Welcome to the new version of European Tribune. It's just a new layout, so everything should work as before - please report bugs here.

On Finlandisation

by NordicStorm 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.

Display:
is just plain silly and completely misses the point

Neocon-art in a nutshell.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 14th, 2007 at 05:31:32 PM EST
we won World War III and were therefore spared the depredations that Finlandization would have brought

Translation:
Losing is Finlandization. Compromise is Finlandization. Only the weak looses or compromises. Weakness is feminine. Toughness is masculine. Therefore the really manly mans can never loose! If you believe US can loose you are a sissy! Or a european sissy! Nananana!

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Thu Jun 14th, 2007 at 05:48:14 PM EST
Smart moves by Finland I'd say.  Wonderful place today, and as you point out, it may have been much different if Finland had taken a different course. It's well past the time that the term "Finlandization" should have been dumped. Maybe Mr. Podhoretz is living in the past.  Let's hope so.

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears
by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Thu Jun 14th, 2007 at 11:06:32 PM EST
of ProgressiveHistorians, a community site dedicated to the intersection of history and politics, I would be honored if you would cross-post this excellent diary there.

The Crolian Progressive: as great an adventure as ever I heard of...
by Nonpartisan on Fri Jun 15th, 2007 at 01:16:27 AM EST
I'd be delighted to.
Now x-posted @ Progressive Historians. Thanks for the invite!

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" - Oscar Wilde
by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Fri Jun 15th, 2007 at 03:09:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Earlier this year I did the English voiceover for a DVD called 'The Battle for Finland'. I am not sure when it will be released.

The DVD tells the story of the 3 wars that Finland fought - the Winter war, and the Continuation war fought against the Soviets and the Lapland war against the retreating German army as it laid waste revengefully to Lapland. It is largely animated maps and talking heads of witnesses. There are few of these witnesses still alive, but they do have a special place in Finnish society.

No wonder - many of them fought in battles against overwhelming odds in men and materiel. But they are quiet heroes. There is no swagger. It was something that had to be done, but it was a horror.

The Finns invented the Molotov cocktail, because they didn't have enough tanks to guard the invasion routes into Finland. Small groups of Finnish soldiers would live underground for weeks on end near these routes in impossible conditions - living off the forest. When tanks came, they would run out, jump on them and pop a cocktail down the turret. Or shove a log betwen the tracks. Most of them died - but they prevented many advances.

It would be stupid of me to compare these actions to Iraq. But in one aspect there are similarities. The Finns passionately believed in the defence of their way of life and they knew the territory intimately. They were up against troops from all over the Soviet Union, many of whom were untrained for winter warfare, and were treated as cannon fodder. They had little understanding of the culture that they were up against.

The Finns have never glorified the wars they fought. But they have respected the men, and hundreds of women (Lotta Svärd ), for their sacrifice in the defence of Finnish independence.

The Winter War: Finnish losses 24,300 dead, 43,600 wounded
The Continuation war: Finnish losses 65,000 dead. 142,000 wounded
The Lapland War: Finnish losses 1000 dead. 2900 wounded

General of the Infantry Adolf Erik Ehrnrooth, Knight of the Mannerheim Cross no. 162: "Finland is a good country and worth defending, and her only defenders are the Finnish people."

Finland was the only country in WWII that attempted to bring all its fallen back to be buried in their home parish.

Finland lost 12% of its territory.
450,000 people from these territories had to be resettled in Finland

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Jun 15th, 2007 at 02:24:33 AM EST
Sounds like an interesting project. Looking forward to it!

One could also compare the standard of living in Finland to the one in former Finnish territory, for example the in old Finnish and now Russian city of Vyborg (birth place of former president Martti Ahtisaari, if I'm not mistaken). The difference is quite stark.

(obviously I don't mean to bash Russia, but I'm merely pointing out that the standard of living is significantly higher in Finland...)

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" - Oscar Wilde

by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Fri Jun 15th, 2007 at 03:17:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This may be the result of a deliberate policy to create a wider border area.

However I believe the overall understanding displayed in Finland toward today's Russia - in spite of numerous little spats on various trade issues - is very useful to Europe. The trade is obviously very valuable for Finland.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Jun 15th, 2007 at 03:55:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not widely known about here where we can't let another anniversary go by without another bloody flypast and nostalgia fest.

We wallow in the past because we can't bear the present and don't think about the future.

What proportion of the Finnish population did all those deaths represent, btw?

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Fri Jun 15th, 2007 at 06:00:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If I recall correctly, the population was in the 3.5 - 4 million range (Wikipedia seems to agree). For comparison's sake, there's about 5.2 million of us today.
Certainly some in-the-past-wallowing going on here as well, there are some who clamour for returning the lost territories to Finland. It's a rather small minority without any significant political support, though.

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" - Oscar Wilde
by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Fri Jun 15th, 2007 at 06:21:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So c. 2.5% loss.

Still, bringing home all the dead may have been an easier job than for countries with fallen in the hundreds of thousands or in the millions.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Jun 28th, 2007 at 06:38:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What was that?  

The Fates are kind.
by Gaianne on Fri Jun 15th, 2007 at 05:12:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Finland fought two wars against the Soviet Union as an 'ally' of Germany, but then came with an armistice and harsh terms....

