May 2000


Non-aligned countries face European security turmoil


Finland is becoming wary of far-reaching crisis management in Europe. This is the conclusion of some officials working in the field, according to Helsingin Sanomat columnist Olli Kivinen (11 May 2000).


This hesitation has been noticed at a time when France and Britain show signs of wanting to go further in managing possible future conflicts on the continent. The official Finnish line at the moment is that co-operation under IFOR and KFOR in Bosnia and Kosovo is as far as the country is willing to go in peace-keeping. The limit is also set in law.


Finnish government is also unwilling to go along a road that would change the European Union into a defence alliance. Kivinen writes that in all this “the non-aligned countries are in the middle of a delicate game because the approchement of EU and NATO is accelerating by the month and many EU member countries have far-reaching ideas about EU defence co-operation with NATO”.


According to Kivinen, a fierce debate is going on in the Finnish government circles about how the crisis management principles of the Amsterdam Treaty should be interpreted. Commenting on options available to Finland, Kivinen says that staying outside NATO and opposing a common EU defence is not without risks.


“The intensification of EU military co-operation increases the possibility that Russian prejudice against the EU grows. In this situation, Finland as a border country will have to carry the consequent burden without the protection offered by defence co-operation.”


As to the question of membership in NATO, Kivinen thinks the debate is academic because currently  the alliance is not willing to open its doors to Finland anyway.


“Finland’s membership in NATO would be a red rag in Russian eyes. President Vladimir Putin has opted for a fiercely nationalistic line. Western countries ‘under current circumstances’ are not willing to sacrifice their relations with Russia by irritating Moscow with new members.”


Kivinen also comments on differences in approach at the top of the Finnish state hierarchy. He writes that there clear signs of differing attitudes to international relations between the new President Tarja Halonen and Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen.


“The different approaches between Halonen and Lipponen derive not only from conflicting interests of influence in decision-making but also from their attitudes. The President has always emphasised peace work and other ‘soft’ values while the Prime Minister has over decades clearly moved towards ‘harder’ thinking.”


According to Kivinen, “under normal circumstances these differences would not be a cause for concern but right now all European and Atlantic security policy is in turmoil”.


“The pace is fast and it is difficult for small non-aligned countries to stay on board. The Constitution forces the President and the Government to make decisions together but at some stage it has to be made clear who has the last word. The Government thinks that in a moment of disagreement its line is official but the President does not concur with this view.”


Kivinen notes, however, that while there are differences in attitude towards NATO, there is consensus on the EU foreign and security policy. But even here careful listening can detect some differences in tone, the columnist writes.