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Finnish Security and European Security Policy

Authored by Dr. Stephen J. Blank. | September 1996

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In 1992 Finland applied to join the European Union (EU). It formally entered the EU 3 years later. This decision to join the EU reflected several fundamental changes in Finnish policy. By applying to, and joining, the EU, Finland renounced the Cold War policy of neutrality imposed by the 1948 Fenno-Soviet Treaty of Friendship Cooperation and Mutual Assistance (FCMA) and embraced integration with Europe. Membership in the EU also represents Finland's newly-gained ability to think about its security in broader terms than from 1944, when the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) defeated Finland and compelled it to leave World War II, until 1991, when the Soviet Union fell apart. From 1944- 1991, "defense" and "security" were almost synonymous in Finnish thinking; policy focused almost solely upon not provoking Moscow. Issues of economic security and economic integration with Europe had relatively little significance for Helsinki compared to the need to define a working relationship with Moscow and safeguard Finnish independence. Once the Soviet Union collapsed and the Cold War ended, Helsinki sought to defend Finnish independence by joining Europe. Finnish goals were to obtain more freedom of action, a broader sense of security, and political support from the EU and, more generally, from the West.

Finland's strategic importance to Russia, Scandinavia, and the Baltic littoral imparts considerable relevance to its evolving outlook on European security; therefore, Helsinki's thinking merits serious attention abroad. Thus, the evolution of Finnish views from the time it applied to the EU (1992) to the present has considerable significance for both regional security in the Baltic and for European security more generally. The decision to join the EU resulted from both a long internal debate and the changed international situation at the end of the Cold War. To grasp Finland's policies we must examine the decision to join the EU, its internal debate and what Finland hopes to gain from joining, its views on European integration and security organizations (i.e., the Western European Union (WEU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)), the future of European security, and Finnish policy towards Russia and the Baltic states.