VIEWS ON FINLAND`S SECURITY POLICY
Speech given at a meeting of the Foreign Policy Youth Society in Helsinki, 29 November 1965
The awesome destructive power of nuclear arms, and the existence of long-range missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads over thousands of miles, have fundamentally altered the traditional basic conditions of the security of nations. This is true of the super powers and small countries alike.
Neither in the 19th century nor during the First and the Second World Wars did warfare ever seriously threaten the mainland of the United States. Two oceans have safely separated the American continent from the maelstrom of military conflicts. And in the vast territory of the USSR, considerable areas escaped unscathed during the Napoleonic Wars and the two World Wars. This continental great power thus maintained her fighting strength, while the aggressors exhausted their strength on the boundless steppes and in the forests.
In the age of nuclear arms, warfare has changed. Paradoxical as it may sound, the nuclear armaments race between the USSR and USA has essentially reduced the security of both of these states. Oceans and a distant location do not protect one super power from the nuclear weapons and missiles of the other. From a military point of view, the USSR and USA are in fact more vulnerable than ever.
The problem of the small countries is similar yet different. It is a historical fact that small states have frequently based their policy of security on an alliance with a great power. This, in spite of disappointing experiences, was considered to be to a small state`s advantage, although `it is only in young people`s dreams that nations act with the welfare of mankind in mind, sacrificing themselves for one another,` and `no state has ever gone to war for anything but its own interests` (J. V. Snellman). In the era of a potential nuclear war, the position of small states in military alliances is more precarious than ever. Big powers may have the capacity to keep sections of their community functioning even in a nuclear war. A small state in a military alliance has no such means. Its geographical position is usually in a buffer area, or it would have no value in the alliance; especially if nuclear weapons are placed on its territory it will be the first objective in a nuclear war. The `nuclear umbrella` of a more powerful ally will provide no adequate shelter from the enemy`s missiles. Therefore neutrality, in the present stage of arms technique, seems to offer small states in a favourable geographical position a better chance of survival in a general war than does an alliance with one of the nuclear great powers, notwithstanding the fact that the purpose of such an alliance is precisely the achievement of maximum security in the event of war.
In such a situation, it seems necessary to reappraise the actual value of security systems based on nuclear weapons.
In our area, it has been asked what Norway and Denmark will do when the NATO Treaty expires in 1969. The topic came up unexpectedly at the time of the Norwegian elections, for no special reason as far as I can see, since the result of the elections certainly did not produce any modification of Norway`s foreign policy. Possibly the ending of Mr. Lange`s long term as Foreign Minister has led to speculation about the matter.
Although there is some opposition in Norway and Denmark to NATO membership and its continuance, it would be realistic to assume that these countries will remain members of the Western military alliance after 1969. This is indicated by the manifesto of the new Norwegian Government. It states that Norway will continue her foreign and defensive policy, assuming all the rights and obligations inherent in the country`s membership in UNO, NATO, and other international organizations. It should be mentioned in this context that the allegations that Sweden and Norway have had consultations concerning a Nordic defensive alliance, with reference to the situation which will arise in 1969, have been denied, and there has been no further hypothetical discussion of this subject.
In the course of deliberations on the defence policies of the Nordic countries, Finland`s position has sometimes been mentioned.
In recent years, certain Finnish circles have discussed the idea of a Nordic defensive alliance to which Finland would accede. Before going in detail into this matter, I should like to mention that an entirely different and interesting proposition has lately been published. In the opinion of a private author, a neutral Fenno-Scandia might be created if Norway were to leave NATO and conclude a treaty with the USA or Great Britain similar to the Pact of Friendship, Co-operation and Mutual Assistance existing between Finland and the USSR. As a result of this neutral Fenno-Scandia, Finland would benefit from a probable easing of the military tension and international crises in the Nordic region. This alternative presupposes no modification of treaties concluded by Finland. In Scandinavia, no attention has been paid to the proposition.
