Finland Vindicated

Courtesy Reuters

Finland and Russia signed a friendship treaty in Helsinki on January 20, 1992, consisting of many clauses, including commercial and financial ones. More significant was the exchange of notes that same day. These certified the cancellation of the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance signed in Moscow on April 6, 1948. That treaty, the result of the Soviet victory in the Second World War, established the limitations of an independent Finnish foreign policy and, indeed, certain conditions of Finnish independence itself. That those limitations proved manageable and flexible was principally due to the moderation and wisdom of successive Finnish governments, including their recognition that—especially for a small nation—an untrammeled independence of foreign policy is a chimera.

Thus in 1992 the last outlines of the ominous shadow of Russian domination of Finland disappeared—75 years after the establishment of an independent Finnish state. It must not be thought that the present treaty was but another by?product of the Russian retreat from central and eastern Europe. Finland’s independence was achieved and secured, bit by bit, by its successive governments over the last fifty years. Long before 1992 the exercise of that kind of Finnish statesmanship was vindicated. This was not always understood in Washington—not by John Foster Dulles, who in 1954 proclaimed that during the Cold War "neutrality" for a nation was impossible and immoral; and not by John Kennedy, who in 1961 said to a Finnish diplomat: "What puzzles us Americans is why the Soviet Union has allowed Finland to retain her independence." There need not have been such puzzlement in Washington, but that is not the theme of this article. Its theme is that of the historical nature and development of Finnish?Russian relations, which should tell us not only some things about Finland but also some seldom recognized things about Russian foreign policy under Stalin.


For nearly two hundred years the relationship between Finland and Russia has been marked by a compound of struggle and compromise—the compromise reluctant and enforced in

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