Paavonen T. August 1991 as a turning-point in the finnish-russian relations // Studia Humanitatis Borealis. 2014. № 2. С. 15–24.

Выпуск № 2 (2014)


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УДК 341.24

August 1991 as a turning-point in the finnish-russian relations

Doctor of Social Science, Senior Researcher,
Political History, University of Turku,
Ключевые слова:
Finnish-Soviet relations; Finnish-Russian relations; Finnish foreign policy; Treaty of Friendship
Cooperation and Mutual Assistance; Russian revolution of 1991; Finland’s relationship to European integration
Аннотация: The attempted coup in Moscow, August 19—21, 1991, can be seen as a turning-point in the Finnish-Soviet and Finnish-Russian relations. As a result of these events, the old Cold-War Europe was definitively left behind and the so-called New Europe entered instead to determine the mutual relations. Actually, the question is about gradual even though relatively rapid developments ranging from the perestroika in the latter half of the 1980s to about early 1992. Yet the critical days, August 19—21, 1991, were of crucial significance in this process. The change comprised all aspects of inter-state relations: The Finnish neutrality and the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance (FCA Pact) as foundations of the political relations were replaced by military non-alliance and independent defence as the Finnish security-policy doctrine and a new Treaty of the Foundations of Relations between Finland and the Russian Federation, respectively. The “political line” in the conduct of political relations was abolished. For economic relations, the bilateral trade regime was replaced by a multilateral one and the Finnish-Soviet Trade Treaty of 1947 and some other commercial agreements were replaced by a new trade agreement with the Russian Federation. Cultural exchange under the Finnish-Soviet Scientific-Technical Cooperation Committee was replaced by new type of neighbouring-area cooperation. This paper is preliminary, based on public material. The Finnish foreign policy archives on the matter, once opened to scholars in a couple of years, will specify and, maybe, will revise the picture.

© Петрозаводский государственный университет

Structures of the Finnish-Soviet relations during the Cold-War

Finland’s international position during the Cold War was largely conditioned by its relationship to the Soviet Union, based in contractual terms on the Paris Peace Treaty (1947) and the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance, or FCA Pact (1948). From the onset of Urho Kekkonen’s long-time presidency (1956—1981) the Finnish foreign-policy orientation was known as Paasikivi-Kekkonen Line. Western commentators launched in the 1960s “Finlandization” as a warning against too close relations with the Communist giant.

The most distinguished element of Paasikivi-Kekkonen Line was the Finnish neutrality, which, as distinct from the other neutral countries in Western Europe, carefully took into account the requirements of Soviet relations. Yet the Finnish neutrality was an ambiguous concept. On one hand, it was used to stress Finland’s independence from the Soviet Union [13; 186]. On the other hand, it implied Finland’s special relationship to the Soviet Union by its strict impartiality with regard to the East-West disputes.

According to the Finnish view, for example, membership in the European Communities (EC) was excluded in the Finnish considerations. The provision of the FCA Pact “not to conclude any alliance or join any coalition directed against the other High Contracting Party”[1] was generally understood to cover, among other things, the EC. The FCA Pact was, however, not referred to in this connection by the Finnish foreign policy leadership but the outspoken Finnish argument was a repulsion of supranational decision-making, which was derived from neutrality [22; 79, 148, 152—153].

The Soviet Union recognized the Finnish neutrality from 1956 onwards. In the late 1960s, however, the Finnish neutrality fell into crisis. In the aftermath of the occupation of Czechoslovakia, autumn 1968, the Soviet Union refused to include a mention of neutrality in the Finnish-Soviet communiqués. President Kekkonen managed to resume this mention temporarily during his state visit in July 1970 when the FCA Pact was extended for the second time. Already in 1971, the Soviet Union returned to the negative stand. Since then, the Finnish-Soviet communiqués defined the Finnish foreign policy orientation as “endeavour of peaceful neutrality policy”; “peaceful” was the self-perception of the Soviet foreign policy. According to Max Jakobson, the Soviet Union strove consequently from the late 1960s up to 1978 to tie Finland to its own military system. Despite the Soviet refusal, in the Finnish foreign-policy definitions “neutrality” remained virtually unchanged. This contradiction continued until 1989 [11; 230—248, 266—278, 314—322; 12; 82—84; 30; 31; 32; 29].

