Fri Jun 15th, 2007 at 06:33:28 AM EST
In a recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, neocon Norman Podhoretz argues for a military strike in Iran (op-ed deconstructed by Jérôme à Paris here). In this op-ed Podhoretz writes at length about Finlandisation, writing for example the following:
Of course, by the grace of God, the dissidents behind the Iron Curtain and Ronald Reagan, we won World War III and were therefore spared the depredations that Finlandization would have brought. Alas, we are far from knowing what the outcome of World War IV will be. But in the meantime, looking at Europe today, we already see the unfolding of a process analogous to Finlandization: it has been called, rightly, Islamization.
As a Finlander, I find the term "Finlandisation", as it is most commonly used, rather offensive. The term always struck me as an indictment of Finland during the Cold War (referred to by Podhoretz above as "World War III"). More often than not, the term is used in a pejorative sense, as Podhoretz does in his op-ed, where he invokes it as a policy of cowardice and Chamberlainesque appeasement in the face of ultimate evil (note that I, or any person with a semblance of sanity for that matter, do not share his views on the alleged threat of "Islamofascism," though that is beside the point of this diary).
In using that analogy, Podhoretz seems to be making the assumption that there was a preferable alternative to Finlandisation.
from the diaries. -- Jérôme
Wikipedia defines "Finlandisation" as "the influence that one powerful country may have on the policies of a smaller neighboring country." The term originates from the German term Finnlandisierung, which refers to the undue influence the Soviet Union had in Finnish affairs following World War II. In the Second World War, Finland had reluctantly fought on the side of the Axis, following an unsuccessful invasion attempt by the Soviet Union in the so-called Winter War of 1939. The peace settlements were harsh: Finland was to pay a war debt of 300 million dollars, and large portions of Finnish territory were lost. The threat of annexation remained, and it had become abundantly clear during the Winter War that Finland was essentially on its own when dealing with the Soviet Union. Finland thus had very few options when choosing how to proceed.
In 1948, Finland and the Soviet Union signed the Agreement of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance, the terms of which stated that Finland had to resist an armed attack on Finland or the Soviet Union via Finland, with the aid of the Soviet Union if need be, while making it explicit Finland's desire "to remain outside the conflicting interests of the Great Powers." Under what has become known as the Paasikivi line and later the Paasikivi-Kekkonen line (so named after its two practitioners, Finnish presidents J.K. Paasikivi and Urho Kekkonen), Finland adopted a policy of neutrality, while maintaining a close friendship with the Soviet Union. Finland opted out of the Marshall plan, and participated in neither NATO nor the Warsaw Pact.
The influence of the Soviet Union could at times take on rather silly forms, such as Finland being the only nation participating in both the Eurovision Song Contest and its short-lived equivalent behind the Iron Curtain, the Intervision Song Contest (a contest which Finland actually did manage to win in 1980, coincidentally also the last time the contest was held, as opposed to Finland's less-than-successful participation in the Eurovision song contest prior to 2006).
Far more troublesome, however, was the self-censorship of the Finnish media. The Soviet Union or any aspect thereof was rarely, if ever, criticised, lest it would upset the Soviet government.
The Soviet Union also intervened quite explicitly in Finnish politics a couple of times. In 1958 the Finnish parliamentary election had resulted in a coalition government deemed not desirable by the Soviet Union. The Night Frost Crisis, as it came to be called, ultimately ended with the government coalition resigning after then-president Urho Kekkonen forced his party, the Agrarian League (the predecessor of today's Centre Party), to leave the coalition. Another crisis, the 1961 Note Crisis, was only averted after Kekkonen spent three days talking down Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.
The political situation in general was quite unstable; up until the early 1980s, Finland changed governments so often that Italian governments almost seemed long-lived by comparison (well, that might be a slight exaggeration, but you get the picture).
Finlandisation, while having severely negative aspects, was ultimately the only path Finland could have taken that would have had a positive outcome. The alternative would have been becoming the fourth Baltic state, a former territory of the Russian empire that had briefly been independent in the period between the two World Wars, only to be re-annexed by the Soviet Union. There was no third option; the Soviet Union would never have accepted an aggressively pro-western Finland, and given Finland's previous history as mostly neutral entity, and given the abandonment of Finland during the Winter War, it would not have made much sense at any rate.
Which brings us to the Finland of today, which we can all agree is in pretty decent shape, with excellent education, health care, social safety net, several internationally successful companies, I could go on. Very little of this would have been even remotely possible had Finland been annexed by the Soviet Union in the aftermath of World War II. One would just have to compare Finland and the countries formerly behind the Iron Curtain. I say this not to cast the former Communist states as inferior nations, but clearly half a century of Communist rule has left its marks. The recent dust-up in Estonia over the placement of a statue is as indicative as anything of wounds that will take a long, long time to heal.
Comparing the least worst option for a minuscule country in dealing with a potentially hostile and militarily superior superpower to the situation of an oft maligned and vilified religious minority, as Podhoretz does, is just plain silly and completely misses the point.