The idea referred to above of an extensive Nordic defensive alliance including Finland is based on the assumption that Finland would withdraw from the Pact of Friendship, Co-operation and Mutual Assistance concluded in 1948 with the USSR. In return, Norway and possibly Deumark would secede from NATO. Such an alternative to Norway`s membership of NATO was discussed by the Norwegian Major-General Odd Lindbäck-Larsen in a recent issue of the Norwegian military periodical Norsk Militär Tidskrift.
Since, in my opinion, Denmark as well as Norway will continue in the Western defensive alliance after 1969, the idea of a wide Nordic defensive alliance is unrealistic as far as those countries are concerned. As for Finland`s becoming a party to such an alliance, the idea is based on a misconception of Finland`s position in international politics.
The realities defined in the Pact of Friendship, Co-operation and Mutual Assistance were not adopted in Finnish foreign policy as a matter of momentary convenience. The treaty expresses the permanent foreign policy interests of Finland. I should like here to recall a passage from a speech I made in Stockholm during the war, in 1943: `We cannot alter the fact that this great power (USSR) is our neighbour. We must draw our conclusions from this fact.` When I outlined Finland`s foreign policy after the war on this unalterable basis, I firmly refused the alternative of trying to join any anti-Soviet forces. That would have made Finland an advanced base of a group of great powers hostile to the Soviet Union, a `battle-field whenever power conflicts beyond her control lead to war`. The line which I proposed for Finland`s post-war foreign policy was one of neutrality. The cornerstones of our policy were to be a sincere neighbourliness between Finland and the USSR, and Scandinavian co-operation. Having now, thanks to favourable post-war developments, successfully established relations of friendly confidence with the USSR and built up our foreign policy on the basis of neutrality, we must hold fast to the position w e have attained. To speculate on constellations which would require Finland to withdraw from the 1948 Pact is entirely fruitless. Paasikivi used to warn against people who are incapable of making a judicious appreciation of political conditions. The kind of speculations I mentioned arise precisely from such lack of judgement.
Finland does not seek to abrogate the Pact, nor is the USSR opposed to such a step or desirous of preventing it, contrary to what I have sometimes heard alleged.
The talk about abrogating the Pact reveals a misconception of its content. Therefore, an examination of the Pact might be useful here. The central idea of the treaty is contained in Article 1, which reads:
`In the eventuality of Finland, or the Soviet Union through Finnish territory, becoming the object of an armed attack by Germany or any state allied with the latter, Finland will, true to its obligations as an independent state, fight to repel the attack. Finland will in such a case use all her available forces to defend her territorial integrity by land, sea, and air, and will do so within the frontiers of Finland in accordance with the obligations defined in the present Pact and, if necessary, with the assistance of, or jointly with, the Soviet Union.
`In the afore-mentioned event, the Soviet Union will give Finland the help required, the giving of which will be subject to mutual agreement between the contracting parties.`
According to Article 2, `The contracting parties shall confer with each other if it is established that the threat of an armed attack as described in Article 1 exists.`
Furthermore, Finland`s desire to stay out of conflicting interests between the great powers is noted in the preamble to the Pact; I will return later to this important point.
It may be gathered from the preamble and from the first two articles that the Pact is not a treaty of military alliance proper, as a false interpretation has it. Firstly, there is the territorial scope of the Pact. Finland has engaged herself to defend the inviolability of her territory within her own boundaries, which she would certainly do in any case, treaty or no treaty. But this self-evident point was included in order to clarify the nature of the Pact. In the event of an attack on the USSR by another route than over Finnish territory we will not, under the Pact, be involved in the war. On the contrary, we will then take every conceivable step to remain neutral. In this respect the Pact clearly differs from a treaty of military alliance. Comparison with an historical event will illustrate this. When Sweden concluded a military alliance with Russia in 1724, at the end of a period of warfare, both States undertook to provide mutual military assistance if the other party was attacked. The only limitation on Sweden`s part was that her obligation to help defend Russia with an army of 10,000 was not binding outside European territory and did not apply to the campaign against Turkey.
