As the Finnish launches a process to consider the nation’s Nato membership, while the frightening news from the war in Ukraine floods the media, all of us living in the country need to stop and think how we got into this situation and where to turn now.
Perhaps we also need to reflect why we have not sought to join Nato earlier.
This is not the first time Russia has invaded a neighboring country in recent times. We might mention the invasion of Afganistan for which many Western nations boycotted the Moscow Olympics. But not Finland.
Then we might mention the invasion of Georgia, the occupation of Czechoslovakia – even the bloody suppressions of a pre-independence uprisings in Chechenia and Hungary.
Admittedly all these had their unique historical. and geopolitical circumstances. But there were two things common to them all, A. They were events that shocked and upset many Finns when they occurred. B. No Finnish government ever even suggested we should consider joining Nato because of them.
The suffering caused by the Russian invasion and the flight of about two million refugees is certainly extremely upsetting. More so because of our modern access to graphic coverage in mainstream and social media. The public’s empathetic response to the victims of war is understandable and commendable.
But his cannot be the main reason for why the government now wants to consider joining Nato. The past conflicts were also frightening in their day and the invaders often ever crueler.
An explanation might be found in the doctrine espoused by President Juho Paasikivi after the last war – adopted by his successor- President Urho Kekkonen- that maintaining cordial relations with the country’s biggest neighbor was the cornerstone of Finnish foreign relations. Finland should always remain a non-aligned nation between East and West. From crises to crises this was an edict repeated by both Russian and Finnish leaders that kept peace on the border.
What is different this time? Ostensibly nothing. The border remains quiet and Russia has not made any invasion threats except for Putins warnings about supporting Ukraine’s war effort and joining Nato, which would have “consequences”. This is hardly different from previous conflicts. But Finland stayed out of them and the long peace went on.
Now in less than two weeks the government of Sanna Marin has changed all that. First with arms shipments to Ukraine and now by beginning this process to consider Nato membership. All the textbooks about the virtues of Finland’s non-alignment, it’s internationally recognized role as peacekeeper and the convenor of the Helsinki Conference which created detente between East and West – all gone out the window with hardly a headline from the lemming media ready to eat out of Marin’s and President Sauli Niinisto’s hand.
Why Nato now? This question cries out to be asked but the Finnish media is not asking it.
In 2015 during and after the Maidan crises which led to the ouster of a Ukrainian President favoring good relations with Russians the US Congress and the Canadian Government, both Nato countries, decided not to provide weapons to elements of Ukraine military like the Azov Battalion and Right Sector because of neo-Nazi propaganda and symbols. The US Undersecretary of State, Victoria Nuland, was citied by many credible sources, like the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute, as being the key manipulator in the 2014 coup to remove Ukraine’s president which led many of the country’s Russians to flee to Donetsk and Luhansk in the East which subsequently declared independence. This began a civil war in Ukraine and may have shocked Nato countries like the U.S. and Canada to stop arms support to right-wing military elements.- although in 2015 the US changed its mind. Apparently getting at Russians was the priority.
Did Finland set any restrictions to exclude confessed neonazis from arms shipments it was sending to Ukraine? Restrictions which two Nato countries had adopted after what was obviously considerable intelligence work. Apparently not.
Finland had just agreed to purchase five dozen modern fighter jets from the leading Nato power. Hardly a member of parliament, particularly on the government side, was able to avoid the crowd of US military lobbyists which swooped down on them before the deal was closed. One might suspect all these pro-Nato visitors, could have something to do with the government’s willingness to now begin considering joining up.
Do we really want to be mixed up in arms shipments which might get in the hands of neo-Nazis in a war apparently started by pro-Nato spooks and cladestine diplomacy maneuvers? Just one example of the kinds of intrigues and illegalities carried out worldwide by the lead Nato power and other members, as exposed by the revelations of Assange and Snowden.
All signs indicate the trouble in Ukraine is to a large extent due to the machinations of the US and it’s Nato-expanding allies. And in many other places besides which they have invaded and bombed at a great cost in human suffering- like Irak, Afghanistan and Salvador to name a few. Is this the sort of league Finland wants to get involved in for security reasons? Particularly now when Russian has militantly reacted to Nato expansion and neo-Nazism- even if these reasons might be somewhat exaggerated?
Might not continued humanitarian help and a comitted peace diplomacy- something which seems in short supply right now- offer a better way?
Is this uncertain and risky choice to cozy up to Nato really preferrable to seventy years of peace and security based on a policy of non-alignment and peacebuilding during which Finns have prospered and for which they have gained the admiration of the world?