Pro-NATO Finns' delusions of "Western values"
By Tapani Lausti
Finland's recent failure to be accorded a temporary seat at the UN Security Council triggered an angry reaction among the most pro-West Finnish commentariat. Reasons for this failure were sought in the way Finland has lately projected its international image. Anti-NATO people were accused of damaging the country's reputation with their “phobia” against the Western security organization. One culprit was deemed to be the current social democratic Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja with his pacifist background. He is accused of being stuck with the “romantic” 1960s. It is time to wake up! declared one editorial.
One can detect genuine alarm about the Finns' lack of enthusiasm about “Western values” and possible NATO membership. One foreign policy expert attacked ex-president Tarja Halonen for having described in 2004 the Iraq war as illegal. He criticized what he described as “flagging for a vague non-alignment”. This attitude, in his view, fails to see how NATO has become “an arm of the UN in crisis management”.
These pro-West commentators may be shouting wake-up calls but they themselves really should wake up to reality. All the talk about “Western values” requires turning a blind eye to the crimes against human rights perpetrated by the US government and its allies. The disaster imposed on the Iraqi people — more than a million dead, millions driven from their homes — disappears from the view, as do many other crimes against international law and the UN Charter.
Neither have these pro-West commentators noticed the increasing police state aspects of the US domestic scene. Barack Obama's drone attacks with his personal kill list does not feature in their analyses. They have not noticed — or don't want to notice — how the US destablizes many countries, tortures enemy “militants”, arms death squads, kills innnocent civilians and backs incredible levels of corruption, as many American commentators have pointed out.
Afghanistan has a special place in the world view of these pro-NATO commentators. Finland has, after all, to their joy joined NATO in what they call ”crisis managament” in this poor Asian country. They fail to see how the Afghan population has been put under terrible pressure as the “nation building” effort seems to require extremely violent tactics which, of course, does not pacify the country but increases the level of violence.
In a recent book the Finnish ambassador in Kabul together with a defence ministry propagandist castigate those — in fact very few — journalists who tend to emphasize bad news coming from Afghanistan. The two writers are puzzled by the negative reactions to US policies in the world. They believe in Washington's good will and decent intentions. They claim that the idea that the US might be interested in the natural resources in Central Asia is nonsense.
Another pro-West commentator emphasizes that Finland should demonstrate solidarity towards the US and participate in the US's most important foreign policy venture, i.e. Afghanistan. It's all about fighting terrorism. Oddly the same writer then admits that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have in fact increased the threat of terrorist attacks in Europe. Even so, the writer's conclusion is that it is safer to be on the same side with the US.
All the uncritical cosying up to the US cannot be understood without the historical background of being a small neighbour of a big unpredictable country, the Soviet Union. However, many pro-West commentators had an exaggerated view of the danger posed by Finland's Eastern neighbour. The demise of the communist regime liberated them from this fear or, in some cases, gave them another reason to adopt extreme pro-US attitudes because of continuing uncertainties which they connect with Russia of today. Washington in their eyes is a force for good in the way it supposedly promotes democracy in the world. Those who do not share this view are labelled “fake experts” or “usual suspects”, not to be taken seriously.
However, to the great disappointment of the admirers of “Western values”, the majority of Finns just do not warm to the idea of NATO membership.