I’ve written in my earlier posts about the consequences that Finland will face by abandoning its neutral status and painting a large NATO bullseye on their country: Finland – Life after NATO. More consequences are looming. Before I proceed to translating an article on the matter, let me start off with a few Telegram re-posts on the topic of “NATO does not give Russia guarantees regarding the non-deployment of nuclear weapons in Finland and Sweden if they join the alliance”
Russell gave a very apt response to that:
Another consequence of the NATO-finnazation is outlined in Brian Berletic’s Telegram post:
Finland already begins paying price for NATO membership even before becoming a member.
Reuters reports Finland to build barriers (which requires $) along border with Russia. All just to play along with “Russia bad” narrative at the cost of Finnish treasure and its longstanding ties with Russia.
And on this note let me proceed to the translation of the main article for this post, published on Cont on the 28th of May.
It has started… Russia asked Finland only two territorial questions…
The NATO Secretary General admitted that the plan for accelerated expansion to the north has been thwarted: Finland and Sweden are unlikely to become candidates for membership at the alliance summit in June due to Turkey’s demands. But since then, Russia has had its own questions to Finland and they relate to the status of the territories that are so far managed from Helsinki. So far.
Helsinki was warned: Russia will not turn a blind eye on the fact that the length of its border with NATO countries will increase by about half. The main answer, presumably, will come from the General Staff and will include the relocation of troops and weapons. But there will also be political consequences – Russia and Finland have a long history of “special relations”. We have some pots to break.
The simultaneous retreat of the Swedes under the wing of the North Atlantic Alliance is less noticeable, although the Swedish army and military-industrial complex are much more powerful than the Finnish one. Firstly, because of the selfsame border. Secondly, we quarrelled with the Swedes already back in the noughties – mainly because of Georgia and Mikhail Saakashvili, whose manager was the veteran Swedish politician Carl Bildt. Since then, wealthy Scandinavians have been part of an informal anti-Russian bloc within the EU along with Poland, the Baltic States and Romania, and have not entered into any dialogues with Russia.
Not so with the Finns, with whom a large-scale friendship and cooperation agreement is still in force. Guided by its provisions, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto even called the Kremlin to inform about the decision of the Finnish elites. If the idea of joining NATO is now supported by the majority in society (with the start of the Special Operation and for the first time in history), then support in the political class is almost absolute. For example, in the Finnish parliament – Eduskunt, only the ultra-left voted against the application for membership in the alliance.
From Niinisto’s point of view, he simply informed Russia of the fact. And now many are waiting to see what fact Russia itself will show Helsinki in return.
Initially, economic pressure was predicted, but now it is clear that this does not work: the Finns have bitten the bridle and are enthusiastically shooting themselves in the foot. For example, at a time when the Germans, Italians, Greeks and most other buyers of Russian gas agreed to pay for it in roubles, the Finns, almost 2/3 of whose needs for blue fuel are covered by the Russian Federation, took a stance after the Poles – ready to sacrifice their industry, just so as not to succumb to “blackmail” (extremely harmless, we note) from Moscow.
Initially, they were expected to behave much more cautiously. After all, Finland’s economy is more dependent on Russia than of any other EU country. There are strong ties left over from Soviet times, both tourism, and brisk trade, and most importantly – geography. St. Petersburg with its suburbs is comparable in population to the whole of Finland.
Therefore, when we have a crisis, they also have a crisis. The incomes of Finns inevitably fall if the purchasing power of Russians falls.
So there was a reason to expect prudence from the Finns – and not only by our side, but also by the EU, where such prudence would have been called for “betrayal”.
Brussels and Washington also understood everything about the Finnish economy. Now, as if proving to the “big brother” that Helsinki is not a weak link and will not flinch before the Russian bear, the Finns are running ahead of the American locomotive of sanctions – and are running straight to NATO.
Now the progress has slowed down – Turkey is blocking the expansion of the alliance and Croatia wants to block it. For both of them, this is, first of all, a subject for bargaining with the United States: Ankara needs the lifting of arms sanctions and access to American high technologies, and the Croats need the Croatian autonomy in Bosnia. The prospects for realizing these wishes in full are very modest. But you need to understand that Finland just got caught in the crossfire here, while formally the claims are levied against Sweden.
The Turks do not like that there are now many Kurdish politicians in the kingdom (at least six deputies in parliament) who are accused in absentia of supporting terrorism. And Croats have long–standing claims personally to Carl Bildt, one of the main authors of the Dayton Accords, where there was no provision for the Croatian national autonomy.
The neighbours on the Scandinavian Peninsula, already in a defence alliance among themselves, expected to join NATO together. But the Finns may be allowed to go ahead, that is, even taking into account the Turkish-Croatian factor, we come to the same result that dissatisfies Russia – Finland’s accession to the North Atlantic Alliance.
It seems unrealistic to reverse this situation. And then the Russian Foreign Ministry reached into their pocket for trumps.
As Russia’s permanent representative to the EU Vladimir Chizhov, an experienced and, as they say, “grated” diplomat, said, now Moscow will have to raise the issue of the status of two territories – the Aland Islands and the Saimaa Canal. Alands belonged to Russia for about as long as independent Finland. And most of the Saimaa Canal still belongs to her – to the great annoyance of the Finns.