A special kind of dual diplomacy was developed between Finland and the Soviet Union under President Kekkonen, and the practice was continued under President Mauno Koivisto (1982–1994). Through ordinary diplomatic channels it was conducted mainly routine affairs. Critical political questions were communicated between the Finnish President and the Soviet leadership through the “political line”, maintained by the Soviet foreign intelligence service through its “resident” in Helsinki.[2] By maintaining contacts through the “KGB Man” with his direct connections to the highest Soviet leadership, the Finnish President could bypass a lot of bureaucratic rigidity and political dogmatism in the Soviet foreign relations administration.[3]

The system of Finnish-Soviet trade was unique in the world. The Most-Favoured-Nation (MFN) treatment between Finland and the Soviet Union was conspicuous, but economically important was the large-scale trade exchange.

The definition of the Finnish-Soviet MFN treatment differed from the Western practice. While normally states grant each other “unconditional” MFN treatment, in the Trade Treaty (1947) Finland and the Soviet Union granted each other “unconditional and unlimited (неограниченный) most-favoured-nation status in respect of all questions related to commerce and navigation between the two countries, as well as in respect of industry and other forms of economic activity in their territories” [24]. Subsequently, the unlimited nature of the MFN treatment implied, most importantly, that Finland had to grant the Soviet Union the same customs benefits than it granted to the EFTA countries in 1961 and the EC in 1973 [20; 108—111; 22; 222].

In 1945–1990, trade with the Soviet Union comprised in average 16 percent of Finland’s foreign trade.[4] In the aftermath of the World War II, a bilateral trade regime with a clearing account was the general practice even among the West European countries, but by the time the Finnish-Soviet trading system became exceptional [20; 149—170]. For the Soviet Union, maintaining trade with Finland on as high level as possible was without doubt a political end in itself [18; 96—98]. For Finland, the system was economically advantageous since it enabled, as the most important benefit, equivalent exports of Finnish goods with high degree of domestic processing as Finland imported from the Soviet Union, mainly oil and other raw materials which were to be imported in any case [16; 280—281]. The Finnish business leaders, notably within the manufacturing industries, were anxious to retain the bilateral clearing system as long as possible.[5]

 New relationship under perestroika

 A new, more responsive Soviet attitude towards Finland is discernible since about 1978 when the Soviet Union relinquished attempts to tie Finland closer to its military system. In the presidential election of 1982, the Soviet Union originally favoured Ahti Karjalainen, but when it turned out that he had no possibilities, the Soviet leadership, then still under Leonid Brezhnev, accepted easily Mauno Koivisto’s presidency [17; 19—20]. President Koivisto continued Kekkonen’s foreign policy orientation. In 1983, the FCA Pact was extended for the third time now up to 2003.

Perestroika was received in Finland enthusiastically, as well as in the Western Europe in general. It was perceived as a positive development in which the Soviet Union dissociated itself from all that negative features with which it had been associated thus far. Finnish-Soviet relations developed, in political terms, favourably, though it lasted until October 1989 that Secretary General Mikhail Gorbachev at last could arrange time for a state visit to Finland. Gorbachev was received by the people as a liberator who resumed the Finnish independence. He, for example, accepted easily the statement of Finnish neutrality in the joint declaration, i.e. without the “endeavour of peaceful (…)” [17; 304—305]. The climax of the visit was Gorbachev’s address at Finlandia House in which he publically recognized the Finnish neutrality “without conditions” (безусловно) [38; 48]. People swarmed and cheered where ever “Gorba” and Raisa Maximovna moved, which Gorbachev also notices in his memoirs [6; 754—755].

