THE BEGINNING OF COOL RELATIONS
Broadcast on 10 December 1958, in Helsinki
I remember when I was Prime Minister that on those occasions when some political decision or opinion that seemed farreaching in its effects did not please President Paasikivi, since it might endanger his foreign policy, he would say with some asperity: `If things don`t straighten themselves out, I`ll go down to the radio station and make a speech.` In fact he never needed to carry out this threat. I am in a worse position than my respected predecessor in that I must make a point of speaking about Finland`s position as regards her foreign policy.
In a way it is disheartening for me to have to return to the theme that ran right through President Paasikivi`s speeches from the autumn of 1944 onwards. When the war ended he set out with great courage and determination to lead Finland from the depths, or to use his own expression, from a veritable chasm. Then he took as his starting point the old truth that foreign policy preceded domestic policy, a truth of which he saw a concrete example in our own destiny. For him, a second and equally important starting point was to be found in the words of the British historian Macaulay: `The beginning of all wisdom lies in the recognition of facts.`
In our foreign policy the overriding question is that of Finland`s relations with her Eastern neighbour, the Soviet Union. It is the essential problem of our foreign policy, one upon which the future of our nation depends. Since the tragic wars, a change in our entire attitude towards the Soviet Union has been demanded, so that the Soviet Union could be assured of the sincere aspirations of the whole Finnish nation for permanent friendly relations and confident collaboration between our countries. `Our foreign policy can henceforth never run counter to the Soviet Union and our Eastern neighbour must be convinced of our determination to prove this.` There in Paasikivi`s own words is the Paasikivi line.
Paasikivi`s work for the creation of friendship between Finland and the Soviet Union meant the removal of the suspicion originating from historical circumstances. `The suspicion of the Soviet Union towards us is very dangerous for Finland`, stated Paasikiviin }945, and he continued: `The mighty Soviet Union, of course, does not fear Finland, but it is vital for us to make the Soviet Union believe in the political leaders and people of Finland, to believe that Finland is not part of any secret conspiracy against the Soviet Union.` A precondition for the banishing of suspicion is the creation of mutual trust. But mutual trust is a dual relationship. It is not sufficient that we proclaim our own confidence in our neighbour and honestly assert that we are worthy of our neighbour`s confidence, `for however well our foreign policy declarations may sound, the eyes of our neighbour follow what occurs at home`, as Paasikivi said in 1947. Accordingly, Paasikivi in all his decisions took account of anything that could promote the growth of Soviet confidence in Finland. He recognized the fact that our own willingness was not in itself a guarantee for the success of the new political line. This could not be built solely upon how we estimated matters and what we intended by our actions. The new line was only possible on the assumption that the other party learned to trust in our honest intentions and our actions. After losing the war we had to win the confidence of our neighbour. It was a hard lesson for us Finns.
For many reasons our nation has often found it difficult to accept a concept of foreign policy based upon political realism, but with the Armistice of 1944 our affairs had reached a point when the Finnish people approved the new orientation of foreign policy and accordingly we began to build up the country`s relations with the Soviet Union. It was difficult to change ideas rooted in decades of history overnight. Particularly at the turn of 1945, the Paasikivi Government met with opposition in parliamentary circles and in public statements that reflected a fairly wide public opinion. The leader of the Government had to defend his policy bluntly: `Yes, we can very easily bring to ruin what still remains to us, but the present Government will not be a party to such a policy. For that, you`ll need another Government.` So said Paasikivi in February 1946.
And so matters developed. Soviet confidence in our policy grew. In 1948 the Pact of Friendship and Mutual Assistance was signed. After a brief period of coolness, a time of trustful collaboration between Finland and the Soviet Union really began in the 1950s, and this has corresponded to the interests of both countries and brought many beneficial results to our own country. Trade has increased from year to year. Cultural relations have flourished, mutual trust and understanding have been strengthened. The visits of leading politicians and the opportunities given to various groups to get to know their neighbours have brought the nations and their leaders closer to one another. In the decade that is now drawing to its close the world has experienced many threatening crises, but Finland, thanks to her foreign policy, has remained outside both the effects and atmosphere of crises. Over the years this special position of ours has awoken respect abroad. Tributes have often been paid to this small Northern nation, whose wisdom and good nerves have enabled it to build from its resources a secure, neutral position as a neighbour of a great power. Some days ago I read a statement made by a leading Western European statesman about our country to a representative of Finland. He said that he had followed with continual respect the instinct and skill shown by Finland in her Eastern policy. In this regard, Finland set a good example to the rest of the world and still does. Although our everyday foreign policy has sometimes shown cracks at home, those peaceful years, secure as regards foreign relations, today seem a beautiful idyll.
