Uma dessas mudanças repentinas nas relações internacionais, nos livros de história, na posição internacional da Finlândia, e provavelmente em breve da Suécia.
Finland’s Position Is One of the Big Surprises of the Ukraine Invasion
Finlandization is officially over.
For decades, my country has had to walk a fine, fine line between USSR/Russia and Europe. How do we become a developed country and a part of Europe, without angering these guys on the eastern border that could just come back and invade us at any moment?
In the Cold War, that delicate dance gave us and the international media a new concept: Finlandization. It described how a nation gave up on a part of its sovereignty to maintain its independence. Kind of keeping it in name, but sacrificing all important decisions to what Khrushchev or the Politburo wanted. If we got a thumbs down, like we did in the Night Frost Crisis of 1958 or the Note Crisis of 1961, we retreated.
Our President Urho Kaleva Kekkonen was the leader in charge of Finlandizing our foreign policy, and he remained in power for 26 years, from 1956 to 1982. In my opinion, no president has fresh ideas to improve his country for a quarter cetruy, but at least he was on good terms with the Kremlin.
We’ve since implemented a two-term limit for the presidency and gotten rid of the electoral college, so I guess we can sort of thank Kekkonen for overstaying his welcome. And the truth is, had Finland not done what the USSR wanted in those days, we might not have been able to keep our country.
Things do sometimes change for the better, if you wait them out. In the Cold War decades, Finland went from a backward and largely rural country that had just lost a terrible war, to a prosperous Nordic welfare state. Inching closer to Europe, little by little.
After the Soviet Union disintegrated we were finally ready to make our new position official, and in 1995 we joined the EU.
But we’ve always remained on good terms with the Russians, careful to not anger our important trading partner who just might, you know, one day decide to invade us again.
As long as I can remember, our NATO position has been an issue in every Finnish election. Political candidates have been asked about their opinions toward the organization — and toward Russia — but it still hasn’t been a topic people seriously considered.
Why? Because us Finns, like much of the rest of Europe, have spent the past couple of decades under the impression that Russia could somehow be managed or kept under control. That modern-day Russia isn’t the same as the Russian Empire or the Soviet Union.
Well, that changed in a matter of days in February of this year.
I’ve personally always been against NATO membership, thinking it was unnecessary and wouldn’t really help if times truly got tough. I’m not sure I still think being part of the defensive alliance would help, but what’s become clear in these past two months is that Finns are now overwhelmingly in favor.
Even the Green Party, traditionally against expanding military spending, is now looking at the US-led military alliance for safety guarantees. All this is happening despite Russia’s dire warnings that it might cause the Kremlin to “rebalance the situation.”
Finnish decision-makers of all political colors have been under fire lately for their relationships with Russia. In a very “gotcha” way, reporters have been dragging out old statements from politicians, demanding answers about why they were so wrong.
President Tarja Halonen, a social democrat who maintained a friendship with Vladimir Putin, has been criticized for not evaluating the situation correctly, while former center-right PM Alexander Stubb has taken great pleasure in Finland’s new position.
Current PM Sanna Marin has lamented that Finland remains dependent on Russian gas and is forced to finance the war. The truth is that appeasing Russia is our long-standing policy. Many of us wanted to believe Putin could be dealt with. That Russia could become something different from what it has always been.
But guess who didn’t agree? The guy in his bunker, who doesn’t really care about our modern-day Finlandization.
How About a European Defense Alliance?
Another interesting thing about the last two months is that, thanks to the people of Ukraine, the EU is becoming popular again.
It’s no secret for anybody following European politics that there have long been important Euro-skeptic factions. This phenomenon is as old as the EU, and not just limited to Brexit.
Many consider the EU as unnecessary spending. Others, including the far-right, consider the intermission of a supranational entity in our affairs as a threat to our independence. “They’re trying to build a European Federation,” ultra-nationalist factions warned.
Um, so what? It’s not like Europe was always a continent with fifty independent states? Political and economic structures are never eternal. And, as a person born and raised in a borderless Europe, I can say the EU is pretty damn convenient.Especially for young people who want to travel and see other cultures.
Anyway, a European defense system would always have been out of the question when even the smallest concessions to the Union were seen as a threat to our sovereignty. Now, I don’t see it (or this interesting idea of an Eastern European one) as an impossible affair anymore. Especially if we don’t achieve NATO membership due to resistance by current members, such as Orbán’s Hungary, or we find it doesn't solve our problems when we need it.
Because right now, the threat to Finland and other countries bordering Russia is real, and we’re finally taking it seriously.
And because those brave, determined Ukrainians have shown us that what we have is worth it. That Europe is not just about convenient travel and work opportunities. It’s also about ideals, and freedom. Things Ukraine has been fighting for, non-stop, since Euromaidan. We owe them so much.
This is the opposite of Finlandization. It’s the end of appeasement. It’s a choice.