Soviet Union

Soviet Union

Two hard-fought wars, ending in defeat and in the loss of about one-tenth of Finland's land area, convinced some leading Finnish politicians by the end of World War II that the interwar policy of neutral distance from the Soviet Union had been mistaken and must be abandoned if the country were to survive as an independent nation. Juho Paasikivi, Finland's most prominent conservative politician and its president from 1946 to 1956, came to believe that Finnish foreign policy must center on convincing Soviet leaders that his country accepted, as legitimate, Soviet desires for a secure northwestern border and that there was no reason to fear an attack from, or through, Finland.

The preliminary peace treaty of 1944, which ended the Continuation War, and the Treaty of Paris of 1947, which regulated the size and the quality of Finland's armed forces, served to provide the Soviets with a strategically secure area for the protection of Leningrad and Murmansk. The deterioration of superpower relations, however, led the Soviets to desire a firmer border with the gradually emerging Western bloc. In February 1948, Finnish authorities were notified by Soviet officials that Finland should sign a mutual assistance treaty with the Soviet Union.

The treaty that Finnish and Soviet negotiators worked out and signed in April 1948 differed from those the Soviets had concluded with Hungary and Romania. Unlike those countries, Finland was not made part of the Soviet military alliance, but was obliged only to defend its own territory if attacked by Germany or by countries allied with that country, or if the Soviet Union were attacked by these powers through Finnish territory. In addition, consultations between Finland and the Soviet Union were required if the threat of such an attack were established. According to the FCMA treaty, Finland was not bound to aid the Soviet Union if that country were attacked elsewhere, and the consultations were to be between sovereign states, not between military allies. Just what constituted a military threat was not specified, but the right of the Finns to discuss the posited threat and how it should be met, that is, to what extent military assistance would be required, allowed Finnish officials room for maneuver and deprived the treaty of an automatic character.

Since its signing, the treaty has continued to be the cornerstone of Finnish relations with the Soviet Union; that both found it satisfactory was seen in its renewal and extension in 1955, 1970, and 1983. For the Soviet Union, the FCMA treaty meant greater security for the strategically vital areas of Leningrad and the Kola Peninsula. Any attack on these areas through Finland would meet first with Finnish resistance, which many observers believed would slow an offensive appreciably. The prohibition of Finnish membership in an alliance directed against the Soviet Union meant hostile forces could not be stationed within Finland, close to vital Soviet installations.

Finland's neutral status had an effect on the Nordic area as a whole. Its special relationship with the Soviet Union reduced pressure on Sweden and eased that country's burden of maintaining its traditional neutrality. The consequent lowering of tensions in the region allowed Norway and Denmark NATO membership, although each of these countries established certain restrictions on the stationing of foreign troops and the deployment of nuclear weapons on their soil. The interdependence of security postures in northern Europe, sometimes referred to as the Nordic Balance, has removed the region somewhat from the vagaries of the Cold War over the last few decades. The Soviets have closely monitored developments in the area, but their basic satisfaction with the security situation that has prevailed there has allowed Finland to survive as an independent country, bound to some degree to the Soviet Union in defense matters, but able to maintain its democratic institutions and its membership in the Western community of nations.

During the years immediately following the signing of the FCMA treaty, the Finns complied with their obligation to pay reparations to the Soviet Union; the last payment was made in 1952. The preceding year the two countries had signed a treaty setting up trade between them on the basis of a barter arrangement, which has been renewed every five years since then. In 1954 Finland became the first capitalist country to sign a scientific and technical agreement with the Soviet Union.

Despite the provisions of Article 6 of the FCMA treaty, which enjoined each contracting party from interfering in the domestic affairs of the other, Soviet comments on Finnish domestic politics were often quite harsh. Soviet attitudes toward Finland softened, however, with the death of Joseph Stalin and the advent of beter relations with the western powers in the mid-1950s; consequently, no objections were raised to the 1955 decisions to admit Finland to the Nordic Council and to the UN. Late in the same year, the Soviets gave up their base at Porkkala in exchange for an extension of the FCMA treaty, due to expire several years after Paasikivi's scheduled retirement in 1956. Soviet uncertainty about the conduct of his successor made Moscow anxious for the treaty's renewal.

