Finlandisation: yesterday, today, tomorrow...

Finlandisation: yesterday, today, tomorrow...

By Viktor Denisenko

Finlandisation is a country’s political life which is not chosen but imposed to the country. Although this concept was created more than fifty years ago and is first of all related to the complicated relations between the Soviet Union and Finland after World War II, today this definition is often heard during the discussions about the international policy.  


The roots and the impact ofFinlandisation are much deeper than it might seem. After World War II Finland was forced to cede parts of its territory. The country paid the price for choosing the Nazi Germany as an ally. On the other hand, this choice could be understood, since by the end of 1939 Finland suffered the aggression of the Soviet Union and resisted occupation.


In 1948 Finland was forced to sign the Treaty on Cooperation and Mutual Assistance with the Soviet Union. According to the Treaty, Helsinki promised to pursue the strategy of neutrality and acknowledged the unique strategic interests of the Soviet Union. The Treaty in principle guaranteed that Finland will not become a front line of a possible military attack against the Soviet Union. In exchange, Finland was allowed to retain the capitalist vector of economic development and certain freedom of expression.


Finland became geopolitically dependent on Soviet Union: anti-Soviet films and books were prohibited, Helsinki reported to Moscow on Soviet Union citizens who tried to escape to the West via Finland. Finland‘s economy was also closely related to the Soviet Union. Such dependence allowed Finland to avoid incorporation in the soviet bloc but prevented from full integration to the Western world.


Such hybrid dependence when a subject is given certain pre-agreed freedom was defined as finlandisation. Finlandisation could have ended simultaneously with the collapse of the Soviet Union, but some of its principles and traces could be discerned in the current relations of Russia and Finland.


The legacy of  finlandisation in Finland itself was widely considered one year ago, i.e. in September 2014 when Finland decided to build a new nuclear power plant Fennovoima together with Russian state corporation „Rosatom“. At same time Finish Government didn‘t have uniform position concerning sanctions of the EU against Russia, although eventually supported these sanctions.


It should be noted that although Finland joined the EU in 1995, the country still pursues neutrality polity on military issues. On the other hand, Helsinki cannot ignore relevant geopolitical events in the region. In their context Finland gets closer to NATO although so far its membership in the Alliance is not considered. But Russia got irritated even with respect to this rapprochement: the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that the way security issues are dealt with mean actions against Russia, and that „confrontation“ is imposed to the citizen of neutral European countries (Finland and Sweden).


In 2015, after the elections to the Parliament in Finland, a ruling coalition of the centre-right was established. Differently from the former Government, new authorities highlighted that if necessary Finland could forget neutrality and join NATO.  So far this is just a statement aimed to calm down the Fins who are getting concerned about the country‘s security. On the other hand, such a position could be evaluated as an attempt to get rid of the legacy of  finlandisation in the area of security.


Long lasting  finlandisationleft visible  traces. Finland is still the most „pro-Russian“ country of Scandinavia. Partially it is due to the lobbyists of certain Russian interests in Finland supporting closer relations with Russia.  One of them is Johan Bäckman presenting himself as a protector of human rights. He represents the academic world and is a lecturer of several higher education institutions in Finland. His social activity is related to the „fight against Russophobia and Nazism“ in Finland and other countries (e.g. in Estonia) escalated by Russian propaganda. According to information published one year ago, Johan Bäckman was appointed representative of the Donetsk People‘s Republic in Finland.


Most often  finlandisation is perceived as a negative phenomenon. However, its ideas are still vital, and not only in Finland. For instance, in the context of Ukrainian crisis influential voices are pushing for the finlandisation of Ukraine. This would allow Moscow to retain the country in the zone of influence and prevent from integration to the Western economic and military structures. In exchange the Kremlin would allow Ukrainian authorities arrange certain matters and even help restore territorial integrity of the country in the East; and without any doubt Crimea will belong to Russia.


It must be noted that though  finlandisationof Ukraine is acceptable to the supporters of a moderate „lesser evil“ policy, it would hardly be supported in Ukraine itself. Maidan demonstrated that people of Ukraine are ready to fight for their own future. The exchange of sovereignty into conditional peace of mind would be considered as a betrayal of Ukrainian interests in the above situation.


But   finlandisation is attractive for Armenia. According to the political scientist Sergey Minasyan, although this process is not ideal for the development of international relations, it is the most secure principle. He believes that this is a natural Armenia‘s choice which might serve as an example for other post-Soviet countries.


Without any doubt, Russia would also support finlandisationsince this would give all the cards to its hands. But not all former Soviet republics are eager to play according to real politik (finlandisation could be attributed to this phenomenon) rules. Moreover that for the sake of its interests Moscow can easily break any agreements.






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