21 January 2000
Presidential candidates fudge foreign policy dilemmas
The campaign for the recent first round of Finnish presidential elections was carried out as if the world around Finland stood still. This accusation came from one of the countrys leading newspaper columnists, Olli Kivinen (Helsingin Sanomat, 20 January 2000).
Kivinen complains that all the candidates did everything they could to avoid deviating from Finlands "official" foreign policy, "whatever that maybe". They seemed to pretend that NATOs expansion had no effect on the countrys position during the next presidents term.
"In a rapidly changing world it is not good enough to repeat for the next six years a mantra about a country which stays outside military alliances and takes care of its defence independently from others.
"The impression of a vacuum was accentuated by changes happening in the immediate vicinity of our country. The election campaign was carried out as if nothing was happening in Russia, as if our neighbour had not turned into a power based on military might and security services. This development was revealed by the enthusiasm for the war in Chechnya. No outsider can know how deep this development is."
Kivinen writes that what was ignored during the campaign was a deepening rift between the West and Russia. Eyes were closed to the effects of this development in the Baltic states. Thus the presidential candidates, according to the columnist, ignored the effect on Finland of NATOs expansion, as well as that of the strengthening cooperation in the foreign and security policy of the European Union.
Journalists, on their part, have helped politicians to maintain their silence on vital issues by not demanding clear statements, Kivinen complains. He thinks this is strange since all the presidential candidates have emphasised the presidents central position in the countrys foreign and security policy.
Kivinen enumerates several important questions. He refers, first of all, to some experts view that in actual fact Finland already is under NATOs protection. A comparison has been made with Swedens international position during the Cold War. Kivinen also refers to what he sees as Tarja Halonens the current foreign minister long-standing pacifist leanings? What effect will this have on her potential role as the supreme commander of the defence forces? And what about the soft attitude towards the old Soviet Union shown by Esko Ahos Centre Party? What effect will this have on Ahos attitude towards todays Russia?
According to Kivinen, it would be helpful for the voters if the candidates during the campaign could reach some kind of agreement about the presidents real powers. Otherwise there is a danger that the answer will be only improvised during a crisis in Finlands neighbouring areas, Kivinen warns.
- "EU defence will make non-alignment redundant" (6 January 2000)
- Military non-alignment backed by majority (3 December 1999)
- EU preferred to NATO on crisis management (30 November 1999)
- Finland urged to support UN (19 October 1999)
- Defence plans alarm small EU countries (16 October 1999)
- Aftermath of Kosovo: Europe takes military route to security (October 1999)
- Non-aligned countries face problems with EU defence (13 July 1999)
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