The departure of Soviet troops from Finnish territory removed an obstacle to Finland's full sovereignty and to its achievement of neutrality. In 1956 Nikita Khrushchev, first secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), spoke for the first time of Finnish neutrality. Soviet tributes to Finland's neutrality and nonaligned status grew common in the next few years.

Finnish-Soviet relations were shaken by two crises--the Night Frost Crisis of 1958-59 and the more serious Note Crisis of 1961. The Note Crisis was a watershed in Finnish-Soviet relations in that Kekkonen, whose successful resolution of the crisis made him the virtual master of Finnish foreign policy, and others realized that in the future Finnish foreign policy ought to be formulated only after its effects on Soviet interests had been carefully weighed. Another effect of the crisis was that it led to the inauguration of a policy of active and peaceful neutrality.

Finnish-Soviet relations since the Note Crisis have been stable and unmarked by any serious disagreements. Trade between the two countries has remained steady since the 1951 barter agreement. In 1967 Finland became the first Western country to set up a permanent intergovernmental commission with the Soviet Union for economic cooperation. A treaty on economic, technical, and industrial cooperation followed in 1971, as did a long-term agreement on trade and cooperation in 1977 that, in 1987, was extended to be in effect until the turn of the century. The first joint venture agreements between Finnish and Soviet firms were also arranged in 1987. In 1973 Finland was the first capitalist country to cooperate closely with the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance.

The Soviet Union has carefully monitored Finland's adherence to the FCMA treaty, and Finland's awareness of this scrutiny has influenced its Finnish policy. For example, Finland refrained from full membership in the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and instead joined the body through an associate membership in 1961. The entry into a free-trade relationship with the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1973 occurred only through a carefully orchestrated preliminary plan that included formal links with Comecon and a special re-election of Kekkonen in 1974 to assure the Soviets of continuity in Finnish foreign policy.

Since the Note Crisis, Soviet interference in Finnish domestic concerns has been limited to occasional critical comments in the Soviet press and from official spokesmen. Clarification about Soviet policy toward Finland could be obtained from Soviet officials themselves, or from articles published in authoritative newspapers or journals. Since the 1970s, a frequent source of enlightenment about the Kremlin's attitudes toward Finland, and about Nordic Europe in general, were articles written under the name of Komissarov, many of which were commonly believed to have been written by Iurii Deriabin, a well-placed and knowledgeable Soviet specialist on Finnish affairs. As valued indicators of Soviet attitudes, the articles were examined line by line in Finland. Komissarov articles, for example, disabused Finnish foreign affairs specialists of the notion, which they had entertained for a time, that Finland had the right to determine on its own whether consultations according to Article 2 of the FCMA treaty were necessary. A Komissarov article that appeared in January 1984 in a Helsinki newspaper expressed the disquieting Soviet view that the passage of cruise missiles through Finnish airspace might conceivably mean the need for consultations.

Two examples may indicate the restraint exercised by the Soviets in their dealings with Finnish affairs since the early 1960s. In 1971 the Soviet ambassador was recalled from Helsinki after he had become involved in the internal feuds of the Communist Party of Finland (Suomen Kommunistinen Puolue--SKP). A suggestion in 1978 by a Finnish communist newspaper, which was repeated by the Soviet chief of staff General Dmitri Ustinov, that Finnish military forces should hold joint maneuvers with Soviet forces was quickly dismissed by Finnish officials as incompatible with their country's neutrality; there was no Soviet rejoinder.

Finnish foreign policy vis-a-vis the Soviet Union enjoyed widespread support from the Finnish people. Polls in the 1980s consistently measured an approval rate of over 90 percent. Another proof of the acceptance of the Paasikivi-Kekkonen Line was that foreign policy played virtually no part in the parliamentary elections of 1983 and 1987. From the Soviet side, comments on these elections were neutral, with no hints of preferred victors.

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