In the circumstances of perestroika it was already ambiguous whether EC membership still was to be regarded as an anti-Soviet act. During his visit to Finland, November 1989, Gorbachev was asked by a journalist about his attitude if “some neutral country, say Austria,[6] wish to join the Common Market, the European Community”. Gorbachev replied at the end of his curly answer: “(…) it is her right (это ее право) [38; 52—53].”

With regard to West European integration, Finland, however, adhered to the consolidated neutrality doctrine. It did not even consider joining the EC until in the early 1990s but adhered to the projected European Economic Space (EES) (later on renamed the European Economic Area, EEA). In its report to the Parliament, November 1988, the Finnish Government opined [5; 5]:

 “Implementing Finland’s policy of neutrality requires that we keep decision making in our own hands. In our view this is not compatible with full membership in the EC. The EC is striving to create a European union which would include a common foreign policy.”

 During 1989 and 1990, there were no official deliberations about changing the Finnish integration policy. The attitude towards European integration was basically unaltered in the Government Notice to the Parliament in late November 1989, [35; 5] soon after Gorbachev’s visit. The report of the Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee in June 1990 continued on the same guidelines [33; 10]. Paavo Väyrynen, a Centre Party politician but also a scholarly student of the Finnish foreign policy, has remarked that throughout 1990 the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister repulsed consequently an EC membership as incompatible with neutrality while President Koivisto became more reticent in this respect [37; 90, 97—106, 115—117].

In the wake of the East European revolution, it arose in Finland demands for revoking the FCA Pact. The state leadership did not warm to these demands. In September 1990, however, “Operation Pax” was launched. Finland revised unilaterally the Paris Peace Treaty and the FCA Pact on the basis that the solution of the German question had made parts of them obsolete. For the Peace Treaty, the Government declared the military restrictions and the forbiddance of acquiring war material and civil aircraft from Germany to have lost their significance; yet Finland kept in force the commitment not to acquire atomic weapons. The Government declared that the decision “will not change the foundations of the Finnish security and defence policy”. According to President Koivisto, negotiations on the Peace Treaty would have become complicated because of the large number of signatory states whose actual relationship to the treaty was remote. Therefore, Finland only informed in advance the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom whose reactions were interpreted as approving. For the FCA Pact, President Koivisto dictated to the Government minutes a statement according to which reference to Germany as a possible aggressor had become obsolete. The President underlined that the revision concerned only this one aspect, in other respect the treaty preserved its significance. President Koivisto informed in advance President Gorbachev about his aim with regard to the FCA Pact. Gorbachev approved the idea without engaging into longer discussion. The Soviet Foreign Ministry remained somewhat discontent with the Finnish proceeding, especially the unilateral cancellation of the armament restrictions, but acquiesced to the situation after Gorbachev had approved it [17; 359—362; 3; 86—88; 14; 326; 4; 113—116].

From spring 1991 on, there were at last clear indications of change in the Finnish foreign policy view. The very concept of neutrality was under re-consideration within the Finnish state leadership even though no official pronouncements were made. For example, Pertti Paasio, Chairman of the Social Democratic Party, after having left his post as Foreign Minister, questioned the Finnish neutrality in post-Cold War Europe, arguing that there were no longer conflicting parties between which to be neutral [37; 132—143]. During spring 1991, membership in the EC became the prevalent political opinion in Finland even though the President or the Government did not proclaim any new guidelines until in the post-August situation [21; 203—204].

President Koivisto, as the leader of the Finnish foreign policy, and his Government supported Gorbachev to the end. This appeared, for example, in the attitude of official Finland towards the Baltic national movements in 1989–1991. While popular sentiments in Finland – like in the other Nordic countries –were impatiently pro-Baltic, President and Government gave preference to Soviet relations and were prepared to support the Baltic cause only to that extent as was agreed upon with Moscow [17; 306, 321—327, 390—412].

