countries that experienced five decades of outright Soviet occupation or repressive domination. They cite the North Stream natural gas pipeline
as a prime example of Moscow’s energy politics – the deployment of nuanced leverage that needn’t be blatantly wielded. The national sovereignty of European countries dependent on Russian energy is being gradually eroded.
Laas Leivat (to be cont`d.)
“Finlandization” – humiliation for Finland, a friendship spoiler for Russia