From a Finnish point of view, it is specially important that the Pact is not hinged to any automatic mechanism, as is the case in, say, NATO and the Warsaw Pact. By the Pact of Friendship, the condition for any assistance from the USSR is that a need for assistance is found to exist, and then the contracting parties will mutually agree upon the assistance needed. A prerequisite for the consultations mentioned in Article 2 is that both parties consider the threat of an attack to exist.
The Pact thus differs from a treaty of military alliance proper in that military co-operation is restricted to Finnish territory, is secondary, and does not come into effect automatically. An illustration of the difference between a military alliance proper and the Pact is the fact that the European NATO countries nearly became involved in a military conflict during the Cuba crisis, although the centre of events was on the opposite side of the Atlantic. The Pact will never give rise to a similar situation for Finland.
The features distinguishing the Pact from a military alliance proper are emphasized by the fact that Finland`s right to stay out of conflicts of interest between the great powers is recognized in the preamble. On the strength of this we speak of Finland`s neutrality, and pursue a policy of neutrality. It has been approved and acknowledged by the world`s leading powers.
A visible token of the trust put in our policy of neutrality and independent defence arrangements is the fact that all the signatory states of the Paris Peace Treaty, Eastern and Western, agreed to the interpretation that we proposed of the article concerning missiles. Thanks to this, we are now in a position to acquire defensive missile equipment, and have in fact done so.
A careful perusal of the military articles of the Pact will lead to the conclusion that they are of an exclusively defensive nature. The basic purpose of the Pact is to maintain peace and to avoid the alternative which would call the Pact into effect. It is, therefore, a Finnish interest to avoid any situation which would necessitate application of the Pact in practice. If there are measures by which we can contribute to preventing such an eventuality, those measures have to be taken. My statement in February last, criticizing establishment of a Multilateral Nuclear Force (MLF) connected with NATO, was made with this idea in mind. Neutrality is not a value per se; it is the means adopted in Finnish policy to safeguard national independence, peace, the vital interests of the nation, and good international relations.
The fact that our position from the point of view of military policy has eased with recent developments in the international situation has contributed to the consolidation of our security. For a long time now the Nordic area has not been involved in conflicting international issues. As I have said, countries bound by military alliances run a far greater risk of attack in a nuclear war than neutral countries not tied by such alliances. Let me add that the general probability of a great war may be considered to have been reduced by the developments in armaments. The threat of total destruction in the event of a general war, has, in turn, reduced the probability of limited wars within Europe, as these might soon escalate into an armed conflict between the great powers.
The picture can be completed by facts about the technical development of methods of attack which reduce the strategic importance that our country and the entire Nordic area may have had for the great powers. An offensive which earlier involved land forces, navy and air force can now be launched by long-range missiles passing over the territory of neutral countries. Analogically, defensive action can be concentrated on the immediate region of the points attacked. Nor does the need to observe the opponent`s activity involve infringement of the neutrality of any country, since, inter alia, satellites launched into space will provide the information required. The value of buffer areas for defensive purposes is thus considerably diminished. The importance of individual bases and limited territorial claims is lessening. An instance of the changed outlook and, incidentally, of the propitious development of Finnish-Soviet relations, was the restitution of the Porkkala area, ten years ago.
Although Finland`s position has been eased from the point of view of military policy, this does not mean that we should be entirely satisfied with the situation as it is. It is natural that every state devotes incessant efforts to consolidating its political position. At the best of times that position is never too good or even good enough. Therefore, it should be continuously kept in mind that Finland herself can put forward suggestions to further this end. Any such suggestion should start from the basic fact that Finland will not, of her own will or on the strength of any treaty which she has signed, attack another country, nor will she tolerate any such attack by another state through Finnish territory.