In contrast to warm political relations, the traditional bilateral trade system fell into crisis during perestroika. Increased independence from the state made the Soviet enterprises reluctant to deliver goods for exports to Finland in which they yielded clearing roubles, virtually Soviet roubles, while they could sell alternatively to other countries against convertible currencies. In 1989, it was already expectable that the clearing system was coming to end. Finland tried to delay the inevitable as long as possible, but in late 1990 the Soviet Union at last announced that it will change over to convertible currencies from 1991 on [18; 47—58]. In autumn 1990, when the end of the bilateral trade became obvious, Finland initiated negotiations on a new trade agreement in which obligations were genuinely reciprocal [17; 373—375]. There were negotiations or at least discussions between Finland and the Soviet Union but these did not lead to a result at this phase.  

From Finnish-Soviet to Finnish-Russian relations

The official Finnish reaction to the attempted coup in Moscow, August 19–21, 1991, was worded conspicuously mildly. August 19, the first day of the dramatic events, the Finnish Government declared as follows [19; 140]:

”The Finnish Government regrets that the declaration of martial law has suspended the democratic development in the Soviet Union. ‑‑‑ The Government wishes that normal conditions will be resumed as soon as possible in our neighbour country.”

 At this stage, it was believed in Finland that the coup would succeed.

 The immediate effect of the attempted coup and especially its failure was that it wiped out the cautiousness, which had marked Finland’s attitude to the Eastern neighbour thus far. The Finnish state leadership recorded that the above-mentioned statement, though with mild wording, was the first time that Finland criticized developments in the Soviet Union [17; 432, 435; 3; 90—91]. The second expression of the new mood was the attitude towards the Baltic countries. Finland recognized their independence – or officially: resumed diplomatic relations with them – in late August in the wake of the other West European countries. To be sure, this step took place after Russia had recognized them, but before the Soviet Union did it [17; 439—441; 3; 91].

State-level relations between Finland and Russia date back to June 1991 when President Koivisto, during his visit to the Soviet Union, met Boris Yeltsin, the newly-elected President of Russia. Yeltsin stressed the primacy of Russia with regard to the Soviet Union but understood, according to Koivisto, Finland’s endeavour to maintain relations primarily with Gorbachev’s administration [17; 426—435; 3; 89—90].

In the post-coup situation, Finland, at last, took up the renovation of the FCA Pact but abstained consequently from unilateral action. According to Jaakko Blomberg, then Head of the Political Department of the Finnish Foreign Ministry, uncertainty prevailed within the Finnish foreign relations administration, whether Finland still had to negotiate with the Soviet Union or with Russia, or with both. In early September 1991, Prime Minister Esko Aho gave an address, approved by Koivisto, as he claims [2; 74], in which he – with cautious wording and not mentioning the Treaty itself – let to understand that it was time to renovate the FCA Pact. Aho spoke about “Russia–Soviet Union” [1]. Finland moved ahead cautiously. Koivisto tells in his memoires to have explained to the Foreign Minister Paavo Väyrynen [17; 442]:

“(…) that in Soviet and Russian relations one had to beware of falling into a situation in which we would support one group to power and thereafter we would get its suspicions that in the future we possibly could support somebody else to power in the same way.”                                                          

Some days later, Foreign Minister Väyrynen discussed the question with Andrei Kozyrev, Foreign Minister of Russia, and Boris Pankin, the Soviet Foreign Minister, who had been one of the few Soviet diplomats loyal to Gorbachev during the coup days. According to Blomberg, President Koivisto decided the dilemma of negotiating partner by contacting, on September 12, President Gorbachev through the political line of the Soviet embassy. As the starting point, he suggested the Soviet-German basic agreement of 1990. Six days later, there were two answers. In Moscow, Yuri Deryabin, Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister, urged President Koivisto through the Finnish ambassador to send a letter on the matter to the President Gorbachev. In Stockholm, Boris Pankin, Soviet Foreign Minister, answered to a journalist’s question that the Soviet Union was prepared to discuss the FCA Pact with Finland, if Finland wanted so. According to Deryabin, he was unaware of Koivisto’s initiative, which had been transmitted through the “party line”, but Pankin knew it. Four days later, foreign ministers Väyrynen and Pankin agreed on starting negotiations in Moscow in October [36; 115—116; 17; 442—443; 4; 194—196; 3; 92—95].