The issue with Alands is simpler, although their status is complicated. Being part of Finland, they are inhabited almost exclusively by Swedes, who have extremely broad autonomy by world standards. Many people have their own flag, parliament, cabinet of Ministers. But the islands with a population of 30 thousand (who are, by the way, very wealthy) even have their own citizenship, and their residents do not use Finnish in the official sphere: if the rest of Finland has two official languages, including Swedish, then the Alanders have one – their native language.
These islands became part of Russia after the war with the Swedes – not the famous Northern One, featuring Peter I and Mazepa, but the war of 1808-1809, when St. Petersburg, having signed the Peace of Tilsit, was for some time an ally of Napoleon. Actually, it was then the Russian Empire expanded with Finland as such, essentially granting the Finns national statehood under the crown of the Romanovs.
So the islands located at the entrance to the Gulf of Bothnia temporarily became the westernmost point of the Empire. At that time, they were of enormous importance both for the shipping in the Baltic and for the military control of the region. Now the Russian army was “threatening the Swede” just 130 kilometres from Stockholm.
There is little left of the military infrastructure of the islands after another war, which Russia, contrary to its custom, lost – the Crimean one (translator note: actually, it was the Crimean battle that was lost, but not that “un-enumerated” world war – otherwise Russia would not have retained control of the strategically important Crimea). Fighting was also going on in the Baltic, the French fired at Alands from the sea, and as a result of the conflict, the allies forced St. Petersburg to make the islands a demilitarized zone, and this requirement was observed at least until the beginning of the XX century.
After the collapse of the Russian Empire, the Swedes tried to regain their own and landed on the Alands, where the people still spoke exclusively Swedish. But the League of Nations, the predecessor of the UN, decided to leave the islands to Finland on the terms of broad autonomy and maintaining the status of a demilitarized zone. To this day, the Alanders do not even serve in the Finnish army.
In the case of modern Russia, it is unlikely that we are talking about the “return of the Alands to their native harbour” – the state borders of modern Finland are pretty much drawn in our favour and recognized by us in many treaties. The question that interests Chizhov is whether this tradition will continue with the expansion of NATO to the north, whether a base of the North Atlantic Alliance will appear on the islands. If the flywheel of the geopolitical conflict continues to unwind, if another escalation occurs in Russia’s relations with the West, this cannot be ruled out, which will require a fundamentally different military doctrine from the Russian army and navy in the Baltic.
As for the Saimaa Canal, it was one of the “great construction projects” of the Imperial period. Its purpose is to connect the system of inland lakes of Finland (Saimaa is the largest of them) with the Gulf of Finland and, accordingly, with the Baltic Sea. They have been trying to dig something like this since the XV century, but they succeeded only by the end of the reign of Nicholas I, something the Finns begged the emperor to do. They needed trade routes, and St. Petersburg needed, for example, wood (in the sense of Finnish wood), so the monarch provided his blessing and his own money.
The project was expensive, but it came out cheaper than expected and paid off earlier than planned. This has not happened often with large state projects in the history of Russia.
The channel was opened solemnly – on the day of the coronation of Alexander II. At that time, unable to contain with the festive fireworks, they set a big fire in the Vyborg Castle, located at the outlet of the channel to the Baltic Sea (by the way, today this is the only knight’s castle of the Western European type on the territory of the Russian Federation).
After the collapse of the Empire, the Saimaa Canal remained on the Finnish territory, but as a result of the Soviet-Finnish and World War II, most of it flows through Russia.
In the era of forced, but rather warm friendship between Helsinki and Moscow, the channel was modernized and received a second life. The then President of Finland, Urho Kekkonen, said at its opening that the friendship of the two peoples was “cast here in concrete and carved into the rocks.”
The repairs were carried out with Finnish money, but the subtle detail is that by that time the canal had already been leased out to Finland, or rather, a narrow strip of land along it. Finnish national patriots considered this a very bad deal – recognition of territorial losses, but on their part it was an empty noise: the irrevocability of those “losses” had by that time already been manifested in many ways.
The lease agreement was concluded for a period of a century and is due to expire in 2063. But given that there is no friendship with the Finns anymore (and there is none, and it’s not just about NATO; after the start of the special operation, opinion polls revealed the residents of Suomi as one of the most anti-Russian-minded peoples of the EU), the legal services of Smolenskaya Square and the Kremlin will surely find a reason to terminate the contract ahead of schedule.
Will the Finns notice the consequences? They will. Quite an important for them trade route will become completely dependent on the mood of the Russian customs.
But at the same time, this is a movement in the direction that the Finns themselves have declared. The severing of ties with Russia, the withdrawal of companies from the Russian market, a sharp reduction in trade, including through the Saimaa Canal – the Finns are doing all this themselves. The termination of the contract resembles the last unification of forces for the sake of a common goal – to close the door. Only the Finns close it from the outside, and we from the inside (or vice versa; there may be different opinions).
It would be better for us if Suomi felt all the economic costs at once. This can cool the ardour of hot Finnish guys and lead to reflection on the fact that some things are unchangeable, including their neighbouring with a huge nuclear power, with which it is very expensive to be at enmity.
There is no doubt that sobering up will commence. The good-natured and hospitable Finns of the Soviet-Russian period only in their language reminded of an extremely embittered people, with whom we fought more often and for longer than with any other in the XX century.
— Dmitry Bavyrin
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