Thursday

22nd Feb 2018

Opinion

On the Finlandisation of Europe

  • Finland's neutral status during the Cold War was imposed by the Soviet Union (Photo: stopherjones)

Russia's diehard unwillingness to acknowledge it is in the 21st century is quite simply tedious. Interestingly it is not Russia, but Europe and its inactivity we should be afraid of. The Finlandisation of Europe is a very real prospect that would undermine our security and the credibility of the European project.

Russia refuses dialogue and continues to escalate the situation in Ukraine. It not only takes two for a dialogue, it also takes willingness to listen. Furthermore, if territories are being annexed and new ones are being earmarked for invasion, that is war, albeit a new kind of war.

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Clearly businesses will have to suffer losses. If not today, then tomorrow with interest. German and other companies should have acknowledged the risks before venturing to Russia, whose regime defines itself through opposition to the West. Cyprus, Greece and others should have thought twice before accepting Russian money, even if in dire need.

Sure, economy matters. Statistician Hans Rosling once made a comment on enterprises and how society should treat them. He said companies are to society what horses were to farms. They were like the engine keeping the farm running. One needed to treat them well, talk to them kindly as they were vital for putting food on the table. But, he said, one never asked the horse's opinion on how to run things.

The political illiteracy of German businesses demonstrated by their pro-Russian lobbying activities illustrates the validity of this point with even larger horsepower.

Those who claim to be balanced, pragmatic and political realists say we should continue making business with Russia, whilst at all times saying how concerned we are. By the way, nobody cares about what the EU thinks or feels, not even its own citizens. Brussels has missed another chance to make itself more relevant and visible on the eve of the EU elections. A crisis wasted.

The "realists" also remark that our reservations should not be too vocal – it would corner Russia even more and whatever bad it does will be our fault.

Well, quite frankly this path would lead to Finlandisation of Europe. The term originates from Germany and it described Finland after 1944 when it was under heavy Soviet influence, that is to say Soviet threat. In short, Finnish domestic and foreign policy was not supposed to irritate USSR.

Present day: EU does business with Russia (presented as pragmatic realpolitik), keeping quiet in affairs that interest Russia in the wider world or in its "backyard". The justification would be Russia's "legitimate interests" or our economic ties. Voicing diplomatic concerns without any significant actions (proper economic sanctions, suspension of South Stream or massive money laundering investigations) counts as keeping quiet.

Such a balanced approach will be defended by saying that emphasising human rights, transparency and democracy would be seeing the world in black and white.

How does one have a "balanced view" of annexation?

This shift is already taking place with Russia calling the shots in the EU through German companies, lobbying the City of London, a handful of Central and Southern-European governments and Europe's extremist parties. If the pattern continues Europe will be complicit in enabling Russia to do what it wants. EU will help it in introducing a new, successful type of warfare. Or whatever you want to call it.

In its defence at least Finland was small next to the Soviet Union. Germany refuses to admit the danger of its inaction. Its size obliges it to take responsibility. Germany's influence means that its decisions mean EU decisions.

The outcome of current trends in the EU would be a modern and graver version of Finlandisation, perhaps Europeanisation. If nothing is done, the political and economic effects will boomerang back to Germany and the rest of the continent. Just like the word 'Finlandisierung' has now come a full circle back to Berlin.

The writer is an adviser for foreign affairs and security and defence policy at the European Parliament for Estonian MEP Indrek Tarand. This article presents his personal views

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