16.8.2004

Finland in the Western camp

By Tapani Lausti

Erkki Tuomioja, Suomen ulko- ja turvallisuuspolitiikka anno 2004. Tammi 2004. (Finland's foreign and security policy in 2004.)

There is something unreal about the debate on European security policy. There has been much talk about "security guarantees" but no-one explains who might attack who and for what reasons. In recent times, only the US and UK have used military attack and occupation as a "solution" to their alleged security threats. It is not a coincidence that this has happened in an oil producing area. And everybody but the ideologically blind knows that their actions have made the world more insecure.

In Europe, Yugoslavia is usually used as an example of the possibility of new wars breaking out. The disintegration process in the Balkans, however, is widely misunderstood in the security debate. In his book, the Finnish foreign minister Erkki Tuomioja repeats a version which omits the cynical role played by the US in Bosnia. He writes about the frustration felt about "the EU's failure to react to the ethnic cleansings and cruelties connected to the break-up of ex-Yugoslavia". (p. 43)

In fact, at the time even some European politicians were infuriated by Washington's reckless attitude. Two scholars who have studied the course of events, James Petras and Steve Vieux, have written about the way the Americans sabotaged European peace efforts and actually "fomented a human tragedy while recapturing the moral high ground in its effort to regain primacy in Europe..." ("Bosnia and the Revival of US Hegemony", New Left Review, July-August 1996).

In another example, Tuomioja writes that the bombing of Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks was "necessary and justified". In actual fact, the bombing broke international law and was widely seen as revenge. According to an international poll, world opinion strongly favoured diplomatic-judicial measures over military action. (See Noam Chomsky, Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance, p. 200).

Tuomioja also seems to be unaware that by mid-2002, "reports from Human Rights Watch were dispelling the notion that the Anglo-American onslaught had delivered peace and liberty to Afghans". The number of innocent civilians killed in Afganistan exceeded greatly the number of people killed in the Twin Tower attack. The human tragedy in Afghanistan continues. (See Mark Curtis, Web of Deceit: Britain's Real Role in the World, p. 54.)

These examples are only indirectly connected with Finland's security debate. However, they demonstrate how strongly many false Western assumptions on "humanitarian interventions" and "war on terrorism" have penetrated this debate. The pro-NATO lobby has succeeded in using the current world situation to promote the idea of Finland as a full member of the Western camp. The pressure has been so strong that even Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen — who is not enthusiastic about NATO membership — has declared that "we seek our own security and defend Western freedom by genuinely joining a common front with those who share our own values". (See "A community of shared values" in these pages.)

Tuomioja is careful in choosing his position. He is critical of many US policies but warns against "demonising" NATO. He wants a calm evaluation of Finnish security interests and concludes personally that for the time being there is no need to join the North Atlantic Alliance.

On the other hand, Tuomioja thinks that the threats to peace come mainly from outside the Western camp in the form "disintegrating states" and "rogue states" and not from inside the transatlantic community in the form of the US's destabilising role in the world. Tuomioja does not attempt to analyse the reasons for recent terrorist attacks and fails to analyse Washington's destructive role in the whole post-war period.

In part, this could be explained by his attempt to calm the pro-NATO camp's contempt for the foreign minister's pacifist past. Be that as may, we are left without a principled defense of a world where international law is honoured and where small nations must be wary of big powers' self-serving policies. This is disappointing because many Finns seem to be in favour of some sort of critical neutrality which would include resistance to any attempts to militarise the EU. Tuomioja denies that there is such a danger but does not argue his case in more detail.


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