The Art of Bowing and Mooning – Is “Finlandisazation” an Option?
25 September, 2015
The Art of Bowing and Mooning – Is “Finlandisazation” an Option?
Project was created by a grassroots social group that was brought together by Giorgi Kldiashvili and Levan Avalishvili, founders of a hybrid NGO called IDFI (Institute for Development of Freedom of Information). The group is an informal union, open to anyone wishing to become actively involved in exposing Russian propaganda and “soft power” in Georgia at a social level.

Read the Georgian version:

So, does “Finlandization” offer Ukraine and Georgia territorial integrity, democratic future and economic freedom as
was the case for Finland? Unfortunately, Ukraine is not Finland and the strategic interests of Russia differ from those of the Soviet Union, hence the answer is no.

“Finlandization” is a notion, doctrine and foreign policy line praised and denounced alike by many who have come across this term. For Finland it was a deliberate choice and decision, for Ukraine it is still an option. It is an option according to many observers, politicians and scholars such as the famous American political scientist and statesman Zbigniew Brzezinski (counselor to Lyndon B. Johnson from 1966–1968, United States National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter from 1977 to 1981).

In one of his articles Brzezinski points out that: “The US could and should convey clearly to Mr Putin that it is prepared to use its influence to make certain a truly independent and territorially undivided Ukraine will pursue policies towards Russia similar to those so effectively practiced by Finland: Mutually respectful neighbors with wide-ranging economic relations with Russia and the EU; no participation in any military alliance viewed by Moscow as directed at itself but expanding its European connectivity. In brief, the Finnish model is ideal for Ukraine, the EU and Russia in any larger east-west strategic accommodation”. An interesting suggestion indeed! Undoubtedly, it is an enticing one for any country neighboring the Russian Federation.

We can encounter such statements in Georgia as well. Different groups and political entities discuss the possibility of neutrality for Georgia (with a certain particularity, though: Along with military neutrality, these groups demand forsaking Georgia’s path of European integration). Their logic is simple (somewhat too simple) – if Georgia says no to Euro-Atlantic integration, Russia will change its policy - which is currently based on aggression and occupation – towards us. There will be a possibility for a “constructive” dialogue between the two countries and gradually, we might get our territories back. Georgia will be de-occupied, and there will be a positive dynamic in Russian-Georgian relations. Indeed! All our problems will fade away and we will prosper. They presume that if other countries such as Finland can do it, why not Georgia?

It is always convenient to draw parallels between different events in history, compare them, and decipher the similarities or differences, while proposing strategies of action and foreign policy doctrines to alleviate the woes engendered by irregularities on the “grand chessboard.” But can we truly compare two realities from different eras, with different actors and entities involved? Is “Finlandization” possible for Ukraine? To answer these thorny questions, let us go through the essence and indispensable qualities of the above-mentioned concept.

The term itself refers to the foreign policy doctrine, which guided relations between Finland and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. “Finlandization,” in fact, is used as a derogatory term, therefore I will employ a less pejorative notion – the Paasikivi-Kekkonen line. Bearing the names of two Finnish presidents, the doctrine implied Finland’s neutrality and rejection of accession to the Western-led military alliance – NATO. A compromise in exchange for Finland’s existence as a sovereign, democratic and a capitalist state. In April 1948, Finland signed an Agreement of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance with the Soviet Union. Under this mutual assistance pact, Finland was obligated to resist armed attacks by “Germany or its allies” (i.e., NATO) against Finland or against the Soviet Union through Finland. At the same time, the agreement recognized Finland’s desire to remain outside great-power conflicts (this agreement was renewed for 20 years in 1955, in 1970, and again in 1983).

This allowed Finland to preserve independence in internal affairs, for instance, a multiparty parliamentary system, freedom to decide not to join the Eastern Bloc, in addition to choosing what type of economic relations it would have with third states or entities.

Such an option would seem attractive for Ukraine and Georgia. Twenty percent of Georgia’s territory is occupied, the registered number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Georgia is 263,598 according to the official data, and thousands live abroad as refugees. Since the outbreak of the conflict in Ukraine, the death toll has passed the 6,000 mark (according to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights of the United Nations). The country has experienced severe economic hurdles and is in need of gas supplies for the coming winter. Indeed, all convincing arguments for neutrality. However, is it possible to talk about neutrality while the belligerent neighbor does everything in its power to undermine your territorial integrity and sovereignty (through demarcation of occupied territories in Georgia, periodically moving the “borders”, signing agreements with Russia’s puppet governments in Abkhazia and South Ossetia)? Once again, Finland can serve as an example.

After the territorial losses of the Winter War and the Continuation War (due to which Finland lost its industrial southern parts, which were also considered to be the cultural core of the Finnish nation), Finland still signed the Agreement of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance with the Soviet Union, thus making it possible to declare neutrality after suffering heavy losses.

So, does “Finlandization” offer Ukraine and Georgia territorial integrity, democratic future and economic freedom as was the case for Finland?
Unfortunately, Ukraine is not Finland and the strategic interests of Russia differ from those of the Soviet Union, hence the answer is no.

First of all, if Ukraine were to agree to “Finlandization,” it might keep its Eastern parts, but it is unlikely that Crimea would be included in the deal (not that being in a stalemate does any good to either of the sides, but the non-recognition of Crimea is the only rational choice if one desires to officially keep it an integral part of Ukraine). In the case of Georgia, talk about regaining the territories through a Russian proposal is deceptive (Russians are straightforward and if there was an offer, it would have already been made). The truth is that Russia has no interest in the neutrality of these countries, as territorial conflicts and instability in the region are a better source of influence.

Secondly, if a deal was brokered, it would presumably involve federalization of Ukraine and Georgia (with pro-Russian authorities in federal territorial entities having veto power regarding the major foreign policy decisions, meaning difficulties in terms of EU accession). As a matter of fact, Euro-Atlantic aspirations of Georgia and Ukraine were never an end in itself; they rather represented the means to break away from Russian influence and everything it is associated with - corruption, undemocratic practices, semi-authoritarian regime that stops at nothing if it feels threatened or pressured.

Economic freedom is also doubtful, considering the fact that everything began with the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area agreement between Ukraine and the EU. Apparently, Ukraine (and the post-Soviet space) is the Achilles’ heel in Russia’s Eurasian Economic Union equation.

Taking into account Russian interests and plans for Ukraine and Georgia, “Finlandization” is not an option for these countries. The Finnish political cartoonist Kari Suomalainen once explained “Finlandization” as “The art of bowing to the East without mooning the West,” but the Ukrainian-Georgian struggle is neither about bowing nor mooning to anyone. It is about developing and reforming, being democratic and productive, shunning the post-Soviet legacy of corruption and apathy towards change, refusing to sink into the whirlpool of political, social and cultural indifference and most importantly, it is about surviving and prospering!

Read the Georgian version:

Author: Giorgi Lomtadze (Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI))
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