Finland - Foreign policy

Between 1944 and 1990, democratic and capitalistic Finland lived in the shadow of the Soviet Union. This fact affected nearly every aspect of Finnish public life. Both the 1947 peace treaty and the 1948 Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance restrained domestic politics and gave Finnish presidents a special role in managing Finland's sensitive relations with the USSR. The collapse of the Soviet state and empire directly affected Finland and its foreign policy, as evidenced by the severe economic recession, the renewed independence of Finland's Baltic neighbors, and the integration of Finland into the EU in 1995. Politics can change quickly, but geography does not. Finland continues to pay close attention to its relations with the Russian Federation; under the Northern Dimensions initiative, and relations with Russia and Finland's other Nordic neighbors remain strong. The Lipponen government is pushing Russia to exercise more control over use of its natural resources, and to enact legislation to protect and preserve the two countries' share environmental resources.

Although fully part of the EU and, since 1999, a member of the Economic and Monetary Union, Finland has resisted integration into exclusive European and Western defense arrangements. Emphasis remains on the United Nations (UN) and the inclusive Organization of European Security and Cooperation (founded in Helsinki in 1975). Relations with North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) are close but channeled through the Partnership for Peace. While the door to NATO remains open, the Jaatteenmaki government planned no significant changes in Finnish security policy, and as of 2003, had no plans to push for NATO membership. A recent opinion poll found that three out of every four Finnish citizens were opposed to joining NATO. An alliance with NATO was even more uncertain after United States declared war on Iraq. Jaatteenmaki accused former prime minister Paavo Lipponen of being too closely allied with the United States. She favored a less-passive stance for Finland against the war with Iraq. Her Center Party is less pro-European than the Social Democrats. Under Jaatteenmaki, Finland's orientation may shift in subtle ways. A sign of this was Jaatteenmaki's recent visit to China, where she made overtures to the government for increased cooperation.

Foreign policy is closely tied to the United Nations and the Organization of European Security and Cooperation (OESC). Finland has been a consistent contributor of troops and resources to UN peacekeeping missions since 1956. During the Kosovo crisis of 1999, then-president Martti Ahtisaari drew on his vast diplomatic experience to promote communication and bargaining between NATO and Russia, as well as with Yugoslavia itself. Finland has urged moderation and pragmatism in its relations with its Baltic neighbors, especially its nearest neighbor, Estonia.

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