Investing in civil society as security policy, an old Finnish strategy

Editorial by Henrik Stenius

Finland is a coincidence, an outcome of events in world politics. Elsewhere in this newsletter, Henrik Meinander explores this fact by some speculative, contrafactual arguments. The history of the Finnish nation, however, is not only a history of coincidences and not only a confrontation with fate.

National independence has necessary preconditions. The creation of the Finnish nation is at the same time a history of a conscious effort to develop a society according to the Finns' own value system. This consolidation has been regarded by the Finns themselves as an essential part of the Finnish security policy. When the Finns at the end of the last century learned to look upon the world as citizens of an autonomous Finland, all parts of life became issues of great importance for the security policy of the nation: competing on the sports field, listening to choir music, choosing one's spouse, planning housing and making a living.

The Finns are great believers in fate. This makes Finnish mentality different to the rational fundamentalism among the Nordic neighbours.

Fate cannot be manipulated. Politicians and political commentators are, nevertheless, compelled to discuss scenarios about what fate might have in store. Max Jakobson is certainly one of Finland's most prestigious commentators on security policy. Over the decades he has been analysing the Finnish concept of neutrality and the Finnish balancing act between the East and the West. As nobody is fighting the Cold War any more, he suggests that Finland should join NATO.

Finland could obviously preserve her own basic value system if the country joined the North Atlantic military alliance. With all the Nordic countries inside NATO, the idea of their community would, however, become something different.

In several articles this autumn, another influential commentator, the historian Matti Klinge, has, in accordance with old Finnish traditions, more consciously mixed the "real- und machtpolitische" aspects with social organisation and value systems. He chooses another Big Brother, neither Moscow nor NATO, to lean the Finnish head on. Because Nordic cooperation was basically a result of the Cold War, and because this war is now behind us, there is no need to keep alive what he regards as the artificial construction of Nordism, which includes Nordic co-operation and Nordic feelings of solidarity. Finland should instead orientate itself purposefully towards Germany and the rest of continental Europe.

True enough, the small Nordic countries have never favoured a common security policy, and neither have they constituted a common economic block. Each country has been an enclave within larger economic blocks.

True enough, if one studies the history of the Nordic peoples, feelings of Nordic solidarity can be detected in rather small, mainly intellectual, groups. At the same timme, one has to be aware that during the last few decades these groups have become larger and now represent a broad section of society.

But whether or not one feels one belongs to a Nordic family is not the crucial point here. What counts in terms of security policy is that people in the Nordic countries look upon the world in the same way and organise their societies according to what is essentially one value system.

Today the concept of independence does not mean managing alone. On the contrary, independence means a capacity to co-operate and participate without betraying one's own value system. Co-operation and communication are successful when you are aware of your own value system. In negotiations you are strong if you know who you are. Finns hesitated in their participation in the October Euro-elections. They seemed to be asking whether these elections are really theirs.

The sense of Finnishness was crucial in 1917. The questions in 1917 were to a large extent the ones which Johan Vilhelm Snellman, one of the Founding Fathers of the Finnish nation, identified as concerning Finnish-speaking culture and education ("sivistys" in Finnish, "bildning" in Swedish).

In a similar way, we should invest in the precondition of an autonomous, contemporary Finnish nation, a Nordic-type civic society. A robust civic society helps the outside world, in the East as well as in the West, to realise that the intention to organise society according to one's own value system is earnest.

We want to make clear that we have our own stand. What the British and the Irish know about the Nordic countries is probably the substantial, universalistic rights of the welfare state. They may not be aware of the fact that the universalistic principles in the Nordic countries are connected with the notion of a Good State. One important aspect of the universalistic principle, I think, is especially unknown. When we talk about culture and comprehensive schools, these are connected to the Finnish concept of "sivistys" which is something strange and different compared with the notion of "education". The discourse of education is qualification, competition and discipline. The discourse of "sivistys" is citizenship.

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