In the last few decades political observers in the West have begun to take an increasing interest in Finnish policy. Many have been bewildered by the fact that this policy cannot readily be fitted into any of the usual categories. Finland`s position as a neutral country is now widely acknowledged. At the same time, a `special relationship` with the Soviet Union has been built into that neutrality. It is formally confirmed by the Finnish-Soviet Treaty of Friendship, Co-operation and Mutual Assistance signed in 1948 and prolonged by 25 years in 1955. Finland`s Soviet policy has not prevented her, however, from cultivating active relations with Western countries and in particular with her Scandinavian neighbours. Finland is commonly, and especially in the United Nations, considered to be a member of the Nordic group. At present, Finland has one of the Western European seats in the United Nations Security Council.
Regarded conventionally, the Finnish position may seem to suffer from inner contradictions, though perhaps less so now than when the `Cold War` was at its height. In fact, when President Kekkonen addressed the National Press Club in Washington in 1961 he referred to `the Finnish paradox`, but added: `The present international situation has features that perhaps could best be explained or at least analysed by way of paradox.` The Finnish paradox defies the human need for simplification. Finland is still sometimes depicted by foreign observers as a `satellite`, totally dependent on the Soviet Union. Sometimes, again, Finnish foreign policy is painted as a shrewd struggle against the encroachments of her powerful neighbour. Neither simplification is true.
On the whole, however, leading politicians and unbiased observers in the West are agreed that Finnish foreign policy is a true exposition of the national interests of the country and a contribution to European peace and security. In spite of this, more subtle misunderstandings sometimes creep into the appraisals of highly qualified observers. Small countries at times further their interests by playing the great powers off against one another. Finnish foreign policy, on the other hand, is built on the hypothesis that great power interests are complementary rather than antagonistic, at least as far as Finland is concerned. Good relations with the Soviet Union are a precondition for the development by Finland of close relations with the West. President Kekkonen pointed this out in his Washington speech (p. 87). He also stressed that a deterioration in Finnish-Soviet relations would serve the interests of no one. `It would, of course, do no practical harm to the Soviet Union, it would be of no benefit to any foreign power and it would not help Finland in the least. Quite the contrary` (p. 75). The Western powers would be neither able nor willing to give Finland effective support against the Soviet Union. Nor would Finland be willing to accept support that would place her in the very dangerous position of an `outpost` against the Soviet Union. Therefore, when for some reason or other signs of a political crisis between Finland and its Eastern neighbour have appeared, as in 1958 and 1961, Finland has always sought to solve the problems without outside support. By always treating issues that arise in her relations with the Soviet Union bilaterally, Finland has tried to show the Soviet Union that her policy does not serve any foreign interests.
Dr. Urho Kekkonen, who was first elected President of Finland in 1956 and has since been re-elected in 1962 and 1968, and his renowned predecessor President J. K. Paasikivi, have been the chief architects of the post-war foreign policy of Finland. This collection of Dr. Kekkonen`s most important speeches may therefore be regarded as the most authoritative extant statement of Finnish foreign policy. I would like to stress in particular that Dr. Kekkonen was intimately concerned with the framing of foreign policy for more than a decade before he was elected to his present office; first as Minister of Justice when the terms of the Armistice Agreement with the Allies had to be implemented, and later, in the 1950s, as Prime Minister of five cabinets. Practically all the developments of the post-war period can be read in these speeches.
President Kekkonen`s speeches are usually far from routine. Sharp analysis rather than conventional rhetoric is the keynote. Nor does he shun the controversial. He can be biting, defiant of criticism at home or abroad, taking the offensive against opinions that in his view are injurious to Finnish national interests. In short, apart from their importance as a key to present Finnish politics and policy, they contain much of interest for every student of international relations in the world today.
The present foreign policy of Finland rests on the foundations laid by Paasikivi in the early post-war years when the creation of a new relationship with the Soviet Union was an urgent necessity. This is well known, but how this policy has developed during the thirteen years of Dr. Kekkonen`s presidency, a period of rapid international change, has perhaps been less well ventilated. The main features of this development might be summarized as follows:
1) Maintenance of the basic tenets of Paasikivi`s policy towards Russia, even in difficult situations.
