For many years, since the signing of the 1948 treaty with Stalin’s USSR, Finland had followed a policy of strict neutrality and, until 1989, in harmony with Moscow. The country maintained democracy and a market economy, but ‘Finlandization’ imposed restraint on criticism of the USSR. Thus, Finland did not condemn the invasion of Hungary in 1956 or that of Czechoslovakia in 1968 and in 1974 the Finnish edition of ‘Gulag Archipelago’ had to be published in Sweden.
Now the invasion of Ukraine is about to wipe out neutral Finland. President Sauli Niinistö and the Prime Minister, the Social Democrat sanna marin, announced on Wednesday that the country is going to apply for NATO membership. And, at the same time, Britain signed an agreement with Finland and Sweden guaranteeing them protection in case of attack before their full integration, which may take time as it must be ratified by all 30 member states.
The reason for this profound change is the fear that has gripped the population -and its leaders- when it has been seen that Ukraine, which did not belong to NATO, was invaded without direct resistance from the West. Fear has shaken public opinion and now 76%, against 12%, support joining the military organization. Asked how he would respond to Russia, which has already criticized the decision, the Finnish president said: “They are to blame, let them look in the mirror.”
Y Finland is almost certain to be followed by Sweden, a country that has not been involved in any war since 1814. The tradition of neutrality is even stronger there, but the Social Democrats, who are always the first party in elections, are going to announce their new position this weekend. The Swedish Island Of Gotland, which dominates the Baltic and has an area similar to that of Mallorca, has been militarily protected for weeks.
Putin justified the invasion of Ukraine so that NATO would not come closer to his territory. Now the 3,600 km of the Finnish border will double the direct friction between Russia and NATO.
The worst thing is not that Putin was wrong, but that the post-invasion world is much more uncertain and dangerous. The war is going to last because Ukraine cannot prevail and Putin cannot afford to lose. Until when and with what costs? Is there a risk of nuclear escalation?
And it is not only Russia, the European economies are also going to suffer from the partition of the world that is already taking place. The sanctions will punish Putin, but they will also come at a high cost to European countries. A cut in the supply of Russian gas – yesterday Russia closed the gas pipeline that crosses Poland – could cause the GDP of Germany, the leading European economy, to fall by 12%. Y shortage of certain materials is paralyzing Volkswagen’s electric car production.
Monday, company president Herbert Diess, urged some kind of agreement that would end the war. He wishes for the end of a dangerous nightmare. But the nightmare has a great culprit. It shows that a neutral country, which knew how to coexist with Stalin’s totalitarian Russia, is more afraid of Putin’s imperial dream, of fundamentalist nationalism, than of the communist dictatorship.
An agreement that does not involve abandoning the Ukrainians requires helping them defend themselves and increasing economic sanctions that will weaken Putin, but also harm the welfare of the rest of the world. We have entered a dangerous spiral of irrationality.