Negotiations with the Soviet Union were carried out in Moscow from October 14 to November 5, 1991. It was agreed upon with Russia that Finland will first conclude a treaty with the Soviet Union after which a corresponding treaty will be negotiated with Russia. The Soviet delegation easily accepted the Finnish draft text as the basis of negotiations. The Treaty of Good Neighbourhood and Cooperation was initialled on December 9, i.e. a day after the Belavezha Accords, establishing the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), was signed. According to the new treaty, Finnish-Soviet relations were to be based on the principles of the Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE). The parties committed themselves, among other things, to abstain from threatening with force or the use of force, not to allow their territories be used for armed aggression against each other, and not to assist an aggressor militarily if one of the parties would be attacked. According to Yuri Deryabin, Chairman of the Soviet delegation, the Soviet delegation tried to include in the preamble a mention of the significance of the FCA Pact, but the Finns resisted resolutely. He wondered the Finns’ sudden “allergy” to the treaty which they still recently had praised, but the Soviet delegation gave way, and about the FCA Pact it was mentioned only that the new treaty replaces it. In view of recently increased demands of resuming the lost Karelia, the Soviet delegation, however, demanded a separate article on the integrity of the Finnish-Soviet border. The Finns first objected to, but since the Soviets were persistent Finland eventually complied to include a separate article on a “border of good neighbourhood and cooperation”. On Finland’s initiative the treaty included an article on Finns and Finnish-kindred peoples in the Soviet Union and, reciprocally, Russians in Finland [17; 445—447; 4; 196—201; 3; 96—101].

President Koivisto tells in his memoirs that he first aimed to travel himself to the signing ceremony, envisaged in Moscow on December 18, but then cancelled the aim. Foreign Minister Väyrynen was to travel to sign the treaty with the Soviet foreign minister Eduard Shevardnadze. Since the position of President Gorbachev was weakening from day to day, Finland still wished to be assured about the attitude of Russia. A day before the aimed signing, it turned out that Russia had adopted a categorically negative stance to the treaty, after which the Finnish and the Russian foreign ministries stated jointly that the treaty will be dropped [36; 116—117; 17; 448; 3; 97].

Negotiations with Russia were carried out from November 27, 1991, to January 14, 1992. During the negotiations, on December 30, 1991, after the Soviet Union had ceased to exist, Finland at last recognized the Russian Federation as the successor state of the Soviet Union. A day before the envisaged signature, President Yeltsin wished to postpone the proceeding to March when he aimed to visit Finland, but the Finnish state leadership regarded it as an excessive delay. Seemingly, the Finns wanted to get rid of the FCA Pact as soon as possible. As Yeltsin contented himself with the Finnish stance, the Treaty between the Republic of Finland and the Russian Federation on the Foundations of Relations [28] was signed in Helsinki on January 20, 1992, by the Prime Minister Aho and the Deputy Prime Minister Gennady Burbulis. At the same time, an Agreement on cooperation in the neighbouring areas of North-Western Russia [27] and a new Trade agreement [26] were signed as well. The ratification acts were changed in July, 1992, during President Yeltsin’s visit to Helsinki [36; 117—119; 17; 447—450; 3; 102—103].

The Treaty of the Foundations of Relations was mainly a repetition of the failed Finnish-Soviet treaty. Relations were to be based on the principles of the CSCE. The Finnish-Russian border was to be a “border of good neighbourhood and cooperation”. The parties committed themselves to abstain from threatening with force or the use of force, respecting each other’s territorial integrity and political independence, and solving their mutual disputes exclusively through peaceful means. The parties committed themselves not to use or allow their territories be used for armed aggression against each other, and not to assist militarily an aggressor if one of the parties would be attacked. Further, the Treaty outlined areas of mutual cooperation, among them supporting the national identity of Finns and Finnish-kindred peoples in Russia and, correspondingly, those with the Russian origin living in Finland. The FCA Pact was not even mentioned in the text of the treaty, but in the signing ceremony the contracting parties only declared it as repealed. According to Koivisto, Yeltsin expressed his satisfaction to the annulment of the FCA Pact which “had been unjust for Finland” [9; 17; 447—452].

