Not just Ukraine
Non-alignment
Aproaching NATO
A tale of two countries
The Grand Duchy
The fall of the empire
1917: Finnish independence
1917–1918: Revolution and independence
1939–1940: The Winter War
1941 and 1944: WW2 fighting
The Great Patriotic War
The price of independence
1948: Finno-Soviet Treaty
Between two giants
Neither this nor that
1960s: EFTA and EEC
1980s: Joining EFTA
1992: European Economic Area
The four freedoms
1992: New times, new agreements
1992: European Economic Community
The military non-alignment question
The EEC was not convinced
Finding a balance
1995: Finland joins the EU
A defensive stance
1999: The idea of an EU army
Caveats
The EU Common Strategy for Russia
December 2003: Changes in security policy
A flexible 'non-alignment'
EU Defence: The White Book and NATO
From 2004 to today
A challange for Sanna Marin
From neutrality to non-alignment to NATO?
Finland: the little country that found balance between Russia and the West
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Not just Ukraine

“The entry of Finland to NATO will have severe military and political repercussions,” declared Maria Zakharova, director of information of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, in late February.

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Non-alignment

Zakharova highlighted the importance to keep military non-alignment. “It's an important factor that contributes to the stability and the safety of Northern Europe and Europe as a whole”, she argued, pointing out that Finland has been a land contested by Russia for centuries.

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Aproaching NATO

Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin stated that her country's neutrality towards NATO “is about to change”. This did not sit well with the Kremlin.

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A tale of two countries

What's the story behind this decision? Why Russia is so vocal about the fate of this Nordic country?

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The Grand Duchy

From 1100 to 1809, the territory that currently comprises Finland belonged to Sweden. After the Napoleonic Wars, it switched hands to Russia as the Grand Duchy of Finland.

Pictured: The Lutheran Cathedral of Helsinki, with a statue of Tsar Alexander II of Russia in front.

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The fall of the empire

It remained under the rule of the tsars until 1917 when they became independent, as several other territories of the empire did, amid the Russian Revolution.

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1917: Finnish independence

Finland only became an independent country in 1917. However, the story between these two countries didn't end there.

Pictured: The Finnish proclamation of independence at Helsinki's Senate Square.

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1917–1918: Revolution and independence

After separating from Russia in 1917, Finland found itself in a gory civil war between the Whites (backed by the government and the Germans) and the Reds (closer to the Bolsheviks and supported by the Soviet Union). Hostilities ended in May 1918, with a victory of the Whites.

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1939–1940: The Winter War

However, the relationship between the two nations didn't end in 1917. Russia attacked the country in 1939 in what is called The Winter War. Finland managed to repel the invasion but had to give away part of its territory to the Soviet Union.

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1941 and 1944: WW2 fighting

Then came the Second World War: Finland, along with Nazi Germany, attacked the Soviet Union in 1941 and regained the territory that was lost during the Winter War.

Pictured: Adolf Hitler and Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim, leader of the Finnish Armed Forces during WW2.

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The Great Patriotic War

The URSS, under the leadership of Joseph Stalin, successfully fought back and forced Finland to sign a treaty.

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The price of independence

The price Finland had to pay to remain out of the Soviet-influenced Eastern bloc after the Second World War was to cede part of its territory to Russia and promise to remain a neutral, independent country.

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1948: Finno-Soviet Treaty

Finland and the URSS signed the Agreement of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual assistance in 1948. This guarantees that Finland will remain a liberal democracy as long it maintained neutrality towards the Soviet Union. The main clause of the treaty stipulated that one could not join a military coalition against the other.

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Between two giants

To ensure its survival, Finland kept its distance from both the Soviet Union and the Western powers during the Cold War. It maintained very cautious relations with Western Europe.

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Neither this nor that

Finland attempted to maintain equal relations with both sides of the Cold War during this time, having parallel economic agreements with the Eastern Bloc and the Western Powers. This ensured its own neutral stance in economic matters.

