Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Finland's Great Debate

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Finland's Great Debate

Article excerpt

IN a country where a 3 percent change in the multiparty structure is a "landslide," Finland is entering a great debate.

Just 50 years after the catastrophe of the Winter War, when the world stood by ignominiously while Stalinist aggression overcame a small nation's unmatched courage, Finland's leaders are faced with replacing the two guideposts of the postwar period: a critical trading relation with the Soviet Union, and a friendship pact with its huge next door neighbor. Both have served well.

Not only did Finland survive, it has become an industrial power. In a sense, Finland's post-World War II neutral foreign policy - with its attention to Soviet sensibilities, and its drive for economic progress - now suffers from its success.

Moving toward elections next spring, the Finnish press has broken its bands of self-censorship and begun to question whether it's time to renegotiate its 1945 settlement with the Russians. The discussion, still muffled, is complex. The Finns, especially after German reunification under the Federal Republic's democracy, are embarrassed at the pact's specific references: Finland, tacitly, gave Moscow permission to intervene directly should a new German threat emerge.

On the other hand, the Finns do not want to be seen as another Soviet satellite now cutting ties to Moscow. That, they say, would give credence to what they regard as the decades-old canard that Finnish neutrality served Soviet cold war interests.

Furthermore, Soviet problems are Finnish problems. Pollution from Leningrad, Estonia, and elsewhere threaten Finland's forests - an economic mainstay. The Finns, with their advanced environmental technologies, somehow hope to find a way to fight Soviet pollution. They are second to Germany in the number of joint ventures (192) with the Soviet Union.

But Finland's private sector is agitating for a more aggressive response to the expanding role of the European Community (EC). Suffering from inflation and a hemorrhaging balance of payments, many businessmen here - and more than a few economists - see entry into the Community as a necessary solution. …

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