Finland and Finlandization

Sakari Sariola looks at the relationship between Finland and the Soviet Union.

The term ‘Finlandization’ coined by the German political scientist Richard Lowenthal in 1961 in the wake of the Berlin crisis. He used it to warn about the Soviet Union's efforts to gain influence in Europe by the same oppressive methods they used on Finland. The term has since been used in a generalisable and even 'hysterical' connotation reflecting Western anxieties over the shift in the world balance of power feared to follow from the Soviets dealing bilaterally with any given West European country which does not belong to NATO or otherwise does not fall under American protection. In this application Finlandization entails a gloomy prospect of a future 'when West European nations may discover themselves militarily surrounded, economically beleaguered and psychologically isolated... having to draw the consequences', as Walter Hahn has put it.

Finland's case demonstrates, the 'Finlandizisers' argue, that tolerance to Soviet pressure inevitably results in a partial loss of independence without necessarily putting Communists into power in the 'Finlandizised' country. As Finlandization in this meaning cannot be a 'natural' response in foreign policy, the Atlantic Community must meet the challenge it presents by regaining confidence in its ability to become once more the master of its own destiny.

On the other hand there are writers who minimize the generic aspect of Finlandization and stress the unique aspects of Soviet-Finnish relations. These writers point out Finland's proximity to the Soviet Union, and that as a country it stands alone and therefore does not possess resources and capacities comparable with those available to the allied west European nations. The capacity to withstand Soviet pressure, they maintain, calls for political strength, self-confidence, a knowledge of functional deterrent in case the present detente breaks down, and other prerequisites that Finland lacks.

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