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1960s: EFTA and EEC

In the 1960s, the European Free Trade Association is created among several countries that prefer not to join the rival European Economic Community. Joining EFTA or ECC was out of the question for Finland due to Soviet opposition.

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1980s: Joining EFTA

However, Finland opened up to the West in 1986, joining EFTA keeping a neutral stance.

Pictured: Finnish President Mauno Koivisto in 1986 with his wife.

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1992: European Economic Area

The six members of the EFTA, including Finland, signed in 1992 an agreement with the then EEC (Now European Union) establishing the European Economic Area.

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The four freedoms

This guarantees the 'four freedoms' of the European Single Market: The freedom of movement of goods, services, capital, and people. However, Finland kept its political neutrality.

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1992: New times, new agreements

In 1989, the Berlin Wall fell and the collapse of the Soviet Union followed soon after. Finland revises the Finno-Soviet Treaty of 1948 and replaces it with a new agreement in 1992.

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1992: European Economic Community

Following the example of neighboring Sweden and fellow neutral EFTA countries, Finland requested to be part of the European Economic Community in 1992.

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The military non-alignment question

It's at this time that Finland redefines its 'neutrality' to mean 'military non-alignment'. As a non-aligned country, Finland can have military cooperation with other nations but excludes itself in matters of mutual defense.

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The EEC was not convinced

The EEC was concerned that neutral countries might weaken the project of a common foreign and security policy (CFSP), and considered for a long time Finland's request to join in.

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Finding a balance

Finland declared to the EEC (later EU) its willingness to implement CFSP, while also reassuring back home that it was possible to follow these policies while keeping its military non-alignment.

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1995: Finland joins the EU

The country becomes a member of the European Union in 1995. Along with Sweden, it proposes including the Petersburg Tasks of military disarmament and peacekeeping to the Treaty of Amsterdam, the basis of the EU's common security policy.

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A defensive stance

This initiative was also a way to prevent the possible merge between the Western European Union and the European Union that many EU members have proposed, and non-aligned members have tried to avoid.

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1999: The idea of an EU army

During Finland's first tenure presiding the Council of the European Union, the project of forming a single EU army, known as Helsinki Headline Goal, was discussed.

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Caveats

Finland contributed with 2,000 men, but with some caveats: They could only serve for crisis management and a preference for civilian rather than military resources.

Pictured: Finnish soldiers as part of a peacekeeping UN mission in Lebanon in 2001.

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The EU Common Strategy for Russia

For Finland, the relationship between Russia and the European Union is fundamental. That's why it played an active role in writing the EU Common strategy for Russia. It supports NATO's role in Northern Europe but doesn't consent expanding the alliance towards the Baltic nations.

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December 2003: Changes in security policy

Finland proposed, along with Austria, Ireland, and Sweden, changes to the EU security policy that are rejected by the Presidency. A commitment is reached to take account of different political positions in regard to security, allowing Finland to remain neutral within the EU.

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A flexible 'non-alignment'

Finland's non-alignment has been flexible enough that it hasn't been a problem for European policy.

Pictured: Finnish president Tarja Halonen with United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

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EU Defence: The White Book and NATO

Experts thought that the situation would change in 2003. However, the release of EU Defence: The White Book in 2004 maintains Finland's neutral status, though it highlights the need for common EU policies and hints at the possibility of joining NATO.

Pictured: NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen with Finnish president Tarja Halonen.

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From 2004 to today

The current geopolitical situation around the globe after the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues to evolve. The chance that Finland becomes part of NATO feels more possible today than a few decades ago.

Pictured: NATO General-Secretary Jens Stoltenberg with Finnish president Sauli Niinistö.

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A challange for Sanna Marin

Not long after the Russian invasion, the Finnish leader tweeted that she “strongly condemns the military action Russia has taken in Ukraine” and that the attack was “a grave breach of international law and threatens the life of numerous civilians”.

Finland: the little country that found balance between Russia and the West
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From neutrality to non-alignment to NATO?

Finland has always committed to having international neutrality as a useful policy to protect its own sovereignty and territorial integrity. Will supporting Ukraine translate into creating closer ties with NATO?

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