"A community of shared values"

By Tapani Lausti

In the current struggle for the Finns' political allegiances, the pro-Washington camp recently gained a major victory. Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen, who earlier had been extremely restrained in his announcements on world politics, unexpectedly came over as a dedicated pro-Western internationalist. He declared that "we seek our own security and defend Western freedom by genuinely joining a common front with those who share our own values".

"A community of shared values" has been the rallying cry of pro-NATO commentators who are trying to change the mood in a country whose citizens are extremely reluctant to join the Western military alliance. Thus the leading columnist of the pro-American newspaper Helsingin Sanomat, Olli Kivinen, rejoiced: "Vanhanen's words are welcome because they show that he has committed himself strongly to internationalisation, European integration and the Euro-Atlantic connection."

Kivinen's pleasure was heightened by Vanhanen's "commitment to defend our continent". He agreed with the Prime Minister that "the United States still has an important and constructive role in European security".

"The war against terrorism" is another key aspect of this ideological struggle. In an earlier column, Kivinen rhapsodised about the necessity of a broad union of like-minded countries because terrorists don't bother to analyse "which country of the white and Christian world belongs to which organisation".

Kivinen may not mean it literally, but he does come close to insinuating that "the community of shared values" is also white and Christian. Be that as it may, in his eyes a rational citizen of a Western country believes in "market economy" and the Euro-Atlantic alliance.

Two young Finnish EU experts, Piia-Noora Kauppi and Alexander Stubb, make the same point. They write that "...the EU is part of the new world order and thus a part of Western community. Every EU country is committed to responsibilities connected with market economy and individual freedom, which makes them similar in the eyes of terrorists."

Thus Kauppi and Stubb seem to think that terrorism is directed against market economy and individual freedom. From here it is only a short step to George W. Bush's delusions according to which "the terrorists are offended not merely by our policies — they are offended by our existence as free nations".

In this way "the war against terrorism" is being used to draw Finland away from non-alignment which is condemned by some as a remnant of "Finlandisation", i.e. kowtowing to Moscow. It is doubtful, however, whether Finnish citizens like the way the Prime Minister declared that the attacks against Madrid and New York "are also attacks against us". Vanhanen may not have noticed the Spanish anti-Aznar slogan "Your war, our corpses."

Polls also show that the Finns are extremely suspicious of US behaviour in the world. In a poll commissioned last autumn by CNN and Time, among the Europeans interviewed, the Finns had the most sceptical attitude towards the US.

In his columns, Olli Kivinen has been wrestling with the fact that the leading member of "the community of shared values" is not making a good impression. He still emphasises that "all rational reasons support the notion that good relations between democratic European countries — especially EU countries — and the US must be maintained in spite of the current difficulties; it is in the strategic interests of the Finns and also other Europeans. The task is very difficult and the reason is becoming clearer by the day: US leaders' actions under the current government have been informed by an obsession with Iraq, which hampers effective work against terrorism."

Kivinen then puts his bets on John Kerry. He hopes that "US democracy will again work in the November elections and counter-balance the influence of the dangerously fanatic right-wing".

Kivinen does not seem to consider the possibility that Kerry might not be a less belligerent alternative. Neither is his admiration of US democracy disturbed by the fact that American voters have to choose between two business parties and that less than half of Americans bother to vote. And his problem is that the Finns are manifesting hostile feelings towards Washington's way of destabilising the world.

The pro-NATO campaign may not be going so well, after all, even if Vanhanen repeats the current official line, according to which "membership in NATO must remain a genuine and possible choice". However, as things stand he does not see any reason to give up Finland's military non-alignment. Neither does his Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja.

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