Lucas on Finland and NATO

Edward Lucas of the Economist has penned a piece on Finland's (and Sweden's) ever-closer relations with NATO. It mostly gets things right, but you can tell that Lucas hasn't followed the Finnish discussion on the topic all that closely.

[Finland's] border with Russia is long and will be more exposed when it gives up landmines, a move reluctantly planned for 2016. [...] Yet Finnish political leaders have been quiet.
There was some debate on the topic during the recent election campaign, although not enough to derail the project. Aapotsikko readers may recall that I wrote about it at the time.
[President Tarja Halonen] outraged patriotic Finns by describing Estonia (a close ethnic cousin) and Russia as friends of equal importance.
This is the first I've heard of any such outrage - or the description, for that matter - so I can only assume that it isn't very widespread. Had said comment received significant media attention, I think that even patriotic Finns would generally understand that it's shading the truth in favor of Estonia. Naturally Russia, due to its enormous size if not the warmness of the friendship, is much more important to Finland than Estonia.

Also, while Lucas correctly notes that "the government is privately more hawkish" than Halonen, the article could have done with an explanation of why it's not a good idea for the government to confront her. Namely, the President of Finland still has enough powers left in the field of foreign policy that Halonen would win the confrontation. It's not a matter of deference; it's the constitution.


Edward Lucas said...

Hi Edward Lucas here. Thanks for highlighting my piece. I thought Halonen's new year's message did raise a few eyebrows. Certainly my Finnish friends noticed it. Clearly Russia is important. But it is hard to argue that it is a close friend as Estonia is (in most Finns' eyes, if not in hers)

Ari said...

Mr Lucas, thanks for taking the time to comment on this humble blog. Re Halonen's description, closeness and importance are two quite different concepts, I think. Clearly Finns in general feel closer to Estonians than Russians. Equally clearly the relationship with Russia is more important to Finland's economy and security.

If you're referring to Halonen's 2007 new year's speech, according to the transcript she didn't say that Russia and Estonia are friends of equal importance. In the only mention of either of those countries, she said, "Finland has excellent relations with the Nordic countries and with our immediate neighbours Estonia and Russia." You may have been given a mistaken translation.