2) Adaptation to the broadening perspectives resulting from membership of the United Nations, moves towards the economic integration of Europe, and the emergence of the `Third World`.
3) An active Scandinavian policy, stressing the importance of reducing political tensions in that part of the world.
4) Increased emphasis on Finland`s role as a neutral state, backed by the goodwill that neutrality has earned both in the Soviet Union and among Western powers.
5) Combination of `active` neutrality on issues where no controversial interests of the big powers are involved --e.g. United Nations peace-keeping work -- with refusal to take stands on issues where a conflict of interest exists between the super powers.
Dr. Kekkonen`s speech in Stockholm in December 1943, which is included in this volume, is one of the best introductions to the present policy of Finland towards the Soviet Union. In reading it, one should bear in mind that it was delivered at a time when Finland was still at war with the Soviet Union and the future of the country was very much in doubt. After reviewing the relations between Finland and her Soviet neighbour up to the outbreak of World War II, Dr. Kekkonen pointed out that if Finland should choose to protect her interests by joining an alliance against the Soviet Union, she would have to bear the brunt of war without being powerful enough to influence the decisions on war and peace made by the leading powers of the alliance. `Hence Finland`s national interests do not permit ties nor the pursuit of alignment with an anti-Russian policy.` (pp. 29-30). The solution must be found in a policy of neutrality that can win the confidence of the Soviet Union. In its essentials, the formula written into this speech is the same as the one pronounced by Prime Minister J. K. Paasikivi in his famous Independence Day speech in 1944, shortly after the armistice: `It is my conviction that it is a fundamental interest of this nation that Finnish foreign policy in the future will never be directed against the Soviet Union.`
Present Finnish-Soviet relations gained legal expression in the Paris Peace Treaty of 1947 and the Treaty of Cooperation, Friendship and Mutual Assistance of 1948. The terms of the latter need no repetition here, for they are examined in detail in one of President Kekkonen`s speeches (pp. 184-186). It should, however, be mentioned that Finland`s obligations are strictly limited to the defence of her own territory, and military consultations between the two countries will not be an automatic procedure but will occur only after negotiations between the signatories and under strictly defined conditions. The preamble to the treaty includes a recognition of Finland`s desire to remain outside great power conflicts. According to President Kekkonen, this is the first legal document in which Finnish neutrality is recognized (p. 67).
The text of the 1948 treaty is based on the draft suggested by the Finnish Government during the negotiations in 1948. The Soviet Government originally proposed a much more far-reaching formula, analogous to the treaties concluded by the Soviet Union with Hungary and Roumania a little earlier. But Stalin accepted the Finnish counter-proposition. This illustrates an important feature of Finland`s attitude to proposals initiated by the Soviet Union. As a rule, Soviet proposals have been neither accepted regularly nor rejected out of hand. Instead, and when necessary, the Finnish Government has advanced its own alternative proposals. Thus, through compromise and negotiation results have been achieved that have not been unilaterally dictated by the more powerful party, nor blocked by obstinate refusals on the part of the weaker country.
There is still one aspect of Russo-Finnish relations that needs to be mentioned: the psychological. `Confidence` is a key word in President Kekkonen`s speeches, as it was in those of his predecessor Paasikivi. It is not enough to proclaim neutrality or good intentions. It is also necessary to enjoy the confidence of the other party. Finland had been a neutral country before World War II as well. But she had failed to gain the confidence of the Soviet Government, which continually suspected Finland of being a puppet of Germany or the Western powers. Confidence is a psychological quality that is the outcome of a very complex process. It depends not only on the behaviour of governments but also of private citizens. Co-existence between a great country with the political system of the Soviet Union and a small country like Finland, where a Western democratic system rules, can obviously give rise to problems. Some of President Kekkonen`s main speeches deal with the problem of the relationship between Finnish domestic politics and foreign policy, and the repercussions on relations with the Soviet neighbour of the expression of certain Finnish opinions (e.g., pp. 69-78, and pp. 134-142). On the other hand, the President emphasizes the fact that relations with the Soviet Union have no ideological undertones. The Finns continue to prefer their traditional Nordic democracy to the Communist system.
