teleSUR, 12 May 2015 **** Front Page

Finland, NATO and a Lack of Democracy

By Johannes Hautaviita

Finland has not declared that the stationing of NATO's nuclear arms on its soil as forbidden.

Despite strong popular opposition to joining NATO, successive Finnish governments have chosen to undertake closer and closer integration with the alliance.  According to a poll published in March by the leading Finnish daily Helsingin Sanomat, 57 per cent of Finns still oppose NATO-membership.

Decisions to further NATO-integration have at times been made behind closed doors with little information available to the public. The latest step in this direction was taken in September 2014, when the commander of the Finnish armed forces signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) regarding Host Nation Support (HNS) with NATO. The memorandum, despite its significance, was passed only as an executive decision, which has raised questions about the legality of the process.

Back in 1992, Finland purchased 64 F/A 18 Hornet fighters from the US arms company McDonnell Douglas. The arms deal totalled 2.2 billion euros and was sealed in the midst of a serious economic depression. Finnish Defense Minister at the time, Elisabeth Rehn, who was among the main architects of the arms deal, has subsequently  underlined  the political nature behind the decision.

At least I had a strong feeling that now we're taking sides. Now we're showing that we belong the West. For me, it meant taking a step towards NATO. I've always favored NATO.

Three years later, she revealed that the decision was rammed through with little concern for the democratic process. According to Rehn's biography, “The decision was prepared in the dark and taken swiftly, in an exceptional manner. The hornet-decision was consciously kept in a small circle and hidden from the public. It was feared that it would not go anywhere if broad groups of parliamentarians or others would be allowed to debate the matter.”

Come April 2014, many Finnish parliamentarians were taken by surprise when it was revealed in the press that Finland is about to sign the MOU with NATO. Many prominent politicians accused the government of keeping the parliament in the dark about the agreement. Indeed, unlike in Sweden, the memorandum will not be brought before the parliament for ratification.  Many important details of the memorandum remain unavailable to the public and their representatives.

The memorandum specifies the practical and logistical arrangements for when NATO's troops are stationed in, or transiting through, Finland. The agreement makes it easier for Finland to support NATO's military activities, but stops short of binding Finland to allow NATO such access without a separate political decision to do so.
The concept of deploying NATO-troops in Finland is not new, however. Furthering such arrangements has been a stated goal in Finland's security planning since 1997. It has also been part of Finland's Partnership for Peace (PfP) program with NATO since 2002.

Members of the Government have thus argued that the memorandum doesn't bring much new to the table. But consider the gist and scope of the memorandum: “The purpose of this MOU is to establish policy and procedures for the establishment of operational sites and the provision of HNS to NATO forces in, or supported from the HN, during NATO military activities.” In the MOU, NATO's military activities are defined in the broadest possible terms. In other words, Finland is preparing to accommodate and support NATO troops on Finnish soil in peacetime as well as in war.

According to the MOU, NATO military activities include “the process of carrying on combat, including attack, movement, supply and manoeuvres needed to gain the objectives of any battle or campaign.”

Pekka Visuri, Docent at the Finnish National Defence University, has argued that Finland should make a separate declaration stating, that it won't allow area under its jurisdiction to be used in acts of war against any state.

Another issue, which has been raised by journalist Mikael Kallavuo, is Finland's relationship to NATO's nuclear doctrine. Former Finnish Defense Minister Carl Haglund has confirmed to Kallavuo, that when signing the MOU Finland did not separately declare the stationing of NATO's nuclear arms on its soil as forbidden. Although Finland, according to Haglund, has the authority to decide on a case by case basis which weapons will be accepted, Kallavuo finds the absence of such a paragraph peculiar because of the centrality of nuclear weapons in NATO's military strategy.

These open questions become all the more troubling when considering the fact that there seems to be no clarity, or transparency, regarding what kind of a decision-making process is required for implementing the MOU and inviting NATO troops into Finland.

These are major issues that require an open and transparent public debate.


The archive: Johannes Hautaviita, Finland's foreign and security policy, NATO


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