When evaluating the changing security developments and landscape bordering Russia vis-a-vis the Baltic states, Georgia and Ukraine, we can agree with Robert D. Kaplan that ”Geography hasn’t gone away” in world politics. It is well known that historically Russia has occupied by force territories due to de facto paranoia resulting from the Mongol era when Moscow-led Russia was attacked via flat lands bordering Russia. However, during the second world war the Soviet Union was attacked by Adolf Hitler this time from the west. Josif Stalin had agreed a Pact with Hitler on August 23rd 1939 to divide Europe into spheres of interests and made his country voluntarily a participant of the military exchange ”for strategic reasons”, i.e. to defend her imperium by starting enlarging its geopolitical influence in the Baltic region.
As a consequence, the Baltic states accepted the Russiain demand in the Autumn of 1939 as the Finns did not accept the peace terms by Stalin. As a consequence, the Winter War began on November 30th 1939 when the Red Army attacked Finland in order to occupy our country. The Soviets launched without warning bombing of the capital of Finland, Helsinki. The Soviet attack was ”requested” by the ”Kuusinen Puppet Government” to ”defend” or ”rescue” Finland, because the Finnish military had launched an attack against the Red army in Mainila a few days before, as the Soviet propaganda falsely insisted. The Soviet propaganda targeted the so called working class of Finland and the world media but failed. One can see elements of Today’s hybrid war in Ukraine and in other countries already involved in the preparatory phase of the Winter War.
Hitler’s Germany had accepted this attack in a secret protocol of the August Pact. There is a document in the Finnish Foreign Ministry, a letter of the Finnish Minister to the Vichy Government 1942 indicating that German military advisors were co-operating with the Red army during the war that ended on March 13,1940 perhaps mainly as a result of the threat of the Daladier Government of France to open a front against the Soviet Union and help Finland with a troop contingent of 50 000 soldiers. The source of the letter was an Italian General who had been working with his German colleagues. One letter does not, of course, prove the story true, but makes sense as an indication that the whole truth about the background of the Winter war still needs more serious research.
In Finland history as well as geography plays a role when the clear majority of the political elite refers to the 1300 km long border with Russia as the key factor defining our country’s security policy still in 2015. Many Finns believe that this border remains peaceful as result of foreign and security policy that was ”a success story” during the cold war, and nothing to do with Nato’s role as a counterforce against the Soviet Union, and remained so after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Although Finland joined the EU in 1995 she has rejected Nato membership. Finns like to say that their country is a producer not a consumer of security. However, this slogan is not so much valid anymore. The big picture of security environment has dramatically changed since the annexation of Crimea last year and was coming already years before. The political elite likes now to emphasize the need to deepen military co-operation with the Nordic countries,the EU and why not also with Nato as well as to strengthen our independent defence. The producer of security needs to be so to say strengthened to become a producer of security again.At the moment Finland is more a kind of new consumer of security instead.
The step to join Nato is still very much being rejected. Therefore the Russian media welcomed the results of the parliamentary elections on April 19th. Why? Because the winners - the Centre Party and the Finns Party - want like the losers of the elections,the Social democrats and the Leftist Union, to keep Finland outside Nato. Also the rather strong Green party has been rejecting Nato membership. This rejection is basically based on two factors. First, these parties have not recognised realistically the changes of Russia early enough. The war in Georgia in 2008 was commented by Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen as being a ”separate issue” that should not be dramatized. The Green politicians in 2010 wanted the Finnish army to follow the ”Swedish model”, with other words to be reduced in terms of its size and strategy ”because climate change is the biggest security threat”, as member of the parliament Osmo Soininvaara defined. Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja of Social Democrats had described the buying of 64 Hornet F/18 fighters in 1991 as the most stupid military deal Finland has ever arranged. He has been the most influential critical voice of any effort to even launch a discussion about Nato membership. He has warned publicly that membership would threaten stability in the North of Europe.The same language was commonly used by former President Tarja Halonen of that same party. ”There is not one single reason why Finland should join Nato”, she stated in her farewell addresses in 2012 after two terms as President was come to end.