Finnish foreign policy mirrors the geographical location of the country between Russia and Scandinavia. Culturally, Finland belongs to the Nordic countries. It also co-operates with them in a number of fields, and since 1955 has been a member of the Nordic Council. This includes foreign relations: `There is what I would like to call a Scandinavian point of view on world affairs that transcends differences of foreign policy` (p. 91) . In spite of this, the five Nordic countries have resolved their security problems in different ways: Denmark, Iceland and Norway have joined NATO, Sweden and Finland remain neutral, with Finland linked to the Soviet Union by the clauses of the 1948 treaty. President Kekkonen has shown a keen interest in the security problems of Northern Europe. Back in 1952 he pointed to the possibility of a common Nordic neutrality which, he stressed, did not exclude the special relationship between Finland and the Soviet Union as defined in the 1948 treaty (pp. 53-57). He has subsequently returned to that line of thinking by suggesting the feasibility of a nuclear-free zone in Northern Europe (pp. 143-145), and arrangements that would exclude all military operations in the Finnish-Norwegian frontier zone in the event of a general war (pp. 188-189). These proposals are still unofficial because of the small likelihood of their acceptance at present by the Nordic governments in NATO. I feel that it would be a mistake to regard these suggestions as representing the hard core of current Finnish foreign policy towards the country`s Western neighbours. They should be conceived, rather, as a sort of long-term plan, an indicator of the direction in which Finland would like to see things move in Northern Europe. In fact, in spite of the different political orientation of the individual Nordic countries, there exists a kind of agreement to keep Northern Europe a `low-tension area`, and not to allow the Nordic countries to be overly involved in the power blocs. This can be read into President Kekkonen`s argumentation in his negotiations with Khrushchev in Novosibirsk in November, 1961 (pp. 102109).
The world has undergone tremendous changes during President Kekkonen`s time in office. The earth has shrunk, no country can contemplate isolation from world affairs. Finland has succeeded in strengthening her ties westward in the field of trade in particular. She has joined EFTA as an associate member, and since become a full member of OECD. Finland has been officially recognized as a neutral country by the Soviet Union at least since 1956, and her neutrality has also been acknowledged in declarations -- generally in connection with the President`s official visits to foreign capitals -- by leading statesmen of the United States, Britain, France and other powers. While these declarations per se have no legal force, their political import should not be underrated. `The official statements and communiques containing these expressions of recognition are not just high-sounding phrases,` the President stated in November, 1962. `They define in fact the whole attitude of the big powers to questions concerning Finland. They have, therefore, a direct influence on the conduct of our foreign affairs` (p. 134).
Finnish neutrality has been characterized as an `active` neutrality; the country does not avoid taking a visible part in world affairs, and does not shirk her international responsibilities. It may be appropriate, finally, to refer to the speech given by President Kekkonen before the General Assembly of the United Nations in October 1961. Here he defines the `doctor`s role` that Finland would be prepared to accept in international affairs. `We see ourselves as physicians rather than judges; it is not for us to pass judgement nor to condemn, it is rather to diagnose and to try to cure` (p. 94). This line is the most important `ideological` definition of Finland`s role in the global scene; by refusing to play `judge`, Finland registers her desire to abstain from taking a stand on resolutions designed to serve polemic argument rather than a peaceful solution of conflicts. It is also a consequence of the wish to remain outside power bloc conflicts, an attitude that has sometimes attracted criticism from various political quarters in Finland. The President`s statement in fact contains an implicit defence of the official foreign policy of Finland.
The positive part of this line of thinking lies in the `doctor`s role`. It is no idle term. Finland has been active, especially in the security forces of the United Nations. She was represented in the UN emergency force that was sent to the Middle East after the Suez crisis, and Finnish troops have been with the UN forces in Cyprus since 1964. This international activity does, of course, serve the dual purpose of furthering the cause of international peace and underscoring Finland`s own position as a neutral country. Finland has also been active in the non-political work of the United Nations and its affiliated organizations. Its policy has got a recent expression in the Finnish Government`s initiative to hold a European security conference in Helsinki. The opening of the first SALT negotiations in the Finnish capital also underlined the country`s position. The doctor`s role, however, is an exacting one. It demands patience and knowledge. And, of course, it is reduced almost to nil in the many parts of the world where the doctor is not welcomed by the conflicting parties themselves.
Professor of Political Science,
University of Helsinki