Thursday, October 18, 2007

Finland and NATO: episode 347

So the Russians don't want Finland to join Nato. Or maybe they don't mind and it was just one lowly diplomat speaking out of turn? Who knows and who cares? Not the President, who has very conspicuously made sure EVERBODY knows that this isn't important AT ALL! She certainly doesn't care. Not a jot.

This is a fun a story because I actually know some of the people involved including the now notorious Mr. Kozin of the Russian embassy. I used to be fascinated by the Finnish NATO debate, but to be honest now it's just getting rather dull now:
"To join or not to join, that is the question;
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous Russians,
Or to take American arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing, end them.
" Anyway - you get the picture, I'll stop bothering the Bard at this point.

Mr. Kozin's perhaps-scripted-from-on-high intervention in the debate isn't really that much of a shock: Russia doesn't want another of its neighbours to join the most powerful military alliance in the world?! Well - there's a shock! Perhaps a lowly American diplomat could go on Finnish TV and tell us all that "terrorists are like, totally bad and stuff" just to surprise us some more.

The more I watch the Finnish NATO debate, the more it strikes me that it really has nothing to do with NATO whatsoever. People aren't in the slightest interested in what NATO does, how it works (or doesn't to a great degree), and where it is going. Rather it's just a vague term for politicians to slap each other around the face with whilst shouting "you're naughty!", "No - you're naughty!"

Not so long ago I got told by Ministry of Defence guy, who every year lectures to the elite of Finnish society at the National Defence Courses, that these elites actually believe the same four things about NATO as everyone else in Finland: 1) The U.S. tells everyone what to do (well that worked SO well for the U.S. in building the Iraq 'coalition of the willing' didn't it?). 2) That Finnish conscripts will be forced to fight in foreign wars (would someone please tell the Bundeswehr this in Afghanistan? They obviously missed that memo). 3) It will cost huge amounts (the Finnish MoD reckons around €30m - one can argue whether that is a lot or not, but you get some little free gifts chucked in with membership like, you know, being under the American nuclear umbrella and stuff). 4) Small nations have no influence in the alliance (the Dutch keep proving this wrong to the occasional annoyance of the big nations).

There are all sorts of serious arguments as to why Finland shouldn't join NATO, some better than others, along with serious arguments for joining. But nobody ever airs them. They just go on slapping each other with cold war fishes, reinforcing widely held fallacies and jumping like frightened mice anytime a Russian says anything.

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