Finland After Elections: Olli Rehn and Ministry of Hybrid Affairs

The parliamentary election in Finland is kind of daily routine for Europe. The Centrists, Social-Democrats, the National Coalition Party… Does it really matter if there is a master in the house? Helsinki snaps to attention and clicks heels upon receiving a command from Brussels. But there is a problem that cannot leave Finnish farsighted politicians and businessmen indifferent. Too many factors – geography, military and political issues, economic cooperation and history – make the relationship with Russia an issue which is always on the radar screen.

The election is over. The Centre Party won as expected and its leader Juha Sipilä is to form a government. The party’s leadership is to hold talks on coalitions and cabinet positions. Well-informed sources say the appointment of Olli Rehn as Minister of Foreign Affairs is a slam dunk decision. He is a Brussels bureaucrat, a European MP and a soccer player who likes to thoughtfully stare into the distance and say many words that sound great but often have rather blur meanings. Still some of them could be made out.

On March 23, as the pre-election campaign was running in full swing, Rehn published an article in Finnish newspaper Maaseudun Tulevaisuus under a mysterious and alarming caption – Is Finland Unprepared for Hybrid War? What is it about? It goes without saying that the hybrid warfare threat is posed by Russia – the annexation of Crimea and the war in the eastern part of Ukraine are the best examples. No doubt, Finland is unprepared to meet the challenge. It means that with the election over, Finland should create appropriate structures to repel the hybrid aggressor. Naturally, the issue of NATO membership comes into spotlight.

Finland-Hybrid affairsSome people may find it rather amusing. Wait a moment, don’t jump to conclusions! There is something for future Prime Minister to ponder. It all goes to show that Olli Rehn got too big for his britches. He needs a structure to match his capabilities as a political heavyweight, like, for instance, the Ministry of Hybrid Affairs. The main direction is the East, so he’ll need a partner in Russia. Perhaps, some old friends from the Committee of the Soviet Youth Organizations (it was part of the International Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union) will pop up. Though most likely it will be a kind of mental institution.

The choice for publication is really intriguing. Maaseudun Tulevaisuus (“The Rural Future”) covers news on agriculture and forestry as well as related businesses. The time is right for planting spring crops. All of a sudden hybrid warfare threats fill the agenda. Yikes!..

Now, there are some thoughts to share. Olli Rehn is the 20th in the list of newly elected centrist candidates. He ran in Helsinki (couldn’t be any other place, he even speaks English!) and got…1, 9% of votes. As one can see he’s a «really popular» high-profile politician to define the national foreign policy during the next four years. The only thing Russia can do is observe the principle of political correctness. It should go on saying there are no problems to effect the bilateral relations and keep harping on about the trade turnover statistics (is it up or down?).

Now a few additional words about popularity and justice.

For many years the position of defence minister has been held by the Swedish People’s Party. It normally receives only a few percent of votes (due to only one constituency located in the west of the country) and then tries to independently define the military and political issues that influence everyday lives of over five million people. The trouble is that recently the Finnish Ministry of Defence has started to look at the security problems through the prism of Swedish defeat in the Battle of Poltava. The signature of Minister Carl Haglund on a Joint Declaration on the expansion of Nordic military cooperation made public by Norwegian Aftenposten on April 9 is the best testimony to the fact. The document made top Finnish officials wonder. The rhetoric of Haglund and some other officials about the need to boost the Nordic cooperation (naturally, in view of Russian threat) sounds too childish today. Generally speaking, it made sense in the mid-1930s against the background of talks about the policy of neutrality. Today Denmark, Iceland and Norway are NATO members. Should Finland follow the path of Baltic States forsaken by God? It’s hard to say…

This time the Swedish People’s Party got only 5% of votes. No great shakes! In some countries it would not even cross electoral threshold. Besides, it never rains, but it pours. The majority of Finnish MPs want to cancel mandatory Swedish in Finnish schools. Nevertheless the tradition is stronger than arithmetic and common sense.

Urho Kekkonen,  the longest-serving President of Finland (1956–1982)
Urho Kekkonen, the longest-serving President of Finland (1956–1982)

Historia opettaa i.e. History teaches. Post-war generations of Finnish politicians have been guided by this maxim. All the talk about Finlandization is destined for those who don’t know the real state of things. The truth is that Finland has always benefitted from the relationship with Russia, let it be politics, trade or economy. It strengthened its international standing and made its economic potential grow. Khrushchev and Brezhnev were the right partners to make deals with if one acted wisely and adopted balanced approaches. The great Finnish leaders – Juho Kusti Paasikivi and Urho Kaleva Kekkonen did just that.

“We, the Finns, have drawn lessons to make a conclusion that the attempts to make float political speculations about the Soviet Union are nothing but complete misinterpretation of things. It was a lip service paid to Finland. We built the relationship without outside intermediaries. We had no examples to follow. The process was based on bilateral talks in the spirit of confidence and mutual understanding. That’s what it’s going to be like in the future.” [Urho Kekkonen, Tamminiemi, Weilin+Göös, 1980].

Tamminiemi is a small book written by late president Kekkonen. Actually, it’s his political legacy. He thought hard before arriving at these conclusions after his country had gone through great hardships. The legacy has become forgotten, including by Olli Rehn, a hybrid politician, who represents the Finnish Centre Party – the party of Kekkonen.

Source: Strategic Culture Foundation

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