The writer of this blog has drawn a slightly different conclusion in his recent book Etupiirin ote, 2014, Gummerus, (Under the The Sphere of Influence - Finnish-Russian relations on the border of Europe from 1700 to 2014) and proposed an analytical study about the pros and cons of Nato membership of Finland. Actually, this proposal was put forward by this blogger already in October 2000,but was strongly criticised. Also any effort to start serious discussion of the problems of ”Finlandization" were rejected although without this debate no real discussion of Finland’s security is meaningful. The blogger had served as Deputy Coordinator of the Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe between 1999 and 2000 in Brussels and served as a team member of the Ahtisaari negotiations with Slobodan Milosevic in June 1999 because he had been advisor to the President since 1994. It was clear that the European security system had to be strengthened and the Stability Pact played its role in this respect SE Europe.
Furthermore, Russia was herself considering also the option of membership as Harvard Professor Angela A. Stent has revealed in her master work Limits of Partnership last year. The proposal of this blogger in 2000 was made in order to develop Nato to become also a major European security structure perhaps even Russia included. This year we are talking about strengthening of national defence with membership instead. In Finland, however, many experts and leftist as well as centrist and green politicians had earlier condemned the bombings of Nato in the spring 1999 in former Yugoslavia. No talk about a constructive role of Nato in the European security system. On the contrary, the role of Nato should be limited and in case any new component of common European military, then, through the European union,but only for peacekeeping type of operations. A strange and unjustified anti-Nato debate took place and the support for membership collapsed to under 20%. Strange because without Nato involvement a collapse of stability in the Western Balkans would have taken place and perhaps a ground war would have broken out with millions of refugees.
The Finns with their optimism with respect to Russia were not alone. The global elite — leading academics, intellectuals, foreign policy analysts, foundation heads and corporate power brokers, as well as many Western leaders — may largely have forgotten about power politics. Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt in January 2014 - seven weeks before the annexation of Crimea by Russia - in Sälen in the security conference stated that no real military conflict in Europe was feasible. Actually Sweden had made a major defence reform since 2004 by cutting arms and soldiers by 50 to 90% in various categories. This size of disarmament in our western neighbourhood of course was based on a wrong analysis of security developments and had a negative impact on security of Finland too.
But what we are witnessing now is geography’s real revenge: in the East-West struggle for control of the buffer state of Ukraine, in the post–Arab Spring fracturing of artificial Middle Eastern states into ethnic and sectarian fiefs and in the unprecedented arms race being undertaken by East Asian states as they dispute potentially resource-rich waters. ”Technology hasn’t negated geography; it has only made it more precious and claustrophobic”, as it was stated in Time Magazine recently.
Finland can not escape the changes in her security environment. The doctrine used during the cold war cannot be applied as such anymore. As a member of the EU, Finland is pursuing the goals of the EU vis-à-vis Russia. There are a number of purely bilateral, and less political issues that can and must be tackled every day. Yet the strategy of Vladimir Putin for years to come seems to be clear. Russia must be strengthened militarily to the class of ”military superpower” in order to change the global order as part of it being the weakening of the EU and transatlantic ties. Finland is located on the side of Europe, not Eurasia, but certainly one of the targets of Russia´s new geo-strategy applied for her bordering countries and methods to be used for achieving these goals : ”hybrid war”. That is why the warm welcoming comments from the Russian media concerning the Finnish elections. Is this a first step of a hybrid war targeted Finland or a truly friendly attitude of the Putin administration. Perhaps Russia will take her troops away from newly opened Alakurtti military site near the border of Finland and stop marine and air activity in the Baltic Sea accordingly.
"The more you understand the world, the higher your chance of shaping it".
Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.
Valtiotieteen tohtori, suurlähettiläs, tasavallan presidentin entinen neuvonantaja, professori ja kirjailija.
Kirjoituksia saa lainata. Lähde on mainittava.