The proliferation of nuclear weapons is the main problem of international politics in our time. Five states now possess nuclear weapons; an increasing number of other states are acquiring the technical and economic means to procure them. Several political conflicts are still unresolved in various parts of the world, and the proliferation of nuclear weapons may increase the risk of a clash in which such weapons might be used, or their use threatened. Every state, therefore, if only in the interests of its own security, is duty bound to support the endeavours of UNO to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, and to put forward positive proposals to promote these endeavours. Senator Robert Kennedy, in his noted speech in the US Senate on October 13, 1965, proposed six ways to move towards halting the proliferation of nuclear weapons. His second way was the creation of nuclear-free zones.
It is reasonable, therefore, to revert once more to my proposal concerning a Nordic nuclear-free zone, in the hope that it may be taken as a step towards building up international security and reducing the risk of a nuclear war.
New treaty arrangements which may be proposed to consolidate Finland`s security should be examined in this context. It would be in our interest that no repercussions from a possible conflict between the great powers should threaten our security. With this in mind, Finland is prepared to consider treaty arrangements with Norway that would protect- the Finnish-Norwegian frontier region from possible military action in the event of a conflict between the great powers.
The agreement which I have outlined would be in the interest of both Norway and Finland as it would lessen military tension in the Northern area in times of international crises, and help both countries to preserve their territorial inviolability in the event of a conflict between the great powers. Such an agreement would be a link in the friendly co-operation between the Nordic countries and would put into practice in this sector the line I proposed in my Stockholm speech.
Reflecting upon the position in which Finland would find herself in the event of war breaking out in Europe, it will be readily understood that my main concern has been the only zone on our land frontiers where the NATO and Warsaw Pact spheres directly touch each other. It was Lapland`s exposed position I had in mind in my speech in Moscow, in February last, when I gave as my somewhat pessimistic opinion that in the event of a general war breaking out in Europe we would not be able to maintain our neutrality. If the threat against Lapland were eliminated by an agreement between Norway and Finland, the main reason for pessimism would be removed. Finland`s land frontiers would then be as safe as they can be made through treaties. With the USSR, there would be the Pact of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance; with Norway, the treaty to maintain peace on both sides of the Finnish-Norwegian frontier. As for Sweden, her traditional and recognized nonalignment would suffice to ensure peace on our western boundary.
The only remaining problem would then be to relieve the tension on the sea frontiers of Finland. At present, there is no procedure in sight by which peace could be guaranteed in the Baltic. The main difficulty is the unsolved problem of Germany, which is apt to maintain a state of tension in the Baltic area.
There are unfortunately certain phenomena which may increase the risk of a conflict in the Baltic area, involving serious consequences for us. The spreading of nuclear weapons, in any form and in any region, is a menace to world peace. A necessary condition for any easing of the situation in the Baltic is that no nuclear weapons be placed at the disposal of either part of divided Germany, as such weapons might be used in an attempt to solve the German question by force.
Dr. K. Killinen, in his lecture series on the Nordic policy of neutrality, stated that our neutral line in the 1930s had a pronounced military tone and, therefore, tended to arouse suspicion. In my opinion, this preponderantly military character, together with the support for National Socialist tendencies in our country, were the biggest domestic obstacles to a successful outcome of the efforts of the country`s political leaders to achieve neutrality. A policy of neutrality certainly requires an adequate national defence; however, the main responsibility for our post-war neutrality rests, and will rest, on our foreign policy. If by political agreements ensuring security we could create guarantees for consolidating peace in those geographical areas, Lapland and the Baltic, which are the areas of immediate contact between the NATO and the Warsaw Pact groups, it seems logical that this would influence the role of national defence in our policy of neutrality.
If the perspectives opened up by the development of military techniques really do signify a change in national security policies, which may be assumed, then Finland is prepared to contribute actively to any solution in favour of a relaxation of tension and reduction of the risk of war. With this in mind, our policy of neutrality should be an active one, for a passive attitude to the issue of peace may mean yielding to war.