The crowning achievement of our foreign policy must be considered the agreement in the autumn of 1955 whereby the Porkkala enclave was returned to Finland. Satisfaction in Finland was general and the joy of our friends abroad in our achievement sincere.
But some time after the restoration of the Porkkala area a curious and most unexpected reaction set in this country. It manifested itself particularly in various publications. `Memoirs` and `studies` began to appear and these had giant sales. A part of the press became tendentious towards the Soviet Union in its news service. A similar phenomenon was also discernible in the attitude adopted by various newspapers.
In this respect two facts must be taken into account. The matter published has been within the limits of the law, which safeguards our freedom of speech. This is, of course, an undisputed fact. But, in our Pact of Friendship and Mutual Assistance, we have reserved for ourselves the valuable political right of remaining outside conflicts of interests between great powers; on this our policy of neutrality is based. This implies that our duty is to take up a neutral, objective position in conflicts between great powers, or to abstain from adopting any attitude. Responsible leaders cannot pursue the foreign policy postulated by the 1948 agreement unless it is backed by public opinion. The duty which I have mentioned does not refer to the ideological struggle prevailing in the world. We stand by our own democracy.
The second point of view which we cannot ignore is that articles and books hostile to Finland have not appeared in the Soviet Union in recent years. The Soviet leaders spoke of this during my visit last summer and wished to emphasize the regret that they felt because of the Finnish publications. We got a clear picture of how important this matter was regarded in the Soviet Union. The observation that Prime Minister Khruschev made in his speech upon this matter expressed a view to which serious consideration must be given. In my reply I defended us by saying that it was unfortunate that such publications had appeared, but it was something superficial that the strengthening of friendly relations would remove. The effect of my words in the Soviet Union cannot have been very great, for soon it became known that the defence I had made came in for criticism at home from some quarters. Apparently I should have denied facts that were as clear as daylight.
A similar reaction appeared after the successful negotiations held in Moscow last summer. Emotionally coloured claims had appeared in which the significant results obtained had been underestimated. I am compelled to state -- after weighing each word carefully -- that recently the foundations of the policy of good neighbourliness, confidence and goodwill that was established between Finland and the Soviet Union have been undermined in different ways.
I have followed these phenomena with considerable disquiet. The open expressions of animosity against the Soviet Union that have appeared in some statements would, taken by themselves, be of little importance, but taken together, they constitute a heavy strain on our foreign policy. A sentence from Friedrick Sieburg`s incomparable work on national psychology (`Is God a Frenchman?`) has often occurred to me of late. Sieburg writes: `The French seamstress would pay everything she possessed for the secret of knowing how to treat her customer badly and yet sell her a dress.`
The falling off in the Soviet trust of Finland would in itself be of harm to us, but when the international situation shows frightening signs of worsening, this lack of trust is a very serious matter. Paasikivi was accustomed to point out that: `The interest of the Russian state in Finland has always been military... From the economic and cultural points of view, mighty Russia has not much to gain here... The military interests that Russia has had in regard to Finland have always been apparent in Finnish history...` As the year draws to a close, the situation in Europe becomes more critical, and clearly discernible signs indicate that next year this development will continue. The impression is that the threat of war is moving nearer to our frontiers. National interests demand that we return in our relations with the Soviet Union to the same basis of trust which existed, for example, at the time of the Porkkala agreement and the negotiations last summer.
During the whole of this autumn, we have seen signs of the Soviet Union`s lack of trust in Finland. In September the Soviet Ambassador left Helsinki. Commercial relations have worsened during the autumn. These regrettable phenomena have been known at least in official circles, but those who have considered that there should be open talk about these worrying developments, because then it would be easier to restore relations to normal, have been labelled the originators of the crisis and traitors to the interests of their country. This is not new. The same thing happened in the closing stages of the last war. In difficult times, those who do not choose to close their eyes to facts always come in for merciless criticism. On the other hand there are many peaceful citizens who have not noticed anything unusual, let alone the presence of a crisis in foreign policy, because it has not yet greatly affected the course of their everyday lives. To these people my speech may come as a surprise. But difficulties must be prevented before they affect us vitally.
It is generally asked whether the Soviet Union has any reason for showing suspicion towards Finland and her government. It is usually foolhardy and vain to begin to wonder and criticize, to condemn or approve, the motives of a foreign power. The bystander can never see them as a whole. There can be no doubt in any quarter of the fact that so long as I am President of the Republic, I shall use the powers granted me by the constitution to see that the orientation of Finland`s foreign policy is not changed. I realize, too, that the Government that has just resigned has not made any decisions intended to produce changes in our foreign policy. But the fact remains that our neighbour, possibly on account of other things he has noticed here (some of which I`ve already mentioned), no longer has full confidence in our sincerity, and furthermore our official assurances have not helped matters. Concealing or denying this fact will not alter it. It is up to us to decide what conclusions to draw.
In many Western journals and elsewhere, good advice has been given us as to what we should do. We have been promised help and support -- as the phrase has it -- against the evil day. To this, however, I beg to reply that when all is said and done, we ourselves by our own efforts must look after our foreign policy. So we have done up to now; so we shall continue to do. The fact that by our own aid we have managed delicate foreign relations since the war has earned us recognition abroad. Of course, we need all the sympathy and economic aid we can get (uninfluenced by political consideration), and we shall pay back our loans to the very last penny. But politically our position is permanently fixed. Any outside interference -- however well intended -- will be rejected, because it would harm us. I have told some foreign journalists that no country should hope to see a deterioration of relations between Finland and the Soviet Union. It would, of course, do no practical harm to the Soviet Union, it would be of no benefit to any foreign power and it would not help Finland in the least. Quite the contrary.
But do we need to pay attention to the viewpoint of the Soviet Union and the possible lack of confidence felt by it? Finland is an independent state, she has the right and duty to attend to her internal affairs as she thinks best. From this assertion, some have dramatically concluded that Finland is now engaged in a new struggle for independence. There is no point in arguing about this for, of course, Finland has the full right to attend to her own affairs as she sees best. But nowadays even big powers can no longer ignore the political realities of the world. If it is only rights that we are talking about, nothing can prevent us from living in our country as we wish, but then we must be prepared to stand by the consequences of our actions. I have before me as I write the biography of Snellman^1 taken from the Presidential Library. In it Paasikivi has personally underlined the following words of Snellman: `There are politicians who seem to believe that they can justify their policies with the glib arguments they might use in a country court.` This was written nearly a hundred years ago, but it might have been written for today.
National unanimity on an honest and realistic approach to the country`s foreign policy creates the best basis for managing our foreign relations as freely as possible. And here we must remember our important commercial and cultural interests in the West, and especially the maintenance of our relations with our sister countries in Scandinavia, which have certain political implications for the maintenance of peace in Northern Europe. The more confident our relations with the East, the better chance we have of increasing mutually beneficial intercourse with Scandinavia.
In an interesting lecture by Professor Puntila, he has stated that Soviet diplomacy, without offending international conventions, has by its passivity stagnated the relations with our country. The Soviet Union has not, indeed, interfered in Finland`s internal affairs, but it has indicated its views, a right that cannot be denied it. Now it is not a question of a fight for our independence, for there is no threat. If the word fight must be used, then it is a fight for the maintenance of the trust on which the policy of friendship between Finland and the Soviet Union is based. Our national interest demands that this is achieved. The whole nation must rally round these interests.
Finland`s relations with her Eastern neighbour is a question upon which our destiny rests. This always has been the case and always will be. For hundreds of years Finland has been a political and military outpost for the West. For us it has meant destructive wars throughout the centuries and during the last 250 years, lost wars. Since 1944, a growing awareness of this has helped to create the prerequisites for the establishment of a permanent peace policy, for permanent friendship between our country with its Western traditions and our Eastern neighbours. Large sections of the people have rejoiced at the favourable development of friendly relations between Finland and the Soviet Union. It is of course easy to understand my satisfaction at this development. As I said in the beginning, it is depressing for me to have to again begin the same arguments in favour of the policy and the friendship demanded by our national interests as were heard at the end of the 1940s. When the main rule -- foreign policy always precedes domestic policy -- was forgotten, a regrettable and harmful break occurred in Soviet-Finnish relations, relations that must be based always upon sincerity and honesty, not only in foreign policy and official statements, but wherever public opinion is expressed.
1 The Finnish philosopher and Statesman.
During recent weeks, publications representing and forming opinion have returned to the ten-year-old allegations that those who favour friendship between Finland and the Soviet Union, are, as it were, traitors and boot lickers, in some way un-Finnish. These accusations should have long vanished from political vocabulary. They are as wrong now as they were in the past. On the contrary, it seems that real courage and political integrity are required of those who are openly working for the Paasikivi line and continuing to do so in fair weather or foul.
We Finns must in all our actions unswervingly defend our freedom and independence, work for the interest of our country, hold fast to what is best for it -- in a word, be good patriots.
We must love and develop our democratic, social and political system, our own free democracy. It is not in conflict with a policy of good neighbourliness. On the contrary, only from such a basis can lasting results be achieved in preserving the independence of the country and in safeguarding peace. In this I hope the country is unanimous, for it is the best guarantee of a safe future.