The Agreement on cooperation in the neighbouring areas covered promotion of mutual trade, economic development, environmental protection, education, etc. in the Murmansk Region, the Republic of Karelia, Saint-Petersburg and the Leningrad Region. Finland committed itself to support the cooperation financially within annual budgetary appropriations, and Russia committed itself to facilitate the implementation of projects within this cooperation. The Agreement entitled regional authorities, as well as local authorities in Finland, to conclude agreements on individual cooperation projects [10].

Negotiations on the new Trade agreement were started in autumn 1991, and the agreement was initialled on January 14, 1992. The agreement replaced the Soviet-time ones, i.e. the Trade Treaty of 1947, the Agreement on Customs Questions of 1960, the Agreement on the Finnish-Soviet economic cooperation commission of 1967, and the last framework agreement of 1989. Starting from 1992, Finnish-Russian trade relations were to be based on the principles of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), to which Finland was a contracting party and whose principles Russia was adopting. The agreement anticipated that Russia will adopt market economy.

The new trade agreement was, seemingly, formulated in view of Finland’s membership in the EC / European Union. According to the articles of the agreement, Finland no longer granted Russia those customs benefits which it granted within the West European free trade zone, but the Finnish-Russian trade was to be based on the principle of Most-Favoured-Nation (MFN) treatment according to GATT provisions. Note that MFN treatment, in spite of the wording, is normally the “worst” treatment between trading partners. The agreement also explicitly included reservation for economic areas, customs unions or free-trade areas, as well as preferences for developing countries and neighbour countries, as exemptions from the MFN rule. On the other hand, the agreement excluded return to the bilateral clearing basis, the benefits of which Finland had enjoyed up to 1990, while stipulating trade to be conducted between judicial and physical persons using convertible currencies, albeit it enabled countertrade between firms. A new Finnish-Russian Economic Cooperation Commission was established to replace the Soviet-time one.

In spite of the articles proper, Finland and Russia, however, agreed to continue, by and large, the thus far practices temporarily. These stipulations were placed in the correspondence, the provisions of which the parties applied to on autonomous basis, i.e. they were flexibly detachable. The parties, firstly, committed themselves not to introduce new import duties or related fees so far. Finland committed itself so continue, so far, duty-free imports from Russia as had been defined in the agreement of 1960. Exception to these two provisions formed those agricultural and fisheries products that had belonged to the sphere of free trade. Russia, for its part, committed itself to continue duty-free imports from Finland at least until it will adopt an up-to-date Customs Tariff. Free trade covered products originating in the contracting party; products originating in the CIS were paralleled with Russian products [8]. The agreement lost its significance when, in the beginning of 1995, Finland entered the European Union with its Common Trade Policy.

At the same time with the turmoil in the Finnish-Soviet and Finnish-Russian relations, Finland’s relationship with the EC as well as its foreign-policy definition changed. After the attempted coup in Moscow, during the autumn 1991, the Finnish opinion definitively changed over to the EC membership. President Koivisto instructed the Prime Minister that the FCA Pact, still intact, could not be an obstacle to Finland’s integration decisions since in that case the Soviet Union would be given a right of veto to Finland’s decisions [17; 444]. The new Treaty of the Foundations of Relations then removed definitively the problem of compatibility between EC membership and Russian relations. Obviously, security-policy considerations affected the change of mind. President Koivisto explains in his memoires this point of view being decisive when he came to the conclusion of EC membership. “But this (…) was not to be said publicly” [17; 554]. In front of the Finnish Parliament he argued that “we have voice there where decisions are made”, [17; 541—542] which also became the prevalent argument in Finland. Also Max Jakobson, Finnish veteran diplomat and observer of world events, has regarded safeguarding the Western identity and strengthening the country’s security as the ultimate motive of the pro-EC majority [12; 110—111]. Finland became, together with Sweden and Austria, a member of the European Union (EU), to which the EC had been transformed in autumn 1993, from the beginning of 1995.

