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Finland to NATO or Karelia Back?
NATO is still mostly a military union, ensuring the safety of Western Europe with the help of Northern America. The largest states of Central Europe clearly compete within NATO, and this results in growing tensions. Historical legacy is one of the reasons for such competition.
Expansion of NATO into Eastern Europe will increase NATO’s authority in the field on security policy, but the practical power will decrease in comparison with present situation. NATO is expected to transform into an organisation involved mainly in political negotiations.
All of the states participating in the Partnership for Peace-programme have almost been allied to NATO. Certain influential figures have already expressed an opinion that the Russian Federation should be granted full membership in NATO.
Will NATO Become a Discussion Club?
It has been claimed that the demand to return the Karelia to Finland and the joining of Finland with NATO are two independent subjects. If this kind of thinking really prevails, it is high time to put these two subjects together. Their common factor is security policy, i.e. defence policy and foreign policy – in this exact order.
If Finland were to join NATO, which is quite possible from the viewpoint of language, the nation’s will to defend itself, military resources, military compatibility, and economy, the consequences would be rather remarkable.
Finland would have to increase its defence expenditures by approx. 50%, in order to achieve the equipment and readiness level of other NATO countries. Finland would have to participate in international military campaigns with other NATO countries. Mere participation in peacekeeping missions would not be enough.
The gravest consequence would be the need to increase the protection of Finland’s eastern border with Russian Federation. It would become a 1300 km border between NATO and Russia – a true threat from the viewpoint of Russia, especially if the Russian-Norwegian border is taken into consideration as well. Moreover, if the Baltic countries are accepted to NATO, the situation in the northern regions of Russia will become a military nightmare for Russians – according to the traditional way of thinking.
Russia’s negative attitude towards the expansion of NATO has become less intense, since the country has understood that it is impossible to defeat NATO in this manner. Russia has chosen a new strategy: approach.
There are people who are of opinion that the Russian Federation will join NATO in the future. If this should happen, the entire Warsaw pact would have marched right into the heart of NATO – through the kitchen door!
As soon as this happens, NATO will become a totally powerless discussion club, which would not be able to solve any significant crises because of internal conflicts. Russia will have defeated NATO!
Such an alternative must be avoided. Russian Federation must not be granted membership in NATO, unless it breaks up into smaller independent nation states. As a matter of fact, EU policy seems to favour division of Russian Federation into independent states.
The communication channels between the military commands of NATO and Russian Federation should be maintained in future as well, and this tendency seems to be commonly approved. Granting Russia full membership in NATO, however, would be a grave mistake.
Northern Defence Union
From the viewpoint of its own safety or the safety of neighbouring countries, there is no need for Finland to hurry into the arms of NATO. Instead, Finland should very intensively approach the two neighbouring Scandinavian countries, Sweden and Norway.
If binding military treaties are concluded between these three countries, an area stable from the viewpoint of security policy is established in Scandinavia. In order to achieve this objective, comprehensive information transmission and readiness systems must be created between these countries, and each of the countries must be prepared to defend its allies with its armed forces in case of war.
The fact that Norway is a member of NATO is altogether beneficial, since it would form the umbilical cord of such union.
There is no reason to imagine that other nations except Finnish, Swedish, Norwegians – and Russians – are capable of efficiently waging war under Finland’s natural and climatic conditions. This fact has been proved by history. Naturally, other countries are capable of providing ample technical and intelligence support, fight air and sea battles – but their armed forces are incapable of year-round fighting in Finnish woodlands.
Release of Tension
When the regions close to the eastern border of Finland are considered, the Karelian Isthmus is still the key area. Infrastructures of the Karelian Isthmus are in a shamefully poor condition due to the negligence of Russians.
Several Soviet divisions were lodged in the Karelia area ceded after the World War II. Tanks and artillery from East Germany were moved there. This equipment has become obsolete and is scattered all over the Karelian Isthmus. The decline of Russian army is presently indicated by reduction of military staff and discharge of military units. Frontier troops have been reduced as well.
Dangers of the modern world are generally no longer associated with military threat; instead, they are associated with the activities of criminals, organized crime syndicates, and terrorist or sabotage groups. It is evident that Russia needs help from its neighbours in order to cope with the situation. The help, however, should not be provided for free. War indemnities have been paid to Russia, although it destroyed the Karelian culture on ancient Finnish territories. The offered financial support has mainly disappeared in Russia’s greatly corrupted administrative machine.
Russian Federation Must Learn to Cope on its Own
The Gulf War and the military campaigns in Kosovo and Afghanistan, for example, have shown the importance of air forces in modern warfare. Numerous antiaircraft missile installations have been allocated around St. Petersburg, in the radius of approximately 30 kilometres. Some of these stationary installations and weapons have become obsolete, but new mobile equipment has certainly been stationed and will be stationed in the region. Russia’s military command understands the meaning of antiaircraft defence.
If the Baltic states and Finland were to join NATO, St. Petersburg would find itself in a difficult situation indeed. Large bases close to Russian border would be accessible to NATO. NATO navy already has free access to the Baltic Sea, Gulf of Bothnia, and Gulf of Finland. Excellent ports would be available in Finland and Sweden (on the condition that Sweden joins NATO), and the Baltic states as well. Under these imaginary conditions, it would be easy to seal the Russian navy off to the furthest corner of the Gulf of Finland. The Russian navy in Kaliningrad is helpless already, and in the described situation, it would pose practically no threat at all.
From the viewpoint of Russian Federation, its primary objective is to keep Finland and Sweden out of NATO. The Baltic states are of secondary importance, because Russia is capable of controlling the Baltic region and keeping Kaliningrad in a more or less satisfactory condition.
When it Comes to Politics, Russians Know Their Way in Trading
However, there is a way for major reduction of the tension on the northwest borders of Russia. If Russia would return essential parts of the old Vyborg province to Finland, it would get both excellent international publicity and the possibility of significantly improving the safety of St. Petersburg region, an area most important for Russia.
The territories ceded to Finland might be demilitarized and granted autonomous status, similarly to the island of Ahvenamaa.
Military co-operation might be extended in the fields of guarding and intelligence, for example.
In order to choke criminal activity, police forces should be strengthened and Russian police forces employed together with the police forces of Finland.
The main issue would be the Russian population living in the area. The population should be granted rights equal to those of Finns moving back to the area.
Finland does not necessarily have to join NATO; however, the joining is entirely possible on any given day. Finland will also survive if the ceded Karelia is not returned; it is mostly a question of justice and morals – values that have always been considered of primary importance in the Western culture.
Simultaneous resolution of these two issues in a manner beneficial for both sides will create a favourable basis for security policy in the entire Northern Europe.
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