The Very Finnish Phenomena

Doublespeak and finlandization are alive and well in the Finnish political culture.

There are a couple of significant features in the Finnish security policy culture that are undoubtely one of the most interesting political phenomena at present. The first one is called Finlandization, which was the driving force of Finland’s foreign policy back in the Cold War period. A wikipedia definition for Finlandization is the following: “[Finlandization is] the process by which one powerful country strongly influences the policies of a smaller neighboring country, while allowing it to keep its independence and its own political system” and it literally means “becoming a country like Finland”. The term goes accurately hand-in-hand with the so called Paasikivi-Kekkonen -policy, in which pragmatic and “realistic” efforts were made to ensure the smaller country’s (Finland) existence and theoretic self-determination beside a global super power (Soviet Union), which was actively influencing the smaller country’s domestic policy. This led to a situation where the entire political and societal system became a huge gratification machine, unquestionably prepared to please the geopolitical giant.

The other interesting feature is called doublespeak. Doublespeak means language, which is used to obscure the true meaning of a consept and to deliberately misguide the receiver to get a certain desired reaction. The word was probably introduced in George Orwell’s book Ninteen Eighty Four in a definition of “doublethink”, which literally means the same as doublespeak but in terms of thinking. Everyone might have heard the well-known phrases like “War is peace“, “Freedom is slavery” and “Ignorance is strength“, which have become almost immortal sentences in popular culture. Unfortunately similar language has also implemented its presence in the Finnish foreign policy culture, where certain politically man-made sensitive and difficult topics are translated into a strange form of contrast language. The concept of doubletalk has direct roots in the time of Paasikivi-Kekkonen -policy, when completely opposite terms and consepts were used to describe issues regarding the Soviet Union. Threat became partner, suspicion became brotherhood and fawning became pragmatism.

Practical examples

“We need to strengthen and modernise our defences. The same is true of our internal security and intelligence capabilities.”

What has been remarkable to notice in the past few weeks weeks is how finlandization and doublesepak are still strongly present in the Finnish foreign political culture. In fact, there is nearly an open standoff among politicians and experts, as both the finlandized politicians and the experts are facing a lot of critique from newcomers and fresh thinkers. The young has openly criticized the old finlandized concepts like the rule of silence, domestic defence ability in a crisis situation, the uncritical stance towards Russia, the incapability to determine information influence, the harrassment of experts and professionals and constant doublespeaking.

Recently, the first major event regarding Finlandization happened in 31.07.2016 when a former Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja (also known as “Eric The Red”) wrote a statement on his Facebook page where he accused a Finnish Defence Forces’ Information Warfare Researcher Saara Jantunen of “unbalanced claims” regarding her research and book Infosota (Infowar). According to Tuomioja, Jantunen’s personal work and attitude were biased. He also stated in his statement that all nations should be related in the same way in the information warfare universe, regardless of how much super powers like Norway and Estonia are producing operative information in reality, compared to Russia. Tuomioja also seemed to be upset that he was labeled as a finlandized politican, even though his statement was thoroughly full of finlandized consepts and mindsets.

There has also been a lot of discussion related to Finland’s defense capability and budget. It is an undisputed fact that the overall security balance around the Baltic Sea, as well as the balance of the global security system are threatened. The same conclusion has also been established in multiple governmental reports and publications. Foreign Minister Timo Soini mentioned in his speech at the Annual Meeting of Heads of Mission that “Finland, too, is a target of hybrid influencing. Our society’s resilience and understanding of this influencing must be strengthened, and it has become stronger.” President of the Republic Sauli Niinistö came to the same conclusion in his speech at the Ambassador Seminar last year by stating that “we need to strengthen and modernise our defences. The same is true of our internal security and intelligence capabilities.

What happened afterwards was a disaster. Firstly, the Government announced on the 12th of August that the Interior Ministry is facing budget cuts, despite of the increasing decline in the overall security situation. Secondly, by surprise, Defence Minister Jussi Niinistö told the press on the 19th of August that the Finnish Defence Forces are going to cut 200 man-years due to the competitiveness agreement. What makes this even more ridiculous, is the statement by Minister Niinistö from last year, where he stated that “shutdown of the defence has been ended“. Eventually budget cuts became an increased strength. What had witnessed is a typical example of Finnish political doublespeak.

Recommended reading: The Problem With Finland by Saara Jantunen


2 thoughts on “The Very Finnish Phenomena

  1. Erkki Tuomioja shouldn’t be called “Eric The Red”. It’s an insult to the memory of an honest-to-Odin psychopath.


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