The Politics of Co-Dependence
Listen to Today's Edition
The former president of Finland and 2008 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Martti Ahtisaari died recently at the age of 86. He helped draft peace accords in Namibia in the 1980s, in Northern Ireland and between Serbia and Kosovo in the 1990s, and in Aceh province in Indonesia in 2005, the Associated Press reported.
Notably, his passing comes as this country is embarking on a new era in its international relations, as voters go to the polls on Jan. 28 to elect a new president.
Some local opinion writers believe voters could do well to heed the lessons of such a consummate statesman as Ahtisaari in the face of threats to peace.
Before the Cold War, Finland was an independent nation but under the suzerainty of Russia, a relationship that coined the word “Finlandization” for countries who must make domestic and foreign policy decisions with the interests and feelings of their powerful neighbor in mind. The fall of the Berlin Wall brought this relationship to an end, however, explained the Wilson Center.
Today, Finland, whose leaders and citizenry have condemned Russian aggression in Ukraine, is NATO’s newest member. Adding the Nordic country doubled the alliance’s border with Russia, undoubtedly causing headaches among Kremlin military planners drafting their country’s defense plans, wrote CNN.
Foreign policy has been an important issue among the nine candidates seeking to become the country’s head of state in the capital of Helsinki. As Euronews detailed, the Finnish president has executive as well as ceremonial powers, conducting Finnish foreign policy outside of the European Union and serving as commander-in-chief of the country’s armed forces.
Every candidate is calling for more resistance to Russian influence and closer relationships with the West, noted YLE, the Finnish Broadcasting Corporation, a state-owned news outlet.
The ruling National Coalition Party candidate Alexander Stubb, who leads in the polls, for example, has called for a “more European NATO,” with more European spending, deployment, and therefore a say in how the alliance operates and sets its goals. This stance is not necessarily anti-American but reflects frustration over European dependence on American security.
“I think the Americans will not leave us alone (on our own), but it’s always useful to be prepared in the situation whereby we have to take more responsibility for our own defense,” Stubb said in a Reuters interview.
Whoever wins will have pressing issues to address immediately. Finland recently closed its 830-mile-long border with Russia to the east after an influx of African and Middle Eastern migrants across the frontier, according to the New York Times. Finnish officials suspect Russia might be funneling the migrants to the West in an effort to punish or destabilize the country.
The Finnish worldview today has one foe in mind – but Finns say it isn’t yet time to revive the effective diplomacy of Ahtisaari. “It is very likely that Russia’s hybrid influence activities will resume and expand,” said Finland’s interior minister, Mari Rantanen, last week. “National security is a critical question for Finland.”