"The third war Finland had to fight was the Lapland War, where we were now up against our once brothers in arms. How we ended up in this situation was neither the Finns' nor the Germans' fault. It was the Finnish-Soviet armistice that was the culprit. The Soviet Union had insisted on a clause requiring Finns to disarm the Germans that were still within Finnish territory. This had to be completed in virtually no time and to top it off, the final provision of the clause stated that the Red Army was ready and able to provide assistance. And so we had no other choice except to start fighting because there were Soviet troops at three locations on Finnish territory, poised to intervene. Had this been allowed to happen, Finland would have been occupied."

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Jun 15th, 2007 at 05:32:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Germans basically went scorched earth on us as they withdrew. The northern city of Rovaniemi was completely destroyed, for example.

And then they wonder why we're so anti-war. Pfff.

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" - Oscar Wilde

by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Sat Jun 16th, 2007 at 04:25:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Has anyone see the film by Alexander Rogozhkin Kukushka released in the US under the title "Cuckoo?"  

A former history student, Rogozhkin was intrigued by the Continuation War, a protraction of the Russo-Finnish Winter War and part of the greater WWII conflict. The cease-fire with the Soviet Union began officially Sept. 4, 1944, although forces on both sides continued firing until the next morning. This is when the film's story begins.

Unaware of the conflict's end, one Soviet Army officer and one Finnish soldier are imprisoned in the wilderness for different, unexplained reasons. They escape through a mix of effort and circumstance, and end up in the hut of a lonely but spirited Saami woman who does not take sides, but takes care of - and comes to love - them both. Rogozhkin wanted to go beyond the story of three people converging in the hinterlands of war, to create a situation where three people speak three different languages but come to understand one another in other ways.



She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Fri Jun 15th, 2007 at 06:00:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I did, and recommened it on ET.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Jun 28th, 2007 at 06:43:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I vote we rename "Finladisation" Latin-Americanization, for the obvious reason that Latin America has been "Finlandized" for the past 150 years, with only a few - and other than in the case of Cuba, always short lived - exceptions. Just to add some perspective.

If you can't convince them, confuse them. (Harry S. Truman)
by brainwave on Fri Jun 15th, 2007 at 09:17:54 AM EST
Iraqization - "the botched attempt by a superpower to bring another country under its undue influence, resulting in the utter destruction of that country and the political and military self-emasculation of the superpower" :-(

If you can't convince them, confuse them. (Harry S. Truman)
by brainwave on Fri Jun 15th, 2007 at 09:22:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
aka the Bush Doctrine

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" - Oscar Wilde
by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Fri Jun 15th, 2007 at 09:38:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Iraqtion maybe?

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson
by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Fri Jun 15th, 2007 at 09:41:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]


If you can't convince them, confuse them. (Harry S. Truman)
by brainwave on Fri Jun 15th, 2007 at 10:13:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Excellent diary! One small comment:

Another crisis, the 1961 Note Crisis, was only averted after Kekkonen spent three days talking down Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.

The Note Crisis could be called a manufactured crisis. Kekkonen was an expert on playing the Soviet card. Before the crisis Kekkonen had suggested to Moscow that he could use some help in defeating his opponent in the 1962 elections, Olavi Honka. The plan was to create a crisis and make the situation look like Kekkonen is the only one capable of negotiating with the Soviets. No-one knows what exactly was decided between Kekkonen and Moscow, but the "Crisis" made sure that he was re-elected. St. Urho he was not.

(Jussila, Hentilä, Nevakivi: Suomen poliittinen historia, pages 254-256)

You have a normal feeling for a moment, then it passes. --More--

by tzt (tzt) on Fri Jun 15th, 2007 at 12:31:02 PM EST
Thanks!
I knew the Soviet Union liked Kekkonen to remain power, but apparently I've missed that aspect of Kekkonen's part in the crisis. Kekkonen certainly did go to quite great lengths to remain in power, though.

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" - Oscar Wilde
by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Sat Jun 16th, 2007 at 04:19:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Finlandisation was a process whereby a tiny nation with a population of a mid-sized city managed to retain her independence from a large and powerful neighbor with whom she shared a 1000 km border.  No one else managed that feat.  This is one of the great triumphs of the human imagination ever in history.  In the process, this tiny nation became one of the most modern, most admired, nation-states on planet earth.

By contrast, Mr. Norman Podhoretz's pet project, the state of Israel, is easily the most reviled country on earth.  So of course, this intellectual midget is given a forum in the Wall Street Journal to slander one of history's most successful experiments in statecraft.

Sheesh!

Oh Mr. Norman Podhoretz, PLEASE let us know more about your ideas on how to get on in this world by driving your neighbors into a murderous rage.  This is SUCH a superior strategy to actually getting along with your neighbors that whole countries should be slandered.

NOT!

"Remember the I35W bridge--who needs terrorists when there are Republicans"

by techno (reply@elegant-technology.com) on Sat Jun 16th, 2007 at 10:39:58 AM EST
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

Pointed question: would this have been possible if Finland joined the West(NATO/US sphere of influence)?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Jun 28th, 2007 at 06:35:21 AM EST
(NATO countries) Norway and Denmark are in pretty decent shape as well, so possibly.
I'd say it's a moot question, though, given that that wouldn't have been possible at any rate.
Why there are certain politicians hellbent on having us join NATO now beats the hell out of me...

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" - Oscar Wilde
by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Thu Jun 28th, 2007 at 06:53:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]


Display:
Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]

Top Diaries