The Finns debate “Western values”

The Finns debate “Western values”

By Tapani Lausti

Intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden's revelations about US surveillance have opened up a new debate in Finland over what are perceived as “Western values”. This debate has been going on for some time as Finns disagree about possible membership in NATO. The majority is against it.

Some right-wing politicians emphasized once again that Finland shares the same values as Americans and warned against harming Finnish-American relations. Their critics, on the other hand, pointed to the practice of the death penalty, the use of torture, unmanned drone killings, the attack on Iraq based on lies and massive spying even on US allies. One letter writer demanded that people who talk about common values should come out and say openly whether they support these practices. Not all Finns approve of them, she wrote.

The leading daily Helsingin Sanomat attacked the social democratic foreign minister Erkki Tuomioja for supposedly harming Finnish relations with the US by having publicly supported Snowden. However, the revelations about the US spying of EU offices, forced the same newspaper to concede that from a self-appointed leader of “the free world” one should be able to expect better behavior.

Finnish “Atlanticist” politicians are almost completely blind to the ugly side of the US's role in the world. Here is the Vice-President of the European Commission Olli Rehn in a speech given last May in the Finnish “Atlantic Society” meeting: “Europe and the United States have more similarities than any other areas in the world. The basis for everything is common values. For Europeans and Americans the belief in democracy, constitutional state and freedom is intrinsic. The foundation stone of our societies is the belief in equality for all and the basic rights of every person. The principles of the European and American way of life are based on these values.”

A member of the “Atlantic Society” recently waxed lyrical about NATO's role in the world: “NATO's goals in advancing peace, stability and security are congruent with Finland's long term foreign and security policy which emphazises multipolar cooperation to secure human rights, democracy and a constitutional state. As a constitutional state Finland has always supported a multipolar international system which limits the rights of the more powerful and gives also small countries a chair around the tables where common questions are being decided.”

These opinions show a disturbing ignorance of how the international order functions in reality. The illusion that the US and US-led NATO are seriously promoting democracy, human rights and international equality can be seriously believed only as an ideological rather than factual construct. Of course, to get promoted to high office in a hierarchical social order already requires blindness towards the democratic pretenses of those in power. To believe that the world's most powerful military nation would be willing to operate in an equal manner with its allies is sheer naivete.

This state of affairs gives the Finnish NATO debate an almost comical twist. Ignorant of their own distorting ideology pro-NATO people accuse their opponents of an “emotional” attitude and demand a fact-based debate. With their anti-Russian instincts pro-NATO debators accuse their opponents of a new kind of Finlandization, a concept which in the Soviet era meant kowtowing to Moscow. But those who oppose Finland's membership in NATO quite realistically ask why the country should join an organization which in the case of an international conflict would bring the Western alliance to the Finnish-Russian border. Most Finns understand this and want to keep their country out of this kind of scenario.


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