Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 06/2008

Russia and Europe: A Finnish View

December 2004

Finnish Institute for International Affairs


In recent months, several prominent Finnish politicians have criticized the Finnish government for lack of vision in its foreign policy. Liisa Jaakonsaari, Chairman of the Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee and a prominent social democrat), has argued that the government “lacks one thing, and with it, everything: a vision”. Member of the European Parliament Alexander Stubb (the Conservative party’s vote puller in the last EP elections) has publicly called contemporary Finnish foreign policy as “pitiful tinkering” (säälittävää näpertelyä). Editorial writers have begun to recycle the old the term “driwftwood” (ajopuu), a term originally coined to describe Finland’s flip-flopping during World War II, in their attempts to find an appropriate label for the present government’s foreign policy.

Whether or not one agrees with this criticism, it is a useful starting point when discussing EU-Russian relations, since it shows that there is an urgent need in this country for visions about foreign policy. Matti Vanhanen’s Centre-Left coalition has now been in power for a year and a half. It is fair to say that Vanhanen has steered away from the previous (Lipponen) government’s EU-friendly, “Commission, Commission über alles” grand strategy – which Lipponen, as a sign of true statesmanship, managed to make look America-friendly at the same time - and has offered no single guiding idea to replace it.