The change in the foreign-policy definition was part of the EC/EU process and removed the problem of compatibility between EC membership and neutrality. Also, in this respect, the definite change dates to autumn 1991 [37; 132—137]. The Government Notice to Parliament in March 1992 on Finland’s EC application re-defined the Finnish neutrality as follows [7, 34; 5]:

“(…) the core of Finnish neutrality can be characterized as military non-alignment and an independent defence.”

 The definition followed that adopted by Sweden already in 1991 [37; 117]. Soon, however, “the core of neutrality” dropped out from both the Swedish and the Finnish definition. What was left as the characterization of the Finnish foreign-policy orientation was “military non-alignment and independent defence.” [37; 164—188].

With the end of the Soviet Union also the assignment of Felix Karasev in Helsinki ceased. This marked the end of the “political line” in the conduct of Finland’s relations with the Eastern neighbour. From 1992 on relations with Russia were conducted through normal diplomatic channels like with other countries [17; 452—453].

From 1992 on, relations between Finland and the new Russia developed favourably. To be sure, the appointment of Yuri Deryabin, who formerly, during the Brezhnev era, under the pseudonym Yuri Komissarov had actively questioned the Finnish neutrality, as the first Russian Ambassador in Helsinki raised astonishment [4; 213—214]. Deryabin, however, served his country’s new policy as faithfully as he had served the old one. He was focused on healing the consequences of former Soviet interference in Finnish internal affairs [4; 217—226; 233—234]. President Yeltsin, when visiting Finland in July 1992, also regretted the former Soviet interference in Finnish affairs [17; 568]. Both countries concluded a Partnership for Peace agreement with the NATO in 1994. Finland contributed actively to Russia’s membership in the Council of Europe in 1996.

From about 1989 on, demands of resuming the lost territories, notably the lost Karelia, emerged in Finland. These demands were raised especially by representatives of Karelian evacuees and their descendants, but also by other activist groups [17; 455—458]. The new Treaty of the Foundations of Relations, when resorting to the principles of the CSCE, would have enabled border revision by mutual agreement. The resumption demands were, however, not supported by the state leadership. President Koivisto and the Government regarded that borders, confirmed in the peace treaty, were to be preserved [17; 455—458, 566].

During the 1990s, Finnish-Russian trade recovered gradually from the bottom into which it had fallen as a result of the political turmoil. Yet it lasted up to 2005 until Russia again became one of Finland’s largest trading partners [25].

The future of the Finnish-Russian relations

Until recently, the Finnish-Russian relations seemed to be unproblematic. In the 1990s, it even seemed that a new era of general harmony in the East-West relations had dawned. Unlike the former Soviet Union, the New Russia did not perceive West European integration as any threat. Yet the Eastern enlargement of the NATO, from 1999 on, and the US radar-stations programme in Eastern Europe have strained East-West relations. Clash between the geopolitical interests of Russia, on one hand, and the ideological ambitions of the European Union and the geopolitical interests of the United States, on the other, from late2013 inUkraine have changed the situation dramatically. The controversy can also be characterized as a clash between the Eastern Partnership programme of the EU and the Eurasian Union project of Russia. The present situation can become a new turning-point also in the Finnish-Russian relations.

Finland is involved in the new conflict indirectly through the EU membership. The Finnish-Russian relations are a part of the EU-Russia relations. Finland has not been an advocate of sanctions against Russia but has participated in their implementation loyally. Finland belongs to those member countries whose economy is hurt most through curtailed exports. In principle, Finland could have blocked the decision on sanctions, since the Common Foreign and Security policy requires unanimous decision-making, but such a proceeding would have brought Finland into conflict with most of its EU partners.

If Finland joins the NATO, the Finnish-Russian relations would also become a part of the NATO-Russia relations. From the 1990s on, Finland has kept a “NATO option” open, but this has been rather of theoretical significance. Thus far, at least, advocates of NATO membership have been a clear minority in the Finnish opinion.


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