A large and strong neighbor has the right to limit the sovereignty of a smaller one, to interfere in its foreign and even domestic policies.
Sounds quite rude and contrary to international law, no? But the above explanation is called “Finlandization”.
Why did I decide to talk about this today? Because this is exactly what Russia had demanded from Ukraine before the war. “Those of you in Kyiv can forget about European integration, or even NATO because Moscow doesn’t like it. If not – war.”
In 1939, Moscow decided to dictate to the Finns how to shift their borders to the Soviet’s favor, if not – war. In fact, even this aggressive and brazen demand was only a cover for the Kremlin’s real and even more brazen and aggressive goals.
In August 1939, the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany concluded an agreement under which both totalitarian regimes divided Europe into spheres of influence. Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and Finland fell under the USSR.
In the first three Baltic states, the Kremlin quickly brought its own people into power. This led to the abolition of independence, membership in the Union, and thus – mass repression against all dissenters.
A similar scenario was prepared for the Finns, and this border requirement was just a pretext. Helsinki’s refusal was the beginning of the war. Of course, a hybrid one, in which aggression was shown by “bad Finns”. But there were also “good Finns” who formed the Finnish Democratic Republic, which concluded a cooperation agreement with the USSR and called upon the Red Army for help. However, as technology developed since the war against the UPR, it did not work this time.
A large-scale invasion began on 30 November 1939. The balance of power in all respects seemed hopeless for Finland. The number of troops and units of equipment convinced the Red Army command that surrender would be a wonderful gift to their leader, Stalin, for his 60th birthday on December 21.
But the Soviets did not take into account the most important factor that determined the nature of this war – the will of the Finns to fight. At the heart of this will is national consciousness, which consolidated the Finnish citizens in defense of their state.
Soldiers and partisans mercilessly attacked the invaders.
Their tactics for destroying mechanized columns have become classic. They disabled the first and last cars, and then cleaned up the rest – this is now standard. This tactic was later used by the UPA against the Afghan Mujahideen and today is used by the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
The offensive in Finland quickly subsided and the defenders were helped by the winter, which froze thousands of invaders who were unprepared for a long struggle.
The Finns held back the first blow but unfortunately did not receive the help they needed from the West. Then, the Soviets managed to break through their defenses and eventually force them to negotiate and sign a peace agreement.
Finland lost 10% of its territory but did not become a Soviet republic. The price for this dubious Soviet victory was very high – about 130 thousand killed, which is 5 times more than what the defenders lost. And more importantly: the Winter War demonstrated the weakness of the Red Army to the whole world.
Later, after the Second World War, the Soviet Union as the victor imposed restrictions on foreign policy. Its essence was that the state could not conclude any alliances without the consent of Moscow. Helsinki was thus forced into neutral status during the Cold War. However, they did not turn into a communist satellite like the Polish People’s Republic. And even more so, it did not rely on the USSR.
Today, such restriction by a strong state to weaken its foreign policy is called Finlandization.
Eminent Finnish writer Sophie Oksanen not only wrote sharply but truthfully about the political consequences of Finlandization: “Finlandization entails a moral and ethical degradation. It’s an erosion of dignity that erodes the nation’s mental defenses.”
This is what the Kremlin allegedly demanded of Ukraine before the mass invasion on 24 February. But we know all too well how expensive any agreement with Russia can cost Ukrainians. We remember that for the Kremlin, the return of Ukraine is the main precondition for the restoration of their empire.
That is why Ukraine is fighting. Longer than the Finns during the Winter War with the USSR, which lasted 104 days. The balance of power – people, weapons, territory – is much more favorable to us than what the Finns had. We have finally begun to receive the necessary military assistance from the West.
And most importantly: our perseverance in this war is no less than that of the Finns during the Winter War. Ukrainians have demonstrated to the whole world the groundlessness of Russia’s claims as to the world’s second army, and thus to their demand to play a role of a global force that everyone is forced to reckon with.
In the end, this is how we launched the end of the Finlandization of Finland. On 12 May 2022, President Sauli Niiniste and Prime Minister Sanna Marin issued a joint statement stating that the country would immediately apply to join NATO.
The Russian Empire lost its influence, retreated